Monday, March 29, 2010


President Obama's speech to the troops in Afghanistan:


[or was it....]


Instapundit told me that the speech was being praised at National Review Online, which was, er, at odds with what I had heard. So I watched the five-minute video version (limp) and then went in deeper search for the full twenty-minute monty, and made my assessment to the delightful but misinformed Kathryn Jean Lopez. Here's my letter:

Let me preface my remarks by saying that I am a double military mom, with one in the Marines (veteran of two Iraq tours) and one in the Navy (NFO training on F-18's); and my sister has one in the Navy, currently deployed on Individual Augmentation in Khost, Afghanistan. I first caught a ten-second cut of the President's speech to the troops and found it lacklustre, but my sister had seen the whole thing and gave me her take on it: AWFUL. So I looked for the video: there's the 5-minutes of edited highlights, again lacklustre, but also a distorted fraction of the full 20-minute performance.

The fact that it was 20 minutes says a lot -- that's about 12 minutes too long for cheering up the troops, and they responded as could be expected, with prolonged, deafening silence through most of it. But 20 minutes did give the President ample time to say the word "I" fifty-one times, plus variations of "me" and "my". It also allowed for seemingly endless and, in that context, weirdly extraneous references to all the civilians and politicians and members of every army not in the room, hard at work on the only aspect of the campaign that Mr. Obama appears to relate to, "international relations". Because, believe me, he does NOT relate to the troops.

It's hard to decide what was worse: was it the repeated (albeit more subtle than usual) slaps at Bush's "war of choice" in Iraq, through characterizations of this war that Mr. Obama has now chosen to adopt as his own being one with a "clear mission and the right strategy...and the equipment you need"; where America's institutions will not fail its military and we won't be "meddling in other people's business" [yeah, that happens a lot]? Or was it all the references to the "suffering...on your second or your third or your fourth tour of duty"? -- all the while oblivious to the fact that some of those in the room on their fourth tour of duty spent their earlier ones in that pointless, meddling war of choice in Iraq -- sucks to be you, guys.

No, I think the worst part was his litany of images borrowed from Tokyo Rose. I really want my kid to be sitting in a hall on the other side of the world, surrounded by evil men with bombs, listening to his president drone on about PTSD, traumatic brain injury, fighting to stand or walk again, flag-draped coffins, headstones, and a deceased comrade whose parents just received the (incorrectly named) "Medal of Honor" -- to say nothing of how much I miss my wife and children. Ooh-rah!

Robbed of his teleprompter, the President was forced to head-bob towards his text on the podium, which he did with reasonable success, but increasingly, as the minutes wore on, without heart and sometimes without sense -- his delivery broke up in strange places, and words written for emphasis got lost (though the "Tahleebahn" and "Pahkeestahn" got their customary careful enunciation). By minute 18 he looked bored.

Maybe you just have to be a military parent, mindful of how carefully you speak to your kid just before deployment, or when he or she gets to a war zone phone, or how carefully you write emails, letters, and Facebook shout-outs, always on full mental alert to sound confident and encouraging without being a Pollyanna, editing your accounts of spending time with his family back home, wondering just how many videos of his little boy at the beach or his birthday party to put on that flashdrive you're sending to Iraq, or how much to talk about that kid he graduated with whose helicopter crashed in Afghanistan and whose name is now on the college monument and his football number retired.

There has been much long-distance psychoanalysis of Mr. Obama, even by licensed professionals who have never met him, and I don't approve of that. But from my seat in the amateur section, having waved goodbye to my kid a couple of times now before his imminent deployment to Anbar, I feel more than qualified to declare that President Obama has a breathtaking empathy deficit. Additional criticisms are easy to make, based on his clear record of personal alienation from the American project, and continuing adolescent romance with the failed Socialist (hell, let's call it Communist) project. He is, as Rush has wisely put it, the least experienced and least qualified person in any room he walks into these days. That accounts for some of it. But the rank obtuseness of his speech to the troops last week is one for the books.

Looking ridiculous in his flight costume, more Club Monaco "blouson" than Bomber Command, he could not have drawn a more stark contrast between himself and that bungling Chimpy McBushHitler who had the troops shouting the roof off in Baghdad a few years ago, speaking briefly and from the heart, and giving so much heart where it was needed.

Sorry, K-Lo -- Mr. Obama looked like something, but Commander-in-Chief it was not.

Down the memory hole:

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