President Obama was at West Point today speaking to the cadets, and the consensus is that the Commander-in-Chief got an “icy” reception. CNN’s Jim Clancy said it was “not really a great speech to give at the U.S. Military Academy,” and the Daily Mail reported that less than 25 percent of the cadets stood for his introduction.
Why would those who are charged with protecting the nation from harm and securing its vital interests around the globe lack enthusiasm when greeted by their commander-in-chief?
Perhaps it’s because he chose to lecture them like they were a bunch clueless high school students instead of the newest crop of leaders for the greatest military on the planet. Perhaps it’s because he somehow worked in calls to combat climate change while talking to the Black Knights of the Hudson on their big day. Perhaps it’s because he said he believed “in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being,” when every single one of them was familiar with his infamous line: “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.”
Watch the look of disgust appear on Mr. Obama’s face when he is asked the question in 2012. It says: “Great, I have to answer this dumb question…”
Does the president not think that those attending West Point would remember such a telling moment? Does the president believe that when he said he wanted to “fundamentally transform” America that future military leaders would simply forget about it?
Defense One provided the full text of the speech. Here’s an excerpt:
You see, American influence is always stronger when we lead by example. We can’t exempt ourselves from the rules that apply to everybody else. We can’t call on others to make commitments to combat climate change if a whole lot of our political leaders deny that it’s taking place. We can’t try to resolve problems in the South China Sea when we have refused to make sure that the Law of the Sea Convention is ratified by our United States Senate, despite the fact that our top military leaders say the treaty advances our national security. That’s not leadership; that’s retreat. That’s not strength; that’s weakness. It would be utterly foreign to leaders like Roosevelt and Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy.
I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being. But what makes us exceptional is not our ability to flout international norms and the rule of law; it is our willingness to affirm them through our actions.
Translation: “While I’ve been in charge, we’ve been doing things the correct way. B.O. (before Obama) you guys were simply flouting international norms for that cowboy from Texas. I’m awesome. As you lead troops going forward, just remember ‘hope and change’ and you’ll be all right. P.S. I just told China to do whatever the heck it wants while I’m in office.”
There’s really not much else to say. Mr. Obama is so philosophically divorced from the kind of men and women who graduate from West Point that he really doesn’t understand why this particular speech at this location was just weird. Drones are already online taking shots at the cadets instead of wondering why some of the most honorable, courageous and intelligent men and women the country has to offer would give the president a chilly reception. It’s sad and depressing that there are so many people who still don’t understand where “leading from behind” has gotten us.
There’s always a silver lining, and on this day I guess it comes from knowing that the West Point Class of 2014 is now ready to take the leadership skills they learned in the classroom out into the field.