“Never again,” Obama style

On April 23 President Obama spoke at the Holocaust Days of Remembrance Ceremony at the Capitol. The White House has posted the text of his remarks here and video here.

Obama’s remarks drew little attention. In a recent post, Michael Ledeen takes a close look at Obama’s speech. Bringing his professional background as a student of fascism to bear, Ledeen provides both explication and analysis. Some of the speech, in Ledeen’s estimation, is Obama at his best. Some of it, however, shows Obama in a less flattering light, as in his account of the meaning of the “never again” vow: Ledeen observes:

In the history of modern times, the United States has done more than anyone else, perhaps more than the rest of the world combined, to defeat evil, and we are still doing it. Yet Obama says that we must “learn from others” how to move on, forgive and forget, and live happily ever after. But these are just words, they are not policies, or even actions. And the meanings he gives to his words show that he has no real intention of doing anything to thwart evil, any more than he had any concrete actions to propose to punish North Korea.

Ledeen concludes:

Thus far, at least, the one clear message from President Obama is that he is not prepared to fight…our international enemies. He sounds more like a psychotherapist than a national leader in these words from his Holocaust Day speech: “…we have the opportunity to make a habit of empathy, to recognize ourselves in each other, to commit ourselves to resisting injustice and intolerance and indifference, in whatever forms they may take, whether confronting those who tell lies about history, or doing everything we can to prevent and end atrocities like those that took place in Rwanda, those taking place in Darfur…”

These words are calculated to internalize conflicts that are raging in the real world, and they are precisely the sort of words that will encourage our enemies to redouble their efforts to bring us down. For if the president of the United States will not act, who can stop them?

There is also a dispiriting adolescent quality in Obama’s remarks. Obama draws a meaningless commencement speech moral from the obligation to confront the genocidal scourge: “It will not be easy. At times, fulfilling these obligations require [sic] self-reflection.” Referring to 70,000 people protesting the Darfur massacres in a protest on the Washington Mall, Obama states:

Those numbers can be our future — our fellow citizens of the world showing us how to make the journey from oppression to survival, from witness to resistance, and ultimately to reconciliation. That is what we mean when we say “never again.”

Where’s the resistance? As Ledeen observes, it’s entirely verbal, as is Obama’s “resistance” to the nuclear program that aims to equip Hitler’s contemporary successors with the means of completing Hitler’s work. With Iran, even verbal resistance does not appear to be part of the equation. Obama would prefer to skip directly to reconciliation. Obama concludes his remarks on a somewhat anomalous Christian note:

So today, during this season when we celebrate liberation, resurrection, and the possibility of redemption, may each of us renew our resolve to do what must be done. And may we strive each day, both individually and as a nation, to be among the righteous.

If President Bush had said this at a Holocaust remembrance….well, you can figure it out. All in all, a revealing performance, entirely worthy of the attention that Ledeen usefully devotes to it.


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