Almost all presidential speeches are too long, and President Obama could have shaved 60 percent from his address tonight, since he had approximately 15 minutes of content stretched over 35 minutes of talking. The excess came in platitudes about the economy, his own irenic intentions, and much else. And no doubt many of us will point out how he dwelled too much on ending the war and not enough on winning it.
But his blah-blah platitudes were important strategically -- maybe essential, if his policy is to succeed. Obama's critics to his right should remember the president's critics to his left. The poor gentle souls must be gobsmacked. Obama is the first Democratic president in forty years to call for a significant deployment of American troops in the national security interest of his country. This is very big news. His predecessor, President Clinton, could give a stirring address dispatching bombers over Bosnia and be confident of the support of his fellow Democrats, because the show of power was purely humanitarian and had nothing to do with keeping us safe from our enemies. With great courage, Obama is trying something that hasn't been tried within the living memory of most of the members of his party. He may even recall the era when liberal Democratic presidents -- Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson -- could lead a fight because it was in the interest of the country to fight.
This is a historical moment, and one we should be grateful for. It's worth an extra twenty minutes of presidential gassing off. It's even worth a lot of guff about beginning to pull the troops out by a date certain, no matter what. (I'll believe it when I see it.) If this is what he needs to mollify his political supporters, let him talk and talk and talk.