Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

The Fort Hood speech: Obama swings and misses

I think President Obama missed a major opportunity at Fort Hood on Tuesday. His speech was fine was far as it went — but that wasn’t very far. It felt very conventional, a bit rote and obligational, like Reagan on an off day, doing a state fair stopoff on the way to the Western White ...

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I think President Obama missed a major opportunity at Fort Hood on Tuesday. His speech was fine was far as it went — but that wasn’t very far. It felt very conventional, a bit rote and obligational, like Reagan on an off day, doing a state fair stopoff on the way to the Western White House.

What I had hoped for was a passionate, engaged address that tackled political correctness in the same was as did his race speech during the campaign, which I think was his high point during that time. It was a terrific speech that I think moved both him and the country forward. (Look inside the Army, Mr. President, and  you will find “Ashleys” everywhere.)

Didn’t happen. This was a treading water speech. “We must pay tribute to their stories?” That feels to me more like the work of a desperate speechwriter than an inspired, transformational president. I dunno, maybe transcendence just requires more time and effort than he has available right now. That’s sad, because there are a lot of people in this country for whom the military looms about as large as race.

I really do think Obama still could be a great president, leading us toward “a more perfect union.” But not the way he has been going lately. Time is  passing … Look at this speech. “History is filled with heroes”? That’s high school stuff. I can remember when the knock on Obama’s speeches was that they were too good.

Photo: TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images

I think President Obama missed a major opportunity at Fort Hood on Tuesday. His speech was fine was far as it went — but that wasn’t very far. It felt very conventional, a bit rote and obligational, like Reagan on an off day, doing a state fair stopoff on the way to the Western White House.

What I had hoped for was a passionate, engaged address that tackled political correctness in the same was as did his race speech during the campaign, which I think was his high point during that time. It was a terrific speech that I think moved both him and the country forward. (Look inside the Army, Mr. President, and  you will find “Ashleys” everywhere.)

Didn’t happen. This was a treading water speech. “We must pay tribute to their stories?” That feels to me more like the work of a desperate speechwriter than an inspired, transformational president. I dunno, maybe transcendence just requires more time and effort than he has available right now. That’s sad, because there are a lot of people in this country for whom the military looms about as large as race.

I really do think Obama still could be a great president, leading us toward “a more perfect union.” But not the way he has been going lately. Time is  passing … Look at this speech. “History is filled with heroes”? That’s high school stuff. I can remember when the knock on Obama’s speeches was that they were too good.

Photo: TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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