The Obama method

The White House has posted the text of President Obama’s speech at American University yesterday here. The video is below (55 minutes). John Hinderaker covers the lowlights and exposes the chop logic here. I haven’t seen any commentary better than John’s.

Obama begins his speech with a discussion of President Kennedy’s American University speech. The text of President Kennedy’s speech is posted here.

Obama’s potted history of the Cold War includes this revealing nugget: “With Kennedy at the helm, the Cuban Missile Crisis was resolved peacefully.” The Cuban Missile Crisis was resolved, of course, by the American naval blockade of Cuba that brought us to the brink of war and led to the capitulation of the Soviet Union.

The Soviet Union’s capitulation included the dismantling and removal of the nuclear facility that American intelligence had found under construction in Cuba. Surely there is a lesson here somewhere for our present predicament with Iran, though it runs counter to the one Obama draws. As always, when he is not ignorant of the relevant history himself, Obama prefers to exploit the ignorance of his audience. (Clifford May and Jonathan Schanzer have more of interest on the JFK comparison here.)

Obama comes to praise the agreement we have reached with Iran regarding its nuclear program. Obama refers to the agreement as an “arrangement” and a “deal.” It is a “detailed arrangement.” Although Obama also refers to “previous treaties,” this detailed arrangement is not a treaty. Why? According to Obama’s Secretary of State, “you can’t pass a treaty anymore.”

The Constitution requires a congressional supermajority for ratification, yet Obama has not even persuaded a majority of American citizens (let alone a congressional majority) to support his “detailed arrangement” with Iran. Obama therefore appeals to “the vast majority of the world.” I wish Obama saw the common sense of his fellow citizens, but Obama sees us as misguided holdouts.

Obama immediately alludes to that portion of the Jewish community that opposes his arrangement. “Between now and the congressional vote in September, you’re going to hear a lot of arguments against this deal, backed by tens of millions of dollars in advertising.” He is referring here to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the resources it has dedicated to opposing the deal. He resents their opposition and he’s letting them know it.

Obama then purports to expose the “mindset” behind the opposition to his arrangement with Iran. As president he wants us to get our minds right. Here we see the Obama method in operation.

Obama does not seek to persuade the loyal opposition. He seeks to punish. He likens the opposition to the enemies of the United States in Iran. This isn’t much of an argument and it is implausible on its face.

Obama’s discussion of Iraq is particularly painful in this context. He chose to throw away the precarious victory achieved at long last by President Bush by the time he left office. “And ironically,” Obama says, “the single greatest beneficiary in the region of that war was the Islamic Republic of Iran, which saw its strategic position strengthened by the removal of its long-standing enemy, Saddam Hussein.” Here there is a glimmer of truth, but it is Obama who has brought Iran’s goals to fulfillment in Iraq, first by withdrawing American troops and then by injecting Iranian forces directly into Iraq. Obama supports the strengthening of Iran’s strategic position.

Referring to the imposition of sanctions on Iran, Obama states: “Winning this global buy-in was not easy — I know. I was there.” What was Obama’s position on the imposition of sanctions? He doesn’t say.

Before leaving his defense of the deal, Obama directly addresses Israel’s concerns:

I do think it’s important to acknowledge another, more understandable motivation behind the opposition to this deal, or at least skepticism to this deal, and that is a sincere affinity for our friend and ally, Israel — an affinity that, as someone who has been a stalwart friend to Israel throughout my career, I deeply share.

When the Israeli government is opposed to something, people in the United States take notice. And they should. No one can blame Israelis for having a deep skepticism about any dealings with a government like Iran’s — which includes leaders who have denied the Holocaust, embrace an ideology of anti-Semitism, facilitate the flow of rockets that are arrayed on Israel’s borders, are pointed at Tel Aviv. In such a dangerous neighborhood, Israel has to be vigilant, and it rightly insists that it cannot depend on any other country — even its great friend the United States — for its own security. So we have to take seriously concerns in Israel.

But the fact is, partly due to American military and intelligence assistance, which my administration has provided at unprecedented levels, Israel can defend itself against any conventional danger — whether from Iran directly or from its proxies. On the other hand, a nuclear-armed Iran changes that equation.

Put to one side Obama’s expression of stalwart friendship for Israel. (On this point, see Michael Oren’s Ally.) It is the considered judgment of the government and people of Israel that this deal finances and facilitates Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. Prime Minister Netanyahu forcefully set forth this judgment earlier this week (video posted here). And so we have this:

I recognize that Prime Minister Netanyahu disagrees — disagrees strongly. I do not doubt his sincerity. But I believe he is wrong. I believe the facts support this deal. I believe they are in America’s interest and Israel’s interest. And as President of the United States, it would be an abrogation of my constitutional duty to act against my best judgment simply because it causes temporary friction with a dear friend and ally. I do not believe that would be the right thing to do for the United States. I do not believe it would be the right thing to do for Israel. (Applause.)

As with Israel, so with America. Obama always professes to understand the true interests of his opponents better than they do. He is a man for all reasons. The arrogance, dishonesty and hatred with which this speech is shot through are the hallmarks of the Obama method.