what other people think

Almost Everyone Hated Obama’s Afghanistan Speech

President Obama’s task last night wasn’t enviable: make a costly and unpopular decision with unpredictable prospects of success sound like something America should have confidence in. It’s like looking for support from your wife and kids after gathering them in the living room to tell them you’re putting the last of the family savings into your dream of opening a restaurant that only serves applesauce — “Just applesauce? Can that actually work?” — except, obviously, way more serious and consequential, since actual human lives and billions upon billions of dollars are at stake. Anyway, judging by the reactions to President Obama’s speech, he has a lot more convincing to do.

• Clive Crook says the speech contradicted itself in multiple places, was “surprisingly unconfident,” and probably just “confused people.” [Atlantic]

• Mattew Yglesias found it “oddly weak on the feasibility point and instead lead [sic] into the weird kinda sorta promise to start winding the war down in 2011 which struck me as a promise vague enough to not reassure the left while also being concrete enough to set the right-wing piranhas in motion.” [Think Progress]

• Fred Barnes “had hoped Obama would declare that nothing will deter him, as commander-in-chief, from prevailing in Afghanistan. But it turns out a lot of things might deter him.” [Blog/Weekly Standard]

• Taeggan Goddard says “it’s hard to feel positive after this one,” which “didn’t do much to change public opinion on an increasingly unpopular war.” [Political Wire]

• Ross Douthat calls the speech “a strange and schizophrenic one, laying its emphasis on two not-necessarily-compatible goals — victory, and a swift withdrawal.” [Ross Douthat/NYT]

• Jennifer Rubin thinks that, owing to “either personal peevishness or political expediency,” Obama “felt compelled to get in his digs” yet again at George W. Bush, “even in a wartime speech in which bipartisanship would have been essential.” [Contentions/Commentary]

• Bill Kristol thinks Obama “spoke as a war president,” though he didn’t appreciate Obama’s “foolish eagerness to tell us he’s as eager as can be to get us out of Afghanistan as soon as he can.” [Post Partisan/WP]

• Nile Gardiner writes that Obama’s “speech was less a rallying cry for victory over barbarism, than a dull professorial-style lecture that sought to justify his confused approach to the US mission in a cold and clinical fashion that simply failed to convince or inspire.” [Telegraph UK]

• Chris Cillizza isn’t sure if the speech will “change any minds.” [Fix/WP]

• Richard Cohen found the speech “well written and spoken with conviction,” but he still doesn’t think the plan will work. [Post Partisan/WP]

• Richard Just “basically liked Obama’s speech” but was “bothered” by how “weirdly inconsistent [it was] with itself.” [Plank/New Republic]

• Michael Crowley notes that Obama’s speech was consistent with his speech on Afghanistan in March, but is unlikely to sway the American people. While Obama’s “tactic of addressing opposing views … was mature and persuasive, and demonstrated the thought he had put into this decision,” he also said “almost nothing that would qualify as the sort of bracing, hard truth that Candidate Obama promised to tell the public.” [Plank/New Republic]

• Kevin Drum was “pretty underwhelmed.” Two main problems were the total lack of discussion about new tactics and that “most of the speech wasn’t even devoted to the war at all.” [Mother Jones]

• Adam Serwer calls it “perhaps his least inspiring speech ever” and “Bush-like in its embrace of platitudes and vagaries.” [Tapped/American Prospect]

• Joan Walsh says that “[a]t the moment he needed all of his persuasive powers, Obama gave the worst major speech of his presidency.” [Salon]

Related: John Heilemann on “Obama’s Afghan War Trade

Almost Everyone Hated Obama’s Afghanistan Speech