What was the reason for the bland, gluten-free flavor of the president's Oval Office address on terrorism? Barack Obama, on this theoretically important occasion, was out of his element. There were no "folks" (aka people) to attack for questioning his motives or mission, apart from "some who reject any gun-safety measures." We were almost back to business there: enacting a domestic agenda that features gun control along with tighter regulation of business and resistance to ideas put forth by Republicans.
But he had to move along. This thing, the Oval Office speech, was about terror, foreign and especially domestic. But the leader of the free world had little to say of any real substance on those matters. "The threat from terrorism is real." Yes, we suspected as much in the aftermath of the Paris and San Bernardino massacres. "But we will overcome it." We will? How? "By being strong and smart, resilient and relentless. And by drawing upon every aspect of American power."
So is it time for a change? Well, maybe not. It seems the "more sustainable victory" the president is planning on is to be won through "the strategy that we are using now — airstrikes, Special Forces and working with local forces." But he specified that Americans cannot "occupy foreign lands" — as if Republicans were demanding we take over Syria, and maybe Libya to boot.
Still, said the President, we'll keep supporting our ISIS-fighting Syrian and Iraqi proxies. "Go get 'em, guys!" is Obama-led America's exhortation to those we consider allies in the cause of freedom.
The standout characteristics of this Dec. 6 address were bloodlessness and an absence of patriotic outrage that innocent countrymen of ours, and innocent Parisians, should find themselves subject to the ravages of homicidal maniacs. Why did he bother? Because the occasion gave him the chance to contextualize his perennial assault on the Republicans for thwarting Common Sense Gun Control?
The terrorism address, it seems worth noting, took place the night before the nation's annual commemoration of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Compare and contrast. "Yesterday," President Roosevelt told Congress, "December 7, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by the naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan." There was fury in FDR'S steady voice.
Nobody claiming intellectual credibility would call the San Bernardino massacre a Pearl Harbor replay in its level of provocation or historical significance. Yet in some way the terrorism address could be called the low point to date of Obama's presidency: a chance, forever lost, to rise above and do something other than issue pallid assurances
Did not Obama, halfway through the address, affirm the belief that "we are at war" with the murderers? He might have conceded that parties at war with each other commonly use guns, making gun control a chimerical exercise for now. Not our president. It will be hard to dislodge him from his purpose of saving America the Obama way, i.e., keeping our eyes on domestic do-gooding, discrediting the foreign policy courses and expedients of his predecessor in the Oval Office.
I do not believe Barack Obama is either a Muslim or an alien. I think he is a symbol of American anxieties, disquietudes and palpitations in a century facing challenges new to our robust national experience. There is nothing robust or mettlesome about Barack Obama, save his desire to guilt us for the unsavory ways of our past: the fighting, the exploiting, the John Wayne stuff. Witness Sunday night. Our president's grand attempt to reassure probably had the effect of leaving Americans less assured than ever before.
One understands the Trump phenomenon better and better. DT's a boor and a patent medicine hawker. But he's also the antithesis of Obama, and he's benefiting from a real and rising sense that the man currently charged with leading his country isn't up to the job. He's perhaps not up to any job requiring mettle and candor over self-righteousness and evasion.
William Murchison's latest book is "The Cost of Liberty: The Life of John Dickinson." To find out more about William Murchison, and to see features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
Photo credit: Ted Eytan