John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Obama’s West Point Speech

Posted on May 29, 2014
USMA Aerial View Looking North

The substance of the President’s speech at West Point was fine, I suppose, although a CNN reporter said that he got an icy reception from the audience.

The problem is never with Mr. Obama’s words.   The problem is with his deeds.

He did misstate what actually happened in Syria.

He said in yesterday’s speech that he decided not to engage in the civil war there.

Actually, if you recall, he punted that decision to Congress and Congress made the call for him not to engage.

The American people are in a non-interventionist place right now, which pretty much fits in with most of our history.

The President quoted George Washington’s warning on entangling alliances, which tells you how far back this fear of wasting resources fighting wars elsewhere really goes.

But we all know that when we pull back from the rest of the world, the rest of the world tends to get in our business anyway.

Thomas Jefferson had to authorize a military incursion against the Tripoli pirates because they wouldn’t leave our ships alone.

Woodrow Wilson promised to keep us out of the war, but then the Germans torpedoed the Lusintania, and we found ourselves going “over there.”

FDR wanted to get us involved in the conflict in Europe, but the American people were dead-set against it, until the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

America’s global leadership since 1945 was obviously unique in our history.  We couldn’t pull back because we had to defeat Communism.  After we won the Cold War, policy makers thought we could spend the “Peace Dividend” on bigger domestic government, but then we discovered a whole new enemy in global Islamic terrorism.

The Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts were unsatisfying to the American public, and a new isolationism has infected the body politic.

That Obama didn’t involve us in Syria was certainly the right call from a political perspective.  Neo-conservatives who think that decision reflected weakness on behalf of the President don’t have to field calls from angry constituents.

The President didn’t mention burden sharing, but he should have.   The Germans and the Japanese, the South Koreans and the French, have to step up and help us secure the world against bad actors.   They have to spend more on their defense budgets.

Of course, working with these countries isn’t always easy, because they have their own national interests and their own opinions.  And plus, they are pissed off at us because we monitor all of their personal phone calls.

The trick for Republicans is to offer an alternative vision to Obama without actually advocating policies that the American people are dead-set opposed to.

Reagan talked of peace through strength, but that was a different time when we faced a different enemy.

I suppose the best approach is the one taken by most of the GOP leaders.  Condemn the President for being feckless and ineffective, but don’t necessarily call for interventionist policies that run counter to the wishes of the voters.