But Obama didn’t quite make the sale, because after his address, it’s still not clear that what’s happening in Syria has direct implications for our national security. And while his argument — that if “we can stop children from being gassed to death,” we’ll “make our own children safer over the long run” — might wind up being true, it’s an argument that Americans aren’t really buying right now.
And there were moments when Obama seemed off-pitch. Like when he latched onto the phrase “we don’t do pinpricks” as a way to describe the “targeted” nature of potential military strikes. You sort of knew what he was trying to say, but it had the unfortunate quality of sounding just as tin-eared as — and stood in direct contradiction to — Kerry’s earlier assertion that any American military action would be “unbelievably small.”
That’s a sign that the president’s speechwriting team — himself included — needs a transfusion of new blood and new ideas, and probably a couple of solid nights’ sleep.
It was more than a “pinprick” of a speech, but it wasn’t “mission accomplished,” either.
But for Obama, it should at least put down the idea that rapidly gained ground in the last week: that he was headed for a humiliating rebuke of his foreign policy. He’s now articulated that if diplomacy fails, he wants to strike, and shifts the ball from his court to the United Nations and Congress. If they balk, it’ll be each of their turns to give their reasons why.
David Swerdlick is a contributing editor at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.