The New Refrain That We’ve Heard So Many Times

Conservatives don’t seem to be “attacking” Obama so much as expressing a lack of surprise at his hollow recitation of trigger phrases. Consider the ending to a piece by Andrew Ferguson:

To pump a little vigor into his limp sentiments, Obama attached them to a hypnotic refrain. “This is the moment,” he said in Berlin, repeatedly. But where’s the urgency come from? What’s the rush? In the long train of platitudes he suggested no discrete, definable policy that needed to be adopted urgently, beyond his call to unity, which isn’t a policy but an aspiration. You get the idea that the urgency doesn’t arise from an assessment of reality but from a rhetorical need. He’s got to keep the folks on their toes somehow.
Obama couldn’t come to Berlin and deliver a speech full of portent, as Reagan and Kennedy did before him, and as his publicists suggested he might. For all the talk about this being our time and us being the people, Obama shows no sign of really believing we live in portentous times. This is surely part of his appeal. It’s not surprising that when he came to Berlin and said nothing at all, none of his admirers seemed disappointed. After eight years of overheated history, nothing comes as a relief.

For his part, Jeff Jacoby offers a notable contrast:

… Obama seemed to go out of his way not to say plainly that what saved Berlin in that dark time was America’s military might. Save for a solitary reference to “the first American plane,” he never described one of the greatest American operations of the postwar period as an American operation at all. He spoke only of “the airlift,” “the planes,” “those pilots.” Perhaps their American identity wasn’t something he cared to stress amid all his “people of the world” salutations and talk of “global citizenship.”
“People of the world,” Obama declaimed, “look at Berlin, where a wall came down, a continent came together, and history proved that there is no challenge too great for a world that stands as one.” But the world didn’t stand as one during the Cold War; it was riven by an Iron Curtain. For more than four decades, America and the West confronted an implacable enemy on the other side of that divide. What finally defeated that enemy and ended the Cold War was not harmony and goodwill, but American strength and resolve.

Back to Ferguson:

The thing about wars, even cold ones, is that the world doesn’t stand as one; that’s why there’s a war. And in the Cold War the Soviet side was as united as the West; more so, probably. Left out of Obama’s history was any mention of the ferocious demonstrations against the United States in the streets of Paris and West Berlin during the 1960s and 1980s, when American presidents were routinely depicted as priapic cowboys and psychopaths. Probably a fair number of the older members of Obama’s audience had been hoisting those banners themselves 25 years ago.

Obama’s fellow travelers have been on the wrong side when American confidence and fortitude have been required. Their intellectual forerunners decried actions that today they must embrace, however indirectly. Not through the toil of leftists did the Berlin Wall fall. And the empty echo to be heard in his representation of history and its lessons for the present and future suggest that a President Obama would not make those sorts of courageous decisions by which great men carve a path through history toward freedom.

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Pragmatist
Pragmatist
13 years ago

Obama has nothing but hollow trigger phrases huh?
Obama has already changed the debate as far as the war is concerned. Both Maliki and Bush have adopted his position on the withdrawal of troops and McCain has finally come around to Obama’s position on the need for more troops in Afghanistan. Apparently the old senator has finally consulted a map and now realizes that it is Afghanistan that borders Pakistan, not Iraq. That gives me hope that perhaps one of these days McCain will also realize that running an election on a tactical decision like “the surge” just won’t cut it.
Of course, since McCain has neither an economic platform or a realistic energy policy, he might be better off sticking to “the surge.”
And it’s Obama who recites “hollow” phrases? Please. You just need to read something other than NRO.

Justin Katz
13 years ago

Well, I suppose deceptive spin is pragmatic, but really, whom do you hope to persuade? Obama’s the one moving toward others’ positions. When asked, they’ll say that sixteen months looks like it might be feasible, if things continue as they’ve been, but the key to Obama’s rhetoric thus far was the insane promise that troops would be out by a given date. (It still isn’t really likely, if we’re talking all troops, entirely.)
As for the rest, I’d note that your failure to look into McCain’s platforms does not prove their absence.

donroach
donroach
13 years ago

I was very disappointed that on Meet the Press Obama could not admit that the surge was working.
Instead he said other things were working…blah, blah, blah.
The fact that he admitted some things were ‘working’ testifies against the rhetoric that we’re in an endless quagmire in Iraq. Yes, I think the President has acted like an incompetent boob with respect to managing the War, but in finally listening to generals on the ground with this new strategy, things have definitely turned around.
But, I’m very leary of Obama’s refusal to give credit where credit is due and instead deflect praise. That’s not a change from any run of the mill politician.

Pragamatist
Pragamatist
13 years ago

Justin,
I suppose that Maliki was also deceptively spinning on Obama’s behalf when he publicly supported the 16 month timeframe?
And President Bush as well when he recently agreed to negotiating a “timeframe” for withdrawal?
And where were these discussions of withdrawal and timeframes prior to Obama’s forcing the issue? Nowhere — except, of course, we had McCain’s 100 year prediction.
As for McCain, perhaps you will recall his confessions about the economy being something he needs to do more homework on and about his promise to “read Greenspan’s book” to get up to speed.
As for my “deceptive” spin, perhaps I actually believe what I have written? Maybe you have been rolling around in the muck with Pat Crowley for too long.

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