The supposedly masterful rhetorician struggled mightily to achieve a consistent understandable answer. After two hastily called press conferences no one seemed sure exactly what he meant. And so it was back to the big set speech; this time accompanied with an Op-Ed in the New York Times.
And once again Obama managed to avoid the original issue and attempted to pretend it was all just one big misunderstanding. Obama claimed that he always knew the surge would work, on a tactical level, despite having opposed it and promised that it would fail to bring an increase in security or political progress. He shamelessly pivoted from “the war is a lost cause and we must get out” to “we are winning so we must get out.”
Just like in all his other major speeches Obama sought to change the subject and erase his contradictory and confusing answers. He declared the war a distraction from the real battle in Afghanistan. He continued to ignore the strategic ramifications of the growing progress in Iraq, and the folly of giving up now, even as he grudgingly admitted to some success.
Caught between the strident anti-war position that helped him win the primary and the clear changing of facts on the ground Obama once again waffled and insisted he was perfectly consistent. This was just one more attempt to rewrite history and his record. This time, however, it is not about his offensive pastor or the wearing of a flag pin, but about a central national security question. That should trouble even his most ardent supporters.
In his speeches Obama often touts his faith in the wisdom of the American people. But his actions in this campaign indicate that what he is really counting on is their short term memory.
This may be a successful short term electoral strategy, but it is a shallow and dangerous one in the long term.