How Obama's Address Played in the Blogosphere
President Obama’s Oval office address Tuesday night inevitably generated a maelstrom of commentary, ranging from those who hated it (Jonah Golderg, Victor Davis Hanson, Rick Richman, Peter Wehner) to those who liked it (Steve Benen, Andrew Exum, Jim Fallows) and everyone in between. Yet not everyone’s opinion was predictable. Bill Kristol and John Podhortez enjoyed the speech and welcomed Obama into the neoconservative fold (well, at least they claim he sounded like one). Max Boot was also pleasantly surprised. And Peter Feaver wrote that the president did “better than I feared, but not as well as I hoped.” Jim Moss of FireDogLake heard some neocon rhetoric, too, but he found it rather “insulting.”
A number of bloggers compared and contrasted Obama to former President George W. Bush. David Rieff felt a fleeting pang of nostalgia for George W. Bush, and Mark McKinnon said the current president could learn a thing or two from his predecessor. Tina Brown was moved, but thought it ironic that “Bush may get away with saying he transformed Iraq, while Obama gets stuck” in Afghanistan. And Stephen Carter thought Barack even sounded like George (in spirit, if not in actual Texas twang).
Others thought the speech a little too ambitious and noted the arbitrary nature of the achievement. Fred Kaplan called the address “a strange muddle” that was “frustrating,” “unfocused,” and too equivocal, saying Obama failed to answer why we are still there and what we are doing. George Packer labeled the milestone by turns “meaningless,” “constructed out of thin air,” and “a rare moment of dishonesty and disingenousness,” and called the speech “flat and forgettable.” Tom Ricks said Obama sounded “tired and clichéd,” and castigated him for his “phony pledge” to meet the deadline, which led to the speech’s “hollow” core. Andrew Bacevich pointed out that in addition to the war not ending in Iraq, America “leaves Iraq having learned nothing.” Tom Mahnken thought the president seemed “distracted” and Will Inboden wrote that he “tried to do too much and thus accomplished too little.” Juan Cole felt the speech too freighted down “with bipartisanship” and seemed to “have been designed by a committee.” Joe Klein said Obama looked uncomfortable, but was gracious and “survived” the moment.
On the other hand, Matt Yglesias appreciated seeing that “the thematic big picture stuff” is back on the president’s mind, including the part of the address that focused on rebuilding here at home. Tim Fernholz concurred, writing that the president’s comments “marked another important transition” toward focusing on the economy.