November 25th, 2009

Obama, Churchill, and finishing the job: compare and contrast

It’s enough to make you weep.

During Obama’s announcement that soon he’ll be making an announcement about the number of troops in Afghanistan, he said:

After eight years — some of those years in which we did not have, I think, either the resources or the strategy to get the job done — it is my intention to finish the job.

It’s got the usual (and apparently irresistible) element of Bush-bashing, as well as the usual avoidance of any mention of so archaic a notion as victory. But that phrase—”finish the job”—rang a small and distant bell with me. It echoed a famous Churchill speech during the time when America had not yet entered WWII, but Britain was fully occupied in fighting it.

So I listened to an excerpt from Churchill’s speech. The differences are profound, as one might expect, and I’m not just talking about the famous Churchillian voice. The British PM is talking about resolve, as he often did, and conveying it most effectively (not to mention poetically). This is exactly and precisely what Obama lacks, although it’s not the only thing he lacks.

Here it is:

Give us the tools and we will finish the job said Churchill, speaking to the US about war supplies. Note that he talks of “we,” the British nation, rather than himself. Note, also, that he is asking for the tools, but Obama is the one who’s been denying his own generals the tools (in terms of troops and the supplies that go with them) these long—and supposedly very important—months in Afghanistan, while he decided which job it was that he actually wanted to finish.

From Roosevelt’s letter on the subject, a quote from a Longfellow poem:


Sail on, Oh Ship of State!
Sail on, Oh Union strong and great.
Humanity with all its fears
With all the hope of future years
Is hanging breathless on thy fate.

[NOTE: In a related item, I note that in the ten short months (they just seem long) he's been in office, President Obama has managed to damage relations with Great Britain to a greater extent than any previous president since George Washington and James Madison were at war with it. Now the British defense secretary, Bob Ainsworth, has publicly criticized Obama's indecision on Afghanistan, saying that it has affected the British public's support for the mission.]

25 Responses to “Obama, Churchill, and finishing the job: compare and contrast”

  1. Daniel in Brookline Says:

    You know, I’ve been wondering for some time about President Obama’s tendency to alienate our allies. To appease enemies, sure — that’s part of the worldview that everyone is reasonable, that no problems are intractable if we keep talking and assuage their delicate egos, and so on. But why such a callous approach to our allies?

    I think that President Obama is overconfident of his own charm and salesmanship — and that his background has encouraged him to think this way. If he really does believe that, no matter how often he kicks a friend, a few smiles and compliments will fix everything, then he’ll have no tendency to put any work into maintaining his friendships.

    I’ve known a few people like this — who never worry about alienating friends and allies, because they confidently assume that they can always fix things. (Some such people are very confident indeed about their own gift of the gab. Others have simply never had to fail, and so don’t realize that you CAN make mistakes from which there is no recovery.) I think this is consistent with Obama’s behavior, and with what little we know about him.

    (Which begs the question: what does this say about the future of the Obama marriage? It has seemed to be quite stable so far. Is it as much a marriage of convenience as we used to assume the Clinton marriage was?)

    respectfully,
    Daniel in Brookline

  2. huxley Says:

    I can’t help but think that Obama’s backhanding of the UK is some sort of half-Kenyan payback, or what he imagines of that, for British colonial rule.

  3. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    Finish the job. If only he would. I would publicly tip my hat on that one.

  4. Baklava Says:

    Easy to understand

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/124484/Obama-Approval-Slide-Finds-Whites-Down-39.aspx

    He lost moderates and conservatives
    He lost male and female
    He lost all age brackets
    He lost married and not married
    He lost all education brackets

    only one gain. Black Americans by one point.

    Dear Black America,

    Please hear us. Barack Hussein ∅bama is proof that institutionalized racism will not hold you back. Barack Hussein ∅bama can now be judged on his merits.

    Barack Hussein ∅bama will not bring a better America. We wish he would.

    Barack Hussein ∅bama will not make health care, foreign policy, the economic situation, education, energy, or anything better. We wish he would.

    The reason why he won’t is because he his mindset is a mirror of the left wing of the Democrat party.

    His mindset is not one of personal responsibility and free markets and fairness and justice and a strong national security.

    Please understand that conservatives want EVERYONE to do well and succeed. It is better to teach a man to fish than give him fish. Giving a man fish teaches dependency and destroys him.

    All able bodied people need to understand and feel the need to provide for their families and even volunteer to help others who aren’t able bodied or elderly.

    The government should provide for the elderly and non-able bodied. The safety net is DILUTED when it provides 100 times more as it has been doing.

    Conservatism is the way forward for this country. Help us next time and help us now move this country forward with conservative polices of free markets – allowing people to keep more of what they earn and a strong national security.

    3rd party paying (government) is what has increased college costs and health care costs.

    Free markets have brought costs down in almost all other sectors.

    3rd party meddling (government) has been increasing energy costs.

    Free markets are bringing about innovation and a nation with the highest breast, prostrate, lung, colon, etc cancer SURVIVAL rates. Free markets are bringing about all sorts of amazing discoveries for energy and health.

    Conservatism is not about breaking up people into groups and appealing to each group. Conservatism wants ALL people, ALL groups, every American to succeed.

    Please join us in strengthening America.

    Signed, a loving American,

    Baklava

  5. Lame-R Says:

    The Churchill audio segment gave me goose-pimples (as the Brits might say it).

  6. I R A Darth Aggie Says:

    George Washington wasn’t President when he was busy beating the British, he was merely the General of the Army. Madison did actually go to war with the Empire as President, and was mostly sucessful (minus the unpleasantness in Washington, DC).

  7. OlderandWheezier Says:

    Since Obama and so many who voted for him became so fixed on the notion that the greatest good to be gained from the election was the historical significance of our choosing our first non-Caucasian president, they still apparently tend to ignore all the failings of his actual performance in office. Such incredibly ignorant diplomatic blunders as giving QE2 an ipod with his “greatest hits” underscores a naive belief that everyone else around the world is as entranced with our recent election as those who supported him here.

    Sure enough, the international masses – whose hatred for GWB rivaled that of the loony left here at home – are caught up with the symbolic rather than any substance. But it seems that world leaders have been much more practical, and are now almost uniformly underwhelmed by our latest C-in-C. Too bad Obama chooses to see his reflection in the eyes of the naive and unwashed, and not those of his international counterparts.

  8. TmjUtah Says:

    The smart set is still holding off that gestalt moment when Mr. Obama is going to be called on his inimical politics, corrupt morals, and vacuous politics.

    Someday, hopefully soon, one of those people is going to accept that “being black” isn’t really a qualification for anything at all.

    And frankly, it will be no excuse for the failure unfolding in every direction from this man’s administration.

    In other news, I’ve decided that if I must refer to the president at the house, I’m going to call him Craftsman.

    “Barky” offends the wife, so I’ll just call the tool …. a tool.

  9. Alex Bensky Says:

    I don’t see much equivalent between Churchill and Obama. Between Obama and Churchill’s immediate predecessor, I regret that I see a lot of equivalence.

  10. Beverly Says:

    Ah, but at least Chamberlain was a Patriot. AND he admitted his error, and bent every sinew to help Churchill when Churchill was made Prime Minister.

    I can’t seeing that jackass in the White House doing either, in a million years.

  11. physicsguy Says:

    To follow up on Baklava’s posting: It’s really a shame that black America voted by skin color rather than by content of character. In a historical sense I can understand them doing so. However, what worries me now is that with the dismal performance Obama is turning in, that it will close the door in the future for another black president due to backlash.

    I keep thinking of the wounds that would have been healed with a black POTUS who was competent, and instead think of the old wounds reopening as the current presidency becomes one of the worst, if not THE worst in history.

    For those of you who may happen to be Robert Jordan fans, I keep coming back to the phrase: “Let the Lord of Chaos rule!”

  12. Steve G Says:

    A little change in topic but still relevant.

    If there is one matter that Obama can be said to favor over all others it is the right of women to choose to have an abortion. This mystifies me as the ability of the black community to increase in number proportionate to the growth of the population as a whole has been severely impacted by the very large number of black pregnancies that are aborted. I read somewhere that it is about 50%. Even if only 40%, it is very high. Why would our first “black” president approve of this mass murder of black fetuses?

    This guy is a POS.

    Will blacks wake up to the fact that he approves of and supports the continued high rate of aborting black fetuses?

    Do those who purport to represent the black community (i.e., the Congressional black caucus, for example, but Jackson, Sharpton and their ilk as well) understand that their support of free choice is decimating the black community? I think so but also think that their liberalism is trumping their common sense. And, these black leaders are doing NOTHING to improve the education and training of those black children who were lucky enough not to be aborted. Why do they kowtow to teacher’s unions? One generation of black children after another is left to rot on the vine.

    I am not black.

    I can’t stand in the shoes of a black person and demand that this stop.

    But I can see that this situation is intolerable and can only be reversed if blacks demand that changes be made. When will blacks to wake up and demand some positive changes from the Democratic party in return for their votes.

  13. huxley Says:

    …with the dismal performance Obama is turning in, that it will close the door in the future for another black president due to backlash.

    physicsguy: I’ve thought about that. Overall I don’t think whites will generalize on skin color any more than they are now. Their problem with Obama is his hard-left policies not his race. A Tiger Woods-style black could run for president OK.

    However, another Obama-style candidate — a black with a hard-left, black-power background who came up through a Democratic machine like Chicago, Detroit, or Baltimore — will be viewed skeptically, I believe, and rightly so.

    I suspect that the greater damage in race relations will occur in blacks’ attitudes whites. Already, polls show that blacks are more pessimistic about race relations than before Obama.

    If Obama fails as spectacularly as I believe he will, many blacks will see this as an indictment of whites.

    Obama, as I’ve feared, is the most polarizing, divisive president we’ve had in modern times, and he’s not finished yet.

  14. rickl Says:

    huxley Says:
    November 26th, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    physicsguy: I’ve thought about that. Overall I don’t think whites will generalize on skin color any more than they are now. Their problem with Obama is his hard-left policies not his race. A Tiger Woods-style black could run for president OK.

    I would happily and enthusiastically vote for someone like Walter Williams or Thomas Sowell. Hell, I’d even vote for Condoleeza Rice or Colin Powell if no one better was available. While I have serious problems with their policies, at least I don’t get the impression that they hate America.

    However, another Obama-style candidate — a black with a hard-left, black-power background who came up through a Democratic machine like Chicago, Detroit, or Baltimore — will be viewed skeptically, I believe, and rightly so.

    Nobody of that description should ever come close to elected office, except in the inner cities. Any white person who votes for someone like that is an idiot.

    I suspect that the greater damage in race relations will occur in blacks’ attitudes whites. Already, polls show that blacks are more pessimistic about race relations than before Obama.

    Wha? I can’t even begin to comment on this without resorting to obscenities.

    So millions of guilt-ridden white liberals voted for Obama in order to put racism behind us, once and for all, and that’s still not good enough for blacks??? @#$% them.

    If Obama fails as spectacularly as I believe he will, many blacks will see this as an indictment of whites.

    See above. Personally, I consider 95% of blacks voting along racial lines as an indictment of blacks.

    Obama, as I’ve feared, is the most polarizing, divisive president we’ve had in modern times, and he’s not finished yet.

    Nonsense. George W. Bush was “polarizing”. Sarah Palin is “polarizing”. Glenn Beck is “polarizing”.

    I’ve never seen anyone in the OFM (Obama Fluffing Media) call Obama “polarizing”. Move along, nothing to see here…

  15. rickl Says:

    huxley: The above fisking was in no way directed at you personally. That was a good comment you made.

  16. rickl Says:

    I suspect that the greater damage in race relations will occur in blacks’ attitudes whites.

    I have to revisit that phrase. I think it’s the other way around.

    I can’t speak for all whites, obviously, but my attitude towards blacks has definitely soured since November 2008, especially considering their persistent 90% approval for Obama, as mentioned in the Gallup article.

    I have a real problem there.

    Obama’s policies are clearly damaging America. Are blacks OK with that?

  17. huxley Says:

    rickl: Not to worry. I didn’t take it personally.

    The effect of Obama’s presidency on US race relations is interesting, worrisome, and infrequently addressed.

    I think I understand what you are saying about blacks. As individuals, they are just individuals to me, but in aggregate as blacks going on about being black, I’m pretty well done.

  18. rickl Says:

    That Gallup poll really pissed me off.

    Hey, I’m just having that “conversation about race” that Obama and Holder claim to want.

    They should be careful what they wish for.

  19. Dr. Mabuse Says:

    …with the dismal performance Obama is turning in, that it will close the door in the future for another black president due to backlash.

    Sort of like David Dinkins – the first (and last) black mayor of New York. I wouldn’t underestimate the unspoken determination of white Americans never again to invite such disaster upon their own heads. It won’t be publically admitted, but the burned hand teaches best, and they’ll have had many years of Obama-inflicted misery to harden their hearts against the sentimentality that swept him into power.

    As for black Americans, I think it was Michelle Malkin who wrote that there was only ONE chance to be the FIRST black American president, and they threw it away on THIS.

  20. Steve G Says:

    Noonan’s column this morning, which I was actually able to read through to the end for once, cited to an article on Politico earlier this week, so I sorta sauntered over to Politico.com to see what the palaver was all about. It seems that the Noonan crowd, on the liberal (Democrat) side that is, thinks that it’s time for Obama to hit the reset button (if they can wrest it from Hillary), get rid of his insular, not too smart and immature Chicago crowd of insiders, and get cracking. Apparently, they see a lot of the same weaknesses with Obama and his advisors as we conservatives, although they are not quite ready to concede that they backed a loser in Obama. The smell of fear is starting to waft out of the Democrat party.

    For quite a while I thought that Obama was ill served. Let’s face it, Rahm Emanuel is still a putz who plays power politics as if the White House was just a precinct of Chicago. Worse, he is immature, short sighted, not as smart as he thinks he is. And, all the while, he is extremely ambitious and vicious. Axelrod is still in campaign mode and, as a result, so is Obama. His mind is on astroturf at a time when the country has moved on. He can’t tell the difference in impact between the people who show up at the many tea parties and the phony astroturfers he invented and probably still manipulates through the SEIU and ACORN.

    In the ordinary scheme of things, when you are losing your base of support and they are telling you it’s time to “change” advisors, Obama would throw Emanuel, Axelrod and the rest of the insider losers a dead fish but I don’t think he can. The high class liberal crowd is still enamored of Obama’s brilliance and thinks that if he brings in a new and more mature and dignified crew he will restore his stature as the “won”. He will actually act presidential not just read the speeches. But my take is that Obama is not as smart as they give credit for and the Chicago crowd knows just who Obama is and what he is (and is not) capable of doing. A new bevy of advisors would quickly discover, to their horror, that they voted for a guy who can read a mean speech but does not take advice or direction, no matter how wise or well intentioned. And, do you think Emanuel is the kind of loyal advisor who would keep his mouth shut? His book on his brilliance, his travails in the White House and how sorely he was needed to keep the program on track, is probably half written and presold to a publisher. Axelrod will also be hawking his a book, probably called something like, “Me Giapetto, Obama Pinnochio.”

    The reality is that a more distinguished group of liberal advisors would not lean not nearly so far to the left as the current crowd and would not be acceptable on that basis.

    What I can’t understand is that this White House does not learn from its mistakes. It would be great if they could build on their successes but, so far, there haven’t been any.

    Remember, with this President, whatever the situation is today, it is better than it will be tomorrow. Enjoy today while you can!

  21. Dr. Mabuse Says:

    “he is immature, short sighted, not as smart as he thinks he is. “ Of course! And that goes for Obama too, as you pointed out later in your comment.

    I think the sophisticates on the Left are discovering something really distasteful about Obama: he’s provincial. No matter what happens, his only reply is “But this is what we did in Chicago!” That’s his only experience, and he thinks it’s applicable to the whole world. Furthermore, he seems oblivious to the fact that his Chicago smarts are NOT working outside the little universe of Chicago politics; he just sails on, as if he’s convinced himself that somehow, in some invisible, under-the-table way, it IS working, and he has nothing to learn from anyone else. He’s like Mrs. Elton from “Emma”, perpetually talking about Maple Grove, which is her template for elegance and comfort, and cannot be dislodged from its position in her brain by anything else she may see or experience.

  22. Helen Says:

    To be fair (and I don’t often say that) Britain felt under direct attack at the time. As it happens, Germany’s military might was overestimated but that is neither here nor there. America is not directly under attack. That does not alter the fact that dithering in war is inexcusable as it costs lives and probably victory. But one must be fair – the two situations are not comparable. Btw many of those recordings were made by an actor.

  23. Cappy Says:

    Has anybody found a video of Obama as Frozone from The Incredibles?

  24. Steve G Says:

    See my comment on Noonan above, in which I also discuss the incompetence of the advisors to Obama, and especially Rahm Emanuel. Apparently, the New York Slimes Agrees. From Politco44 this (Saturday) morning:

    “DIPLOMACY 101″: A remarkably tough, even hostile, NYT lead editorial Saturday on Obama’s MidEast peace efforts. Beneath the headline “Diplomacy 101”, the paper says POTUS’ plan has “unraveled,” his “credibility is so diminished,” “we see no sign that [Obama and Mitchell] were thinking more than one move down the board,” and that “Obama backed down.” It even shoehorns in a parenthetical note that while “We don’t know exactly what happened … we are told that Mr. Obama relied more on the judgment of his political advisers — specifically his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel — than of his Mideast specialists.”

    The only sop: “Washington isn’t the only one to blow it.”

    I think this deserves a dead fish award to Rahm. Keep up the good work.

  25. rickl Says:

    Steve G Says:
    November 28th, 2009 at 11:00 am

    “we see no sign that [Obama and Mitchell] were thinking more than one move down the board,”

    That’s no way to play 3-D chess.

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