The West Point speech

It was a perceptive prediction. For the most important address of his presidency, the president didn’t look particularly authoritative or strong. He didn’t look the American people in the eye and tell them straight up that he was sending in the Army and Marines to win this war against extremist Islamic crazies.

Sure, he made the right decision. And sure, it took a bit of backbone to stare down his left wing, which is adamantly opposed to giving our troops stationed in Afghanistan the necessary reinforcements. But the president didn’t exactly give a rousing speech in front of a quiet, respectful, if somewhat underwhelmed crowd.

The president could have kept short and straight. But he didn’t. He tried to weave in how the previous president screwed up, and then about how he has changed our relationship with the Muslim world (really? What about Fort Hood?) and then how this fits into his bigger domestic plans (which we can longer really afford anyway).

He can’t resist his own voice. He can’t stop himself from starring in his drama. And as he looked side to side, I got the sense the president was trying to convince himself that this was the script he was supposed to believe in, but couldn’t.

The president used the word “I” 48 times during the speech, from my count. That is a lot of self-reverence for a guy who simply had to tell the Pentagon to do what it has wanted to do now for more than 80 days. They want to win and they want to get the necessary troops in theater so they have a better chance of winning.

This decision isn’t about the president. It is about our national security, our international reputation and, of course, about beating the bad guys.

The speech wasn’t staged well, it wasn’t particularly well-delivered, it was too long and it was too self-reverent. But at least it communicated the right decision. And that’s important.

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