Sunday, December 06, 2015


This is happening tonight. I'm not sure what good it can do:
On Sunday, December 6, at 8:00 pm ET, President Obama will address the nation from the Oval Office about the steps our government is taking to fulfill his highest priority: Keeping the American people safe.

He will provide an update on the ongoing investigation into the tragic attack in San Bernardino. He will also discuss the broader threat of terrorism -- including the nature of the threat, how it has evolved, and how we will defeat it.

He will reiterate his firm conviction that ISIL will be destroyed and that the United States must draw upon our values -- our unwavering commitment to justice, equality, and freedom -- to prevail over terrorist groups that use violence to advance a destructive ideology.
It's hard to imagine this speech being well received. The discussion afterward will be dominated by conservatives, who'll judge it on one main criterion: He didn't say "Islamic extremism"! (Or "Islamic terrorism" or "radical Islam" or whichever phrase they think will magically eliminate terrorism.)

The president also won't call for a ground war in Syria -- not that very many Republicans, apart from Lindsey Graham, will suggest that either, but they'll upbraid him for not being tough enough regardless. Also, he might bring up gun control, which will really set them howling.

But it's not just the right. Yesterday I quoted this Patrick Healy story, which The New York Times published on Wednesday. However, I didn't quote one of the main points Healy made: that voters anxious about terrorism not only want a tough president, they want the sort of president who exists only in movies:
“Get off my plane,” growls the president of the United States to a terrorist hijacker in the 1997 movie “Air Force One,” before snapping the enemy’s neck and shoving him out the cargo door.

Triumphal music swells. The good guys have won. And no less than Harrison Ford has shown what a president can do if he is Han Solo and Indiana Jones rolled into one.

With the Islamic State suddenly rivaling the economy as their top concern in recent polls, many voters are looking for wartime strategies from the 2016 presidential candidates. But after seven years of a cerebral President Obama, there is no denying that some also want a leader who radiates gutsiness and a take-charge resolve. Not simply the “strong leader” that pollsters ask about, but someone who makes them feel safe on a visceral level.

Older voters point to Ronald Reagan, standing up to the Soviet Union. Others find inspiration in film, America’s dominant cultural form, and the grit of a Bill Pullman in “Independence Day,” a Jamie Foxx in “White House Down.” No one expects a president to be an action movie star, but anxious voters want a leader who will go to courageous lengths to protect the United States against attacks like the ones in Paris on Nov. 13.
Healy writes, "No one expects a president to be an action movie star," as if voters wish for that but are mature enough to realize it's impossible. However, the voters he quotes convey the impression that an action-hero president is precisely what they want:
“In scary times, you want heroes as presidents,” said Barbara Hovland, the Republican chairwoman in the Mason City area of Iowa. “Who doesn’t want a president who can take care of himself, his family and the country at the same time, like Harrison Ford did? When Donald Trump said recently in Iowa that he would cut off the heads of ISIS, the crowd went wild.”

... “We need someone who understands that ISIS is 10 times more dangerous than Al Qaeda was,” said Dean Nason, a Republican in Wakefield, N.H. “Movie presidents make you feel good....”
Obama's not going to give Americans that tonight, is he?

And he's going to be competing with tough-talkin' Ted Cruz:
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Saturday is rolling out a series of TV ads in Iowa, including one aimed at bolstering his credentials to fight terrorism if elected president....

“If I’m elected to serve as Commander-in-Chief, we won’t cower in the face of evil. America will lead,” Cruz says directly into the camera. “We’ll rebuild our military. We’ll kill the terrorists. And every Islamic extremist will know, if you wage jihad against us, you’re signing your death warrant.”

And, of course, with Trump:
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said in an interview aired Sunday that he would "go after" family members of terrorists because they "know what's happening" when their loved ones commit acts of terrorism.

Trump said on CBS' "Face The Nation" that he would've gone after the wives of the terrorists in the World Trade Center attacks because they knew it was going to happen.

"At least I would certainly go after the wives who absolutely knew it was happening, and I guess your definition of what I'd do, I'm going to leave that to your imagination," Trump said.
Centrist pundits know this is empty -- and, in Trump's case, alarming -- bombast, but they'll still lament that Obama's speech didn't rally the nation the way bombast would.

Obama's slower, more patient approach may be correct, but we're children -- we don't want to hear that. We want Daddy to make it all better now now now.


AllieG said...

The two default modes of American public opinion are 1. apathetic ignorance and 2. blind panic. Neither works to create actual policy. '
Maybe Obama should announce we've re-invaded Grenada.

Victor said...

I bet Obama can't wait for January of 2017, when he will hand-over the job, and can finally say what's really on his mind -
something like:
"My fellow Americans, I'm sick to death of you losers and asswipes!
You're a bunch of shrieking chickenshit children.

By the way, you're welcome.
For what, you ask?
For me doing what I could with the mentally challenged blithering simp's you put into the House and Senate, so nothing could get done, except for government shut-downs.
For my part in rescuing the economy.
For me doing my part in getting your family members and friends out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and not invading every nation that caused a John McCain's and Lindsey Graham's knickers to knot!
Oh, and I almost forgot: for cheaper and better health care - except in those states where you morons decided to put conservatives in the Governor's mansions and state legislatures.

I'm gone, and you can now return to clinging to your God and guns - like you ever stopped - and hating on women, gays, blacks, Muslims, immigrants, and other minorities and non-"Christians.

So, good night and good luck.
And go fuck yourselves!"

He's too much of a gentleman to say that, though...

Anonymous said...

It doesn't matter how hard Ted Cruz tries to sound tough. He's never going to exude anything but grease.

Do we even know that "people" in numbers other than "some" want anything of the sort?

Ten Bears said...

While drips grease is indeed exuding, it's so much more an accurate description, aeh?

An iceback oozing oil...

Jay Upton said...

How is isil/Isis "10 times more dangerous than al-Qaeda"?

Lit3Bolt said...

ISIS is "10 times more dangerous than al-Qaeda" because we have a Democratic President.

The worst terror attack in history happens on the watch of a Republican and the nation rallies to his side, because they interpret a white guy gaping and struggling not to drool as "heroic" and "leadership."

Obama can kill Osama bin Laden everyday of the week but still will never "keep us safe" the way GWB did, in the Fox voter mindset.

Ignorance really is strength for these people.

Glennis said...

"In scary times, you want heroes as presidents...When Donald Trump said recently in Iowa that he would cut off the heads of ISIS, the crowd went wild.”

I guess I missed that movie.

Ken_L said...

America is waging a war of choice against people who glory in committing suicide. It's inevitable that they will inflict casualties on Americans in retaliation. I don't understand why so many Americans seem incapable of grasping such a simple truism, or why Obama can't explain it in plain language. Perhaps because it leads to the awkward question of whether the war of choice is actually worthwhile ...

Unknown said...

"...and to those who fear pandemics, who lie awake at night worrying about the next ebola or SARS or mutated plague, you have my solemn promise that I will not hesitate to bomb those viruses, waterboard them, or even cut their heads off. Whatever it takes."