Obama's Oval Office speech was good, but the gravitas was great

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

President Obama’s Oval Office speech was good, but the iconography was great.

In his address marking the effective end of the Iraq War, Obama used the setting well. The flags behind him, the family pictures on either side, the flag pin in his lapel, the red tie, white shirt and blue suit... it all projected patriotism and authority.

One thing that worked in the speech was his drawing a straight line between the vast monetary cost of the war and the economic slough of despond in which we're mired. One thing that didn't work was his assertion that with the end of combat in Iraq, we were turning a page. We're still at war, and Obama said that now more resources are available for Afghanistan.

Politicos will be universally dissatisfied. Liberals will say he gave George W. Bush too much credit; conservatives, not enough. But I think he did himself and his party some good tonight. He was generous enough to Bush, resolute in his intentions and obviously sincere in his praise of the troops. He wore the presidency with an accessory that Americans expect and appreciate: gravitas.

By Eugene Robinson


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