Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, the Republican whip, tells National Review Online that he remains skeptical about the president’s rhetoric on American exceptionalism.
“Tonight it appeared that he was celebrating American exceptionalism, but I do not know what is in his heart,” Kyl says. “Toward the end of the speech, there was quite a bit of time devoted to that. It was a bit tangential.”
In many spots, the Arizonan notes, the president seemed to “walk back” past comments that “suggested that he does not believe in American exceptionalism.” “I think he is susceptible to a lot of criticism on that ground in thinking about his next election,” Kyl says. “He probably realized that he needed to erase some of the impression that he has created in the past.”
On Obama’s foreign-policy talk, Kyl does not pull punches. “It always seems to me that he likes to talk about process, rather than the results,” he sighs. “For example, he applauded the fact that we’re going to be bringing people home from Afghanistan and we are bringing home people from Iraq. Now, that’s a great thing to applaud — if we’ve achieved victory. But why didn’t he dwell on what we achieved as a result of the sacrifice of those he was talking about?”
“He talked about the process of talking to the North Koreans to try to persuade them to get rid of their nuclear weapons. Well, we’ve been talking to them for a long time and they have not budged,” Kyl continues. “He talked about the process of introducing sanctions, the toughest sanctions yet, on the Iranians. Right, but has it done any good? No. It seems like he keeps kicking the can down the road, talking about process, but you don’t see the results of that process. Or, where we do see results, he is not as happy about the results as he is about bringing the guys home.”
Overall, Kyl heard little from the president that signaled a move toward the center. “As usual, the speech was well-written and well-delivered, but the real question will be whether actions follow the words,” he says. “It’s a little hard to see how that can happen, given the dichotomy between his goals — reducing the deficit on the one hand, and on the other, his desire to spend enormous sums of money on various things,” such as infrastructure and education. “There is a bit of disingenuousness in putting all of that rhetoric out there.”
“I, frankly, don’t like these speeches,” Kyl concludes. “While there are some nice-sounding things about them, to me, when you break them all down, they are thinly veiled campaign speeches where the logic rarely holds together.” Obama’s remarks, he says, came across like a “campaign convention speech.”