Some more thoughts on the Obama Afghanistan speech, the morning after.
I understood why Obama wanted to go to West Point to give the speech. It would show that he had the courage to give the speech directly to soldiers whose lives would be on the line in the coming years. It had the potential for great theater, which is either good or bad, depending upon whether you feel theater was appropriate in this instance.
But it didn’t work. Looking at Obama standing on the large stage in front of a room full of cadets, Obama looked small and detached. While he was standing in front of the cadets, there was no sense that he was standing with them.
Obama had a lecturing style. He talked to us, not with us.
Perhaps that was unavoidable given the setting. While standing in front of cadets had the potential for making the speech more emotional, there is something to be said for the close-up shots of a President giving a speech from the Oval Office, to which we have become accustomed in times of national crisis and on issues of great importance.
Bush’s speech just after the 9/11 attacks made an emotional connection, even though only the camera was in the Oval Office with him. He talked with us, not to us:
If Obama’s speech was intended to make connections, it didn’t work. Obama seemed all alone, not just physically, but politically and emotionally.
Which in fact is pretty much where he is.