Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Obama Speech Not Without Flaws

I watched President Obama’s speech on Iraq last night for my speech class so I might as well share my impressions. Obama is obviously an accomplished speaker and he struck the right tone. There were a few solid lines, but the speech was not without its flaws.

The setting was right: in the Oval Office surrounded by family pictures and wearing a power tie and an American flag lapel pin. There were strong lines, such as, “Our combat mission is ending, but our commitment to Iraq’s future is not.” He also made news for the press corps with a pledge to be out of Afganstain by next year.

With all that said, I have two main criticisms. First, Obama tried to cover too much. Second, he sometimes sounded more like a candidate than the president.

Obama’s speech had three main topics: Iraq, Afghanistan and the economy. It was natural to tie together the first two topics since both are Middle East hotspots. However, the speech unraveled when Obama turned to the economy. The president tried to convince us that forwarding his domestic agenda is somehow a way to honor the troops.

This leads me to my second criticism. Although subtle, Obama was too partisan for my liking, particularly for a speech of this nature. There was no need to rehash his disagreements with Bush or remind us of his campaign pledge. He also set expectations for continuing violence, saying, “As we speak, Al-Qaeda continues to plot against us. “ I’m sure this is the president’s way of trying to insulate himself against future criticism from the opposition party.

Obama was at his best when he eschewed politics for more universal themes. He spoke of his grandfather’s use of the GI Bill and talked about the last combat battalion leaving Iraq on the very road in which it had entered the country, but this time “no shots were fired.” He said they had “fought in a faraway place for people they never knew.”

Good stuff, but it could have been better if it had been a little more focused and a little less partisan.

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