Predictably, the 2016 presidential field didn’t exactly give a rousing endorsement of President Barack Obama’s prime time speech on fighting terrorism. The reactions ranged from the superficial – Donald’s correct but irrelevant observation that Obama’s use of the presidential podium in the oval office was "odd" – to the downright scary: Chris Christie’s retro solution of turning the U.S. government’s surveillance machine loose again, even in the wake of George W. Bush’s ineffectual usurpation of cherished American civil liberties.
Surprisingly, Rand Paul and Ted "Carnival" Cruz, supposedly the most libertarian candidates in the race, called for restrictions on immigration, undermining one of the most iconic aspects of the American identity as a melting pot. Finally, Hillary Clinton distanced herself from Obama, by referring to her previous more hawkish position and also urged greater control of firearms at home.
Of course, these Democratic and Republican candidates can be as tough as they want rhetorically, because they do not yet have to sit in the president’s seat and make the tough decisions. Although I have been critical of Obama’s approach to other problems and do not totally agree with his approach to terrorism, his speech resisted the neo-conservative George W. Bush-style post-9/11 hysteria, when the president should have adopted a cool-headed approach to dampen public panic but instead stoked it to carry out his own counterproductive agenda of invading yet another Muslim country.
Instead, Obama at least seems to realize that taking the bait of the hawks – that is, Hillary and the Republicans – and being sucked into another large-scale ground quagmire in Iraq, and also in Syria, would merely further inflame anti-U.S. terrorism. Obama should be given credit for implying to the American people what few politicians have ever told them: their own government’s actions are contributing to the terrorism problem.
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