A running interpretation trend for President Obama’s speeches are to compare them all to the “malaise” rhetoric Carter employed in his “Crisis of Confidence” speech. In this speech, Carter targeted the American people specifically as a problem set. His rhetoric was seen as finger-pointing, blaming citizens for not facing up to the crisis at hand.
Here is the excerpt from his speech that fed the media and the public’s negative interpretation of his message:
The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation.
Was he really just trying to be encouraging to the American people? Or was he playing the blame game, deflecting attention off his policies to the people he was representing?
While this is now only a matter of interest to historians, media conservatives have been shrewdly reaching back in time to Carter’s rhetoric, and rather thoughtfully comparing his words as past president to our current president.
Media Matters, a liberal watchdog for the watchdog is committed to “correcting conservative coverage”. While definitely not the most objective source, they point out many factual instances where the media has compared Obama’s rhetoric with Carter’s.
The question is– was yesterday’s 9/11 speech seen in the same light? The overall tone I got from this speech was a cautious one. He seemed to be avoiding the “Mission Accomplished” pitfall like the plague– and with good reason. He didn’t trip into any Carter malaise rhetoric, such as telling people they needed to be more patriotic or buckle down in the economic climate. Instead, he conceded things were not getting better economically. In the speech, he seemed to imply that resources used in the now-defunct Iraq War could be diverted to domestic concerns.
A Reuters’ snap analysis of his speech by John O’Callaghan sums up his clear and cool-headed message rather well:
The speech was notable if only for the fact that Obama speaks rarely about the Iraq war, which as a senator he opposed as a costly misadventure and distraction from the war in Afghanistan. Obama is often portrayed as a reluctant war-time leader who views the Iraq war as an unwelcome distraction from more pressing issues at home and abroad.