The Corner

Obama’s Speech

Yes, there were some fine parts. How could there not be?

But I really disliked it. Maybe I’m letting other factors poison my take, and I should probably sleep on it before rendering final judgment.  But here are a few things that really stuck in my craw. 

1) As we speak, al Qaeda continues to plot against us, and its leadership remains anchored in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. We will disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda, while preventing Afghanistan from again serving as a base for terrorists. And because of our drawdown in Iraq, we are now able to apply the resources necessary to go on offense. In fact, over the last 19 months, nearly a dozen al Qaeda leaders –and hundreds of Al Qaeda’s extremist allies–have been killed or captured around the world.

I understand we’re launching a surge in Afghanistan, and I know Obama will never let go of the “Iraq was a distraction” stuff, but did the Commander-in-Chief really need to say that only now, thanks to the draw down in Iraq, can we go “on offense” against al Qaeda? Have we been on defense for the last 9 years?

2) As we do, I am mindful that the Iraq War has been a contentious issue at home. Here, too, it is time to turn the page. This afternoon, I spoke to former President George W. Bush. It’s well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset. Yet no one could doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security. As I have said, there were patriots who supported this war, and patriots who opposed it. And all of us are united in appreciation for our servicemen and women, and our hope for Iraq’s future.

This is what passes for bipartisan graciousness at the highest level of national security? Bush was a really swell guy who loved his country. Okay. What about the fact that he was right about the surge and our ability to leave Iraq (as much as we are) is attributable not to Obama’s fidelity to his campaign pledge, but to a decision made by Obama’s predecessor, a decision Obama opposed vociferously. I don’t expect an “I was wrong” from an Oval Office address (though it would be nice — as it would have been from Bush more than once, too). But Obama’s lawyerly avoidance of reality makes him seem petty and raises the suspicion that he can’t think straight about these issues. That is dangerous.

3. And so at this moment, as we wind down the war in Iraq, we must tackle those challenges at home with as much energy, and grit, and sense of common purpose as our men and women in uniform who have served abroad. They have met every test that they faced. Now, it is our turn. Now, it is our responsibility to honor them by coming together, all of us, and working to secure the dream that so many generations have fought for –the dream that a better life awaits anyone who is willing to work for it and reach for it.

Our most urgent task is to restore our economy, and put the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs back to work. To strengthen our middle class, we must give all our children the education they deserve, and all our workers the skills that they need to compete in a global economy. We must jumpstart industries that create jobs, and end our dependence on foreign oil. We must unleash the innovation that allows new products to roll off our assembly lines, and nurture the ideas that spring from our entrepreneurs. This will be difficult. But in the days to come, it must be our central mission as a people, and my central responsibility as President.

This is what really disgusted me. If you read this closely, what Obama is saying is that not only do we owe it to the troops to rally around his discredited and partisan economic agenda (“It’s our turn”), not only is it a test of our patriotism to sign on with his environmental and industrial planning schemes, but that doing so “must be our central mission as a people.”

I find everything about that offensive.

Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review and the author of Suicide of the West, holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute.

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