Peggy Noonan, in a pre-speech post:
So what will [President Obama] say? Some guesses.Did you see an ego-tripping president tonight? I didn't. Did you see a president playing for the history books? Me either. If anything, I saw a president struggling to win over the public and doing this speech because everyone told him that he had to -- that he had to do something to change minds. He looked as if he was trying to turn public opinion around, but wasn't counting on much success (although the diplomatic opening that emerged in the past day or so gave the speech a ray of hope).
He will not really be trying to "convince the public." He will be trying to move the needle a little, which will comfort those who want to say he retains a matchless ability to move the masses. It will make him feel better. And it will send the world the message: Hey, this isn't a complete disaster. The U.S. president still has some juice, and that juice can still allow him to surprise you, so watch it.
He will attempt to be morally compelling and rhetorically memorable....
The real purpose of the speech will be to lay the predicate for a retrospective judgment of journalists and, later, historians. He was the president who warned the world and almost went -- but didn't go -- to war to make a point that needed making.
But I understand what Noonan is getting at here. When she, or one of her ideological soul mates, portrays an Obama speech as a way for the president to persuade himself and his fan base that he's a great speaker, that's just mirror-image projection: the righties think we're obsessed with Obama's rhetorical gifts, and that Obama is obsessed with his own gifts, because they, the righties, are obsessed with those gifts. They get physically ill watching him speak. They hate that anyone responds to him. And they care more about that than they do about any issue he's talking about, or any issue whatsoever, because their hatred for him, and for all Democrats, knows no bounds.
They don't care what we do in Syria. They have no firm opinion on this. If one of their favorites were championing the same course of action, and even making the same mistakes in the same order, they'd be 100% on board.
Incidentally, I don't think I've ever believed that Obama has "a matchless ability to move the masses." He's very good at moving people who are already favorably disposed toward him, or at least are persuadable; it's been clear since the '08 primaries, however, that some people are unmoved by him.
And as for how journalists and historians will judge Obama: I can't believe he could possibly imagine that his words are going to decide that. He's given a lot of fine speeches, and a lot of people still loathe him. He may have once said he was "LeBron" as a public speaker, but he's clearly had that sense of himself beaten out of him by events. It's been a long time since we've seen the cocky guy the right-wingers see. Then again, what they see is exclusively what's in their own heads.