West Point AP

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.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

18 comments

  1. “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.”

    Okay. Wanna play semantic, ideological games trying to conflate people who would not affirm ACG as holocaust deniers? Fine. I’ll bite.

    We do not ‘deny’ ACG, we simply ‘reject’ it due to counter-evidence that points to humans not being the big bad boogeymen ravishing Gai as the media would make us out to be. Also, because we’re rather suspicious that a lot of the policies call for keeping a lot of third world countries from getting a leg up by refusing to give them help unless they go ‘green’, higher taxes for everything, and the subsidization of the green energy boondoggle rather than more nuclear reactors.

    1. Obama continues to show how clueless he is. Most Americans are worried about things that actually matter, such as the economy, not climate change/global warming/climate disruption/whatever they’re calling it this week. I reject the climate change hysteria. I have no doubt it’s changed, but I believe that humans have little if any impact on it. It happens naturally, and I’m certainly not going to change my lifestyle to appease alarmists like Obama or Al Gore or David Suzuki. Plus what does climate change have to do with the military? Absolutely nothing.

      He flip-flops worse than John Kerry. So he goes from mocking American exceptionalism to claiming he believes in it “with every fiber of my being.”

      And as Doug has said in the past, why would you want to “fundamentally transform” the country you love?

    2. And as Doug has said in the past, why would you want to “fundamentally transform” the country you love?

      West Point is filled with men and women who openly love their country. They are patriotic in ways that goofs from New York and Los Angeles and Seattle think is outdated, cheesy and weird. They are individuals from military families, Boy Scouts, kids who went into junior ROTC programs, enlisted-types who are switching over after having spent a few years in the military, etc. I guarantee you that things like his 2012 American-exceptionalism-like-Greek-exceptionalism crack have stuck in their minds. A man says things at time that offer a window into who he really is, and I think that comment was one of them.

    3. “West Point is filled with men and women who openly love their country. They are patriotic in ways that goofs from New York and Los Angeles and Seattle think is outdated, cheesy and weird. They are individuals from military families, Boy Scouts, kids who went into junior ROTC programs, enlisted-types who are switching over after having spent a few years in the military, etc.”

      Indeed. They’re among the most patriotic people out there and I have nothing but respect for them. Minneapolis and St. Paul aren’t much different from New York, Los Angeles and Seattle. They’re both filled with clowns who view patriotism as “outdated,” too. You see that mindset reflected in the opinion section of my local rag of a paper pretty much every day.

      “I guarantee you that things like his 2012 American-exceptionalism-like-Greek-exceptionalism crack have stuck in their minds. A man says things at time that offer a window into who he really is, and I think that comment was one of them.”

      It definitely shows how low his opinion of American exceptionalism is. Another insistence where he showed his true colors was those comments about “clinging to guns and religion” he made in Pennsylvania back in 2008. His idiotic comments have definitely stuck in my mind.

    4. Don’t forget, either, that infamous commencement speech he gave in 2013 where he told his captive audience to “ignore” people who warn about the ever-expanding federal government and to blindly follow him.

  2. Anyone else feel like Obama can’t go a day without slapping military in the face lately? Can’t he go at least one day without insulting someone while at the same time patting himself on the back for doing…nothing?

    1. I really think that he is so far off the reservation philosophically that he doesn’t get it. He can fake it with independent voters and he can dismiss conservative civilians by just not talking to them — but the military is a naturally conservative-leaning group that he must take seriously given his role. He’s trapped because he can’t demonize them like he does to everyone else he disagrees with (e.g., “punish our [political] enemies”), but he can’t really fake it with a punch of cadets, either. The result is the “downer” speech Patrick observed.

  3. One thing about politicians is that they “know the audience”; so I’m suprised Obama used USMA as a venue for that type of speech. The reception would be the same reviewing drone strategy with Berkley’s graduating class.

    I’d of concentrated more on military related topics, or if there is nothing there (we are leading from behind after all), then talk about the great history/deeds of graduates from the institution. That school is so hard with the mental, scholastic, and physical demands; from the clips I saw it seemed like a bit of a “downer” of a speech for such a big event in the cadet’s life and career. And like or dislike him, Obama is more than capable of great speeches; I’m again really suprised at this one.

    1. That school is so hard with the mental, scholastic, and physical demands; from the clips I saw it seemed like a bit of a “downer” of a speech for such a big event in the cadet’s life and career.

      Yep. This is their big day — it’s their freaking commencement — and he comes in and starts lecturing them about how the U.S. needs to do a better job working with the U.N. What? I’d be pissed off if I were a cadet.

    2. I’d be pissed, too, if he came in and lectured me about working with the UN. Last time I checked, commencement speeches were supposed to be uplifting, not condescending.

  4. You know what I find particularly striking about this? Just compare Obama’s commencement address–which again, is supposed to be from the Commander-in-Chief addressing the future men and women of the US armed services–to the one you posted earlier, Doug, by Admiral William H. McRaven to graduates of the University of Texas at Austin. Talk about a study in contrasts!

    1. Good point, Mike! Keen observation.

      I just don’t know what the president was thinking. He wanted to give a foreign policy address to a bunch of people who generally don’t agree with his foreign policy…on a day that was supposed to be uplifting and positive. Strange.

      He could have gone to West Point on any day to give a speech in front of cadets to give that speech if he felt he had to as Commander-in-Chief. He didn’t have to give that speech for their commencement ceremony. Yeesh.

    2. Thanks for asking. I’ll probably do a post on that shortly. I wanted to talk to a buddy of mine who has been to Afghanistan a few times before I said anything. It seems like my thoughts were basically in line with his…so I’ll probably do something in the next 48 hours. Just letting some of the dust settle first. Stay tuned!

  5. I guess racism still prevails at West Point. I doubt your 75% refusing to stand is true; such disrespect is a court martial level offense, and Obama could simple deny them a commission.

    When President Regan spoke at my graduation in 1981, everyone in gray stood.

    1. Hey, what a surprise, and anonymous guy goes straight to the “raaaaaaaacism!” charge. I never heard that one before. Zzzzzzz.

      Please, let’s compare Ronald Reagan to President Obama, who tells a bunch of West Pointers that in his ideal world they’ll spend a huge chunk of their time leading the charge in the war against…global warming.

    2. Yet another Obamanaut who equates disagreeing with Obama as “racism.” Seriously, Anonymous, the race card is old already and those who use it trivialize real instances of racism. Also, he seems to imply that you should be “court-martialed” for refusing to stand. Yeesh. I guess Anonymous also believes that dissent was only patriotic during the Bush years, and now it’s “racist.” In other words, people who disagree with Fearless Leader should be prosecuted for thinking on their own. Yep, sounds like a typical Obama supporter.

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