Obama Said 'Close to Nothing,' and Nothing New
The buzzword is 'reassure,' and most agree Obama didn't do it
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 7, 2015 7:05 AM CST
President Barack Obama addresses the nation from the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, Sunday night, Dec. 6, 2016.   (Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP)

(Newser) – On Sunday night, President Obama addressed the nation from the Oval Office for the third time in his presidency. What the pundits are saying about the rare event:

  • At Politico, Edward-Isaac Dovere has pretty much nothing positive to say about a speech that "said close to nothing" and did little to advance America's understanding of how our leader and government plan to combat terrorism. It was a "not-so-peppy pep talk," and seven years after his "cool, calm 'I got this' air helped get him elected ... it’s clear that many Americans don’t want reassurance, but want him to convey the sense of urgency that they’re feeling." He failed to do that, nor did he even manage to reassure.
  • In a Washington Post piece headlined "Obama's Oval Office address reflects struggle to be heard, " Greg Jaffe agrees that Obama said nothing new, but rather tried to get the American people to hear what he's been saying for weeks: that he's pursuing a strategy that is "strong and smart, resilient and relentless." His goal was to reassure, and Jaffe doesn't really weigh in on whether he did that. But he does note that "the absence of big new policy proposals from the president reflects the lack of any low-cost or tidy solutions to ease [America's] concerns."

  • At the New York Times, David E. Sanger argues that the purpose of Obama's speech wasn't to reveal new strategies against ISIS. Rather, he tried to "make the case that his administration was ahead of the problem, not playing catch-up." But Sanger then goes on to recount recent criticism by some of Obama's "closest former counterterrorism advisers" that he is moving "too incrementally." One example, from former top Pentagon intelligence official Michael Vickers: "In the two months during which the United States drove al-Qaeda out of Afghanistan in 2001, after the Sept. 11 attacks, it conducted as many airstrikes as it has in the past 16 months in Iraq and Syria."
  • But in Fred Kaplan's view, Obama did a decent job of doing a fairly impossible task. Kaplan writes for Slate, "Will any of these remarks assuage widespread fears about terrorist attacks in the holiday season and beyond? Probably not. What could he or anyone else have said that might have had that effect? I don’t know, and neither does anyone else." Obama may not have offered "dramatic answers," but "he laid out a road. Critics who have never been dealt hard questions on the subject soon reveal that their road doesn’t look very different."