As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama promised to bring us together and, on foreign policy, he may be making belated progress. Last week, he gave the commencement address at West Point, turning an occasion to congratulate the cadets for their hard work and thank them for their future service into an opportunity to congratulate and thank himself. The news here is not that his remarks brought criticism from his usual critics, but that this time even many knee-jerk cheerleaders could not get their joints jumping.
The first sentence of the lead news story on Page One of The New York Times on Thursday: “President Obama tried once more to articulate his vision of the American role in the world.” Tried? Once more?
In the past, the story added, Mr. Obama has “taken pains to note” that the terrorist threat “could be dealt with ‘smartly and proportionately.’” (More precisely: Two years ago, top White House counterterrorism adviser John O. Brennan called al Qaeda a “shadow of its former self,” while administration allies proclaimed the organization “defeated.”) At the U.S. Military Academy, however, the president acknowledged that “the most direct threat to America at home and abroad remains terrorism.” Those of us who have been saying that all along received no shout-outs.
And now the president has given additional ammunition to America’s enemies by releasing from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, five hardened terrorist leaders in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Yes, it is a good thing when an American soldier is freed from his captors, but is the Taliban justified in celebrating this as their victory and our defeat? What’s the chance that these terrorists will soon be back on the battlefield? If it’s true that Sgt. Bergdahl went AWOL or even deserted, did his parents deserve the president’s embrace in the Rose Garden? These and many other questions should be answered in the days ahead. Serious journalists will demand that.