Last night’s presidential address from the Oval Office was largely ignored. I did not watch it, did you? Somewhere between 5:30 and 6PM Pacific time, on a commercial break, I googled up the transcript, read it and went back to what I was doing. This morning I checked through the Twitter tags from last night; amazingly little was said for a presidential address. The major papers all have coverage – it is traditional for newspapers to give a presidential address top/left coverage – but even they treat it more or less routinely. You would think that a presidential address after San Bernardino might generate a little more buzz, but not this one.
I knew the speech was a non-event when I read the third paragraph:
The FBI is still gathering the facts about what happened in San Bernardino, but here is what we know. The victims were brutally murdered and injured by one of their coworkers and his wife. So far, we have no evidence that the killers were directed by a terrorist organization overseas, or that they were part of a broader conspiracy here at home. But it is clear that the two of them had gone down the dark path of radicalization, embracing a perverted interpretation of Islam that calls for war against America and the West. They had stockpiled assault weapons, ammunition, and pipe bombs. So this was an act of terrorism, designed to kill innocent people.
Let me paraphrase that for you, “Yeah, it was a terrorist act, but absent that organizational direction from abroad it wasn’t really, real terrorism.” That was what was supposed to reassure us; it wasn’t “really, real terrorism.” Well, Mr. President, I hate to break it to you, the rest of us are not reassured by your little boxes and the labels you put on those boxes. This isn’t Yale, words and labels do not a “safe space” make.
I prayed yesterday that Obama would get a clue, that the address last night would be a stunner. I sincerely asked God to open the president’s mind and allow the bodies laying at his feet to convince him that he had to do something different. But alas, God has something else in mind and I just have to wait and see what it is. And so I turn my attention to the GOP field.
There is a tradition among candidates for POTUS – when matters are this grave, give the sitting president room to act. When matters are this dire, we need to unite behind our leadership, and traditionally candidates lead the rest of us in doing so. Well, we don’t have a leader. Obama claimed in his speech last night, “For seven years, I’ve confronted this evolving threat each morning in my intelligence briefing.” [emphasis added] And yet:
A new Government Accountability Institute (GAI) report reveals that President Barack Obama has attended only 42.1% of his daily intelligence briefings (known officially as the Presidential Daily Brief, or PDB) in the 2,079 days of his presidency through September 29, 2014.
He does not even enjoy the typical sitting president advantage of greater information access – he’d have to attend the briefings to be better informed.
The tradition does not apply in this circumstance. There is a vacuum where there ought to be a president. It is time for the GOP candidates to fill the vacuum. Tell us now and with specificity what are you going to do about this problem. I don’t want to hear that you are smarter than the guy next to you in the field. I don’t want to hear about your polling. Start by doing what the president so clearly cannot – reassure me. Platitudes and claims will not do it – that is what he is doing. Make me sigh with relief after I hear you speak and help me to know that in 13 months we’ll have a fighting chance against this.
Right now, prayer is all I have.