Admiral William McRaven gave a speech that went viral, because he distilled lessons he learned the hard way in BUD/S into simple (yet demanding) principles that we can all apply to our daily living. In this way, he says, we can improve our own lives and, if we work together, use those principles to change the world for the better. An astute Best of the Web reader realized that Obama had quite a different message for West Point’s newest graduates. After excoriating Obama’s speech for lies, passive voice, weasel-like attacks, ambition, distraction, uglification, and derision, Jonathan Owen went in for the kill:
Here is, to me, the most egregious passage of this horrible speech: “Now, tragically, no American security operation can eradicate the threat posed by an extremist group like Boko Haram, the group that kidnapped those girls. And that’s why we have to focus not just on rescuing those girls right away, but also on supporting Nigerian efforts to educate its youth.”
So much is wrong with that passage. In fact, there is not one thing in there that’s even accurate. Education is the answer? Does he know what Boko Haram means, what they stand for? Does he not understand that they targeted these girls because they were being educated? “No American security operation can eradicate the threat posed by an extremist group like Boko Haram.” Are you sure? It seems to me that no “efforts to educate,” no hashtag campaign, no blowing words into the air can eradicate it. I bet if you turned these new officers and their troops loose in Nigeria, they are precisely the one thing that could absolutely eradicate Boko Haram.
And that passage right there shows what it is about this speech that pushes it over the top and makes it not just a bad speech, but the very worst speech in presidential history: It’s a commencement address at West Point. Commencement addresses all follow a similar theme:Congratulations, you’ve worked so hard, accomplished so much, you’re going to go out there and work hard, face challenges, and change the world for the better. Instead, he goes up front and tells them their hard work has been in vain because they simply can’t change the world. He also gives the distinct impression he doesn’t trust the American military, and that’s why he wants to hire goons in other countries to deal with matters there. It’s all so deeply insulting to this graduating class.
I’m thinking that Obama would have done well to have asked Mr. Owens to write his speech. On the other hand, Obama did promise in 2008 to be a unifier, and here he has at last succeeded: everyone, no matter their place on the political spectrum, hated the speech.