Thursday, December 03, 2009

The I-President

From Obama's Afganistan speech the other night:

This review is now complete. And as commander in chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home. These are the resources that we need to seize the initiative, while building the Afghan capacity that can allow for a responsible transition of our forces out of Afghanistan.

I do not make this decision lightly. I opposed the war in Iraq precisely because I believe that we must exercise restraint in the use of military force and always consider the long-term consequences of our actions. We have been at war for eight years, at enormous cost in lives and resources. Years of debate over Iraq and terrorism have left our unity on national security issues in tatters and created a highly polarized and partisan backdrop for this effort. And having just experienced the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the American people are understandably focused on rebuilding our economy and putting people to work here at home.

Most of all, I know that this decision asks even more of you — a military that, along with your families, has already borne the heaviest of all burdens. As president, I have signed a letter of condolence to the family of each American who gives their life in these wars. I have read the letters from the parents and spouses of those who deployed. I have visited our courageous wounded warriors at Walter Reed. I have traveled to Dover to meet the flag-draped caskets of 18 Americans returning home to their final resting place. I see firsthand the terrible wages of war. If I did not think that the security of the United States and the safety of the American people were at stake in Afghanistan, I would gladly order every single one of our troops home tomorrow.

So no — I do not make this decision lightly. I make this decision because I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is the epicenter of the violent extremism practiced by al-Qaida. It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11, and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak. This is no idle danger, no hypothetical threat. In the last few months alone, we have apprehended extremists within our borders who were sent here from the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan to commit new acts of terror. This danger will only grow if the region slides backwards and al-Qaida can operate with impunity. We must keep the pressure on al-Qaida, and to do that, we must increase the stability and capacity of our partners in the region.

I'm posting solely because of what struck me as I read about the speech on the day after: President Obama's use of the word "I." It strikes me as the inevitable continuation of President Bush's insistence that he was "the decider," a somewhat troubling allusion to thoughts on executive power. Both parties and both sides, left and right, never seem to care much for executive power when they're out of power, but both parties really grab hold tight when they're in the oval office, all the time making the President and the executive branch more powerful and more influential over aspect of government.

Too much from a lot of "I's?" Maybe so and I'm certainly not actually comparing Obama's speech to any made by Presidents in the past. But the way in which the speeches are put together nowadays I can't imagine this is some coincidence or some case of middle school-level writer overusing a pronoun. For my money, the point is clear: I, Barack Obama did this ... I, Barack Obama made these decisions. I just wonder if there's a politician out there other than Ron Paul who'd be willing to accept a less active, less powerful, less arrogant role for the President.


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