Some talking heads the other day were comparing what President Obama said about terrorism in his first inaugural address with what he has said most recently.
They were remarking on how the president, supposedly tempered by having to govern, has changed his ideas on terror. But I had another takeaway: maybe in both cases the president was just a talking?
He loves to talk and I think that sometimes he’s just says things: chemical weapons used by the Syrian regime would be a red line. Or not. Blah blah blah. This is not to say he doesn’t have core beliefs from which he never deviates for long. But sometimes he’s just a talking.
Jennifer Rubin also sees the president as a man who is “mostly talk” and for whom “image is everything and the only thing:”
With Obama it is all stagecraft and no state craft. He’ll chest-thump about the assassination of Osama bin Laden and be happy to leak details of “kill lists” (president, with brow furrowed, sits deciding life-and-death issues), but in fact he’s mostly talk. In this light we can see that part of the motive for cracking down on the media is to eliminate and deter information-gathering that is not White House-approved. It’s fine to leak favorable images and information. But if the media dare to put forth data that are inconsistent with his play-acting, then the retribution is fierce and swift.
Rubin says what we are all beginning to suspect: that the president’s verbal response to the Benghazi attacks was so inadequate because he was “not at the helm” that night. He was reportedly receiving updates but merely receiving updates is not really what a president does in such a situation. Rubin says it was a dereliction of duty for which the president must be held accountable (to use one of his favorite locutions, usually uttered when nobody is going to be held accountable).
The president is a talker more than he is a doer.
Nowhere was this clearer than in President Obama’s alarming speech on the future of the war on terror. Rather than do hard things, he's just declared the war on terror over. Don’t get me wrong: I think it contains some of his deeply held—if also deeply confused—core beliefs. But it’s also about standing in front of the world and saying something that he’s been itching to say, something that makes him look good in front of the segment of the public whose good will he covets. It was about President Obama's image, not about protecting the country.
Despite the president’s unilateral ending of the war on terror, our enemies will fight on and continue to kill us. But our president has done what he likes to do best: He Has Spoken. Another Rubin–Barry Rubin–calls President Obama’s end of the war speech “an exercise in wishful thinking.”
Both President Obama and President Bush before him properly have taken pains to assert that the U.S. is not at war with Islam. But President Obama seems unable to acknowledge that attacks such as the one in Boston or the Fort Hood shooting have anything to do with radical Islam. He refuses to see the difference between Newtown and Boston.
Barry Rubin writes:
Essentially, his theme: the only strategic threat to the United States is posed by terrorists carrying out terrorist attacks. In the 6400 words used by Obama, Islam only constituted three of them, and most interestingly, in all three instances the word was used to deny that the United States is at war with Islam. In fact, this is what President George Bush said precisely almost a dozen years ago, after September 11.
So: why have not hundreds of such denials had the least bit of effect on the course of that war?
To prove that the United States is not at war with Islam, the Obama administration has sided with political Islam throughout the Middle East to the extent that some Muslims think Obama is doing damage to Islam — their kind of Islam.
Along the way, the fight against al-Qaeda resulted in a policy that has — however inadvertently — armed al-Qaeda in Libya and Syria.
Once again, I will try to explain the essence of Obama’s strategy, a simple point that many seem unable to grasp:
Obama views al-Qaeda as a threat because it wants to attack America directly with terrorism. But all other Islamist groups are not seen as a threat by Obama. In fact, Obama believes they can be used to stop al-Qaeda.
This is an abandonment of a strategic perspective. “Islamism” or “political Islam” or any other version of that does not appear even once. Yet this is the foremost revolutionary movement of this era, the main threat in the world to U.S. interests, and even to Western civilization.
The president has spoken but I fear the consequences of his words.
Obviously, he doesn’t.