January 17th, 2019


A President Who Fails to Instil Confidence

Bernard Goldberg

By Bernard Goldberg

Published Dec. 8, 2015

I can't imagine that there are many Americans who listened to President Obama's Oval Office speech on terrorism and when it was over took a deep breath and said, "Now I feel better."

This isn't entirely Mr. Obama's fault, of course. At some level we know that what happened in San Bernardino can (and probably will) happen again someplace else in this country. No matter what the president does, it may not be enough.

But when it comes to fighting the war on terror, President Obama doesn't exactly instill confidence. He hasn't even used the term since January 23, 2009 — his fourth day in office.

As for the most menacing face of terror, ISIS, in Mr. Obama's words, was the jayvee team. They were "contained." ISIS had other ideas and attacked Paris. One hundred thirty innocents were slaughtered. Mr. Obama called it a "setback."

For too long President Obama refused to bomb the oil fields that ISIS controlled because, according to former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell, the president was concerned about the "environmental impact."

No one will confuse Barack Obama with Harry Truman. Or Franklin Roosevelt. Or Winston Churchill. Or Hilary Benn.

Yes, Hillary Benn, a member of Britain's Labour Party, who recently rose up in the British House of Commons during a debate on a Conservative Party plan to bomb territory held by ISIS — and said something liberals usually don't say.

Mr. Benn (despite his first name, it is Mr. Benn) not only challenged his own party on bombing ISIS, but also confronted his liberal colleagues who refuse to see the enemy for what it is.

"We are here faced by fascists," he said. "Not just their calculated brutality, but their belief that they are superior to every single one of us in this chamber tonight, and all of the people that we represent. They hold us in contempt. They hold our values in contempt. They hold our belief in tolerance and decency in contempt. They hold our democracy, the means by which we will make our decision tonight, in contempt. And what we know about fascists is that they need to be defeated."

President Obama, of course, knows that ISIS needs to be defeated. But has he ever delivered a speech with such eloquence and directness as the one by Hilary Benn? To this day, he won't utter the words "Islamic terrorists." During the last Democratic presidential debate, all the candidates refused to state the obvious — that we're at war with radical Islam. And Hillary Clinton said the term was "not particularly helpful."

None of this liberal squeamishness is resonating even with those who once supported Barack Obama. Polls show that a big majority of Americans don't approve of the way the president is fighting terrorism in general and ISIS in particular. But even in his Oval Office speech, he offered nothing new in the way of a strategy to defeat the Islamic State.

Mike Tyson once observed that every boxer has a plan — until he gets hit in the mouth. President Obama's plan (whatever it is) has taken more than a few shots to the mouth. But it's as if the president actually believes that his vision of a world —where ISIS is the junior varsity and is contained and terrorism is on the run — is the real world, simply because he deems it so.

Barack Obama once got by on his magic, on a charisma that few politicians are lucky enough to possess. The magic is gone. The charisma, such as it is, no longer mesmerizes. Americans know we're at war with Islamic terrorists, no matter how inconvenient the president and Hillary Clinton find that fact to be. And no matter how many times they refuse to even utter those words.

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