President Obama’s Oval Office speech last night was billed as a speech to reassure the American people that their president and government were doing everything humanly possible to keep them safe. Unfortunately, for the President and the nation, his remarks failed.
Firstly, besides the content and lack of specifics, the speech failed on sheer optics. Presidents traditionally give serious Oval Office speeches from behind the Resolute Desk, not in front of a podium in front of the historic desk reading a TelePrompTer.
When President Reagan announced in 1986 that we were sending cruise missiles into Libya to avenge the deaths of two U.S servicemen from a West Berlin discotheque bombing financed and planned by Libya, it was announced from behind the Resolute Desk. When President George H.W. Bush proclaimed the end of Operation Desert Storm, it was done behind the historic desk.
President Obama delivering his speech from a podium gave the unintended appearance of being just another routine speech from the president. Traditionally, the president give remarks of this magnitude sitting behind the desk with pictures of his family in plain view, with papers in front of him, pretending to read from them while he’s actually reading the TelePrompTer.
Secondly, the speech fell short of reassuring the American people because it didn’t offer any specifics or a new strategy. The President’s overseas strategy of “airstrikes, Special Forces and working with local forces to regain control of their own country” is clearly not working. ISIS has expanded its caliphate from Iraq into Syria and it is looking to expand into Yemen. The blood-thirsty Boko Haram terrorist group in Africa – which kidnaps young girls for arranged marriages – has announced its alliance with ISIS.
It was ironic and quite newsworthy last night in the President’s remarks that he called for a cease fire in the Syrian civil war: “[W]ith American leadership, the international community has begun to establish a process — and timeline — to pursue ceasefires and a political resolution to the Syrian war.” Just in 2013, he was giving the Syrian dictator “red lines in the sand” if he we discovered he was using chemical weapons against his own people. President Assad did use chemical weapons and President Obama blinked and is now capitulating further by calling for a cease fire in the hostilities.
The President’s strategy of fighting homegrown domestic terrorism committed by jihadists radicalized by ISIS over the Internet is not working either. He admitted as much in his remarks last night when he admitted there have been three domestic terror attacks on his watch in Fort Hood, Chattanooga and in San Bernardino. There are in fact more instances including the 2014 beheading in Oklahoma by a woman’s Muslim co-worker and the near beheading of another female co-worker.
Thirdly, the President said last night “our success won’t depend on tough talk” but the only real tough talk and passion I witnessed from the President was when he was calling for more gun control and religious tolerance for Muslims:
“We also need to make it harder for people to buy powerful assault weapons like the ones that were used in San Bernardino. I know there are some who reject any gun safety measures…Congress should act to make sure no one on a no-fly list is able to buy a gun. What could possibly be the argument for allowing a terrorist suspect to buy a semi-automatic weapon?”
As far as I know, not one deranged mass shooter or evil terrorist was ever on a “no fly” list. The Paris massacre and the California shooting itself showed the prohibition of guns will never stop terrorists from acquiring them. These are only liberal feel good measures that do not address the real problem: home-grown jihadism and lax mental health laws.
The President was correct when he said it was the “responsibility of Muslims around the world to root out misguided ideas that lead to radicalization, it is the responsibility of all Americans — of every faith — to reject discrimination.”
Unfortunately, what is fueling a lot of mistrust is not Islamophobia. It’s not religious bigotry. It’s the fact that not enough Muslims are condemning, with sufficient frequency, the barbaric terrorist attacks happening in the name of their religion, especially various countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Turkey.
Americans are compassionate people who have spilled blood and spent treasure protecting, supporting and liberating Muslims all over the world – in sometimes from other Muslims. Despite the administration’s insinuations, there isn’t widespread Islamophobia happening in the United States. However, Americans are fearful that their president and government, is not taking the threat from ISIS and Al Qaeda with the seriousness it requires.
As Americans celebrate the holiday season attending parties and shopping, it’s undeniable a certain sense of apprehension is befalling our nation. I’m afraid that is exactly what the terrorists want. We need to see leadership Mr. President, and we need to see it now.
Christopher Arps is a managing partner with NLB Enterprises LLC, a digital media and political consulting firm based in St. Louis, Missouri. NLB Enterprises has gained extensive expertise in utilizing the blogosphere and the new media to gain influence and favorable earned media for their diverse array of clients.
Mr. Arps' political experience includes St. Louis Field Representative for U.S. Senator Jim Talent of Missouri. Campaign manager for the 2006 Sherman Parker for Congress Campaign, and an appointed aide to both the St. Louis County Council and the St. Louis County Board of Election Commissioners.