Yesterday, President Obama provided the country with a speech on Iraq that was distinctly… unedifying. Underwhelming. The sort of speech that you track down the text online, read it, and wait to see if the speaker at least makes an embarrassing verbal gaffe or two. Still, Bill Kristol gave it good marks, for a given value of “good marks:”
President Obama opposed the war in Iraq. He still thinks it was a mistake. It’s therefore unrealistic for supporters of the war to expect the president to give the speech John McCain would have given, or to expect President Obama to put the war in the context we would put it in. He simply doesn’t believe the war in Iraq was a necessary part of a broader effort to fight terror, to change the Middle East, etc. Given that (erroneous) view of his, I thought his speech was on the whole commendable, and even at times impressive.
I happen to largely agree with Bill Kristol about the war in Iraq. But he’s wrong here to (as Hot Air put it) grade the President on the curve accordingly.
First off, and most importantly: this President has spent his entire political career being graded on the curve. As a state legislator and as a US Senator, he was a mediocrity, famously voting ‘Present‘ on the issues of the day and fond of insinuating himself in for the credit for splashy initiatives. As a candidate, he benefited from a media that challenged his opponents for him at every turn, and challenged him not at all. As a President, he oversaw the ‘process’ by which both a supposed economic recovery package and a supposed health reform package were instead turned into almost-literally malignant pieces of legislative evil that none have read, none can understand, and none want on their own merits. All of these things occurred, and were permitted to occur, because at no time was Barack Obama expected to stand or fall on his own. There was always someone who needed to make excuses for Obama for his or her own reasons, or who needed Obama to further his or her own agenda, or even someone who could simply not bear the thought of Obama failing at something. And after a while, it became an artificial ‘New Normal.’
And that leads to the second point: it is not “unrealistic for supporters of the war to expect the president to give the speech John McCain would have given, or to expect President Obama to put the war in the context we would put it in.” We were right. The President was wrong. And he knows that he was wrong. He is counting on defense hawks to shrug and give Obama a pass on this, just like everybody always gives Obama a pass, because apparently it violates the laws of physics themselves to expect a Democratic President of the United States to be held accountable to the consequences of his own actions and rhetoric. [Except that it’s not, so let’s stop doing that.] If the President does not like it, then he can marshal the powers of his roughly-125-IQ-but-never-properly-exercised brain* and learn to shut up when he’s about to say stupid things that will hurt him later.
In short: this is the United States of America, not junior high; and Barack Obama is the President, not a God-King. It is far past time that we stopped giving the man a pass that he doesn’t particularly deserve.
*At a guess. And I suspect it’s one that will infuriate his followers more than if I had suggested that the guy had less than a triple-digit IQ.
Crossposted to Moe Lane.