The Best Defense

The Fort Hood speech: Tom strikes out

Everybody makes mistakes, and I think I did earlier today. The thoughtful notes posted in response to my lead item today have persuaded me that I was wrong in my critique of President Obama's speech at Fort Hood. The general theme of the pushback was that this was not the time or place for the kind of speech I would have liked to hear.

I think "JPWREL" said it best:

There is a great deal of unhappiness in this nation over this tragic event and the wars in general. Sensitive to that undercurrent I think Obama threaded the needle just right in carefully reaching out to the hearts of his listeners and at the same time not lowering the gravity of the occasion by reverting to more divisive and mundane political themes."

Got it.

That said, somewhere down the road, I still would like to see the president tackle the issue of "political correctness." For example, I think affirmative action did this country a lot of good, and that diversity and tolerance are great strengths to be cultivated-but that we should not shy away from expelling violent extremists from the ranks of the military.  

Photo:  JIM MCISAAC/Getty Images

The Best Defense

The Fort Hood speech: Obama swings and misses

I think President Obama missed a major opportunity at Fort Hood on Tuesday. His speech was fine was far as it went -- but that wasn't very far. It felt very conventional, a bit rote and obligational, like Reagan on an off day, doing a state fair stopoff on the way to the Western White House.

What I had hoped for was a passionate, engaged address that tackled political correctness in the same was as did his race speech during the campaign, which I think was his high point during that time. It was a terrific speech that I think moved both him and the country forward. (Look inside the Army, Mr. President, and  you will find "Ashleys" everywhere.)

Didn't happen. This was a treading water speech. "We must pay tribute to their stories?" That feels to me more like the work of a desperate speechwriter than an inspired, transformational president. I dunno, maybe transcendence just requires more time and effort than he has available right now. That's sad, because there are a lot of people in this country for whom the military looms about as large as race.

I really do think Obama still could be a great president, leading us toward "a more perfect union." But not the way he has been going lately. Time is  passing ... Look at this speech. "History is filled with heroes"? That's high school stuff. I can remember when the knock on Obama's speeches was that they were too good.

Photo: TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images