Thursday, December 3, 2009

West Point As Stage for Obama, III

The fallout from Obama's speech at West Point continues. I refer not to the tactical military analysis; I leave that to the military blogs and other commentators. I refer rather to the spin and interpretation of the various media and other interested parties. As told to me by a reliable source, the cadets had to report to Eisenhower Hall, in dress gray, three and a half hours prior to Obama's speech. They could bring one book and one notebook, no cell phones, no computers and no food. Bathroom breaks were scheduled by group. All this was for security purposes.

As for cadets sleeping, there's some rumor that the camera was panning the cadet audience prior to the speech. The fact that a cadet may have dozed during the speech wasn't particularly flattering to the Academy, but it had little to do with Obama or his speech and more to do with sitting in an auditorium for hours and maybe also the media's camermen searching for an interesting tidbit.

Chris Matthews' remark about the "enemy camp" I found to be quite accurate, thinking he meant that Obama sees anything military as, if not the enemy camp, then at least as a foreign and undesirable force that Obama can neither identify with nor understand. I think there's evidence for that, as I tried to show in my article of two days ago at American Thinker, which is why Obama's choosing to deliver his speech at West Point was so hypocritically abrasive in my view.

Apparently, though, Matthews did toss off his "enemy camp" characterization in the spirit of unkindly bigotry toward the military. His apology states clearly that he embraces the stereotypical notion of the soldier (or cadet) as being a hawk who can't wait to go out and shoot 'em up, and that, naturally, such a person would be skeptical of Obama and his plan. There is almost no other word to waste on Chris Matthews than 'jerk.'

On the other hand, West Point English professor Elizabeth Samet had an article that probed more deeply. She is the author of Soldier's Heart, a book that discusses her experience as a civilian teaching Shakespeare and poetry to cadets who are also studying for the Profession of Arms. In the article, Samet opines that outside speakers often pander to the cadets rather than offer them "questions, difficulties and specifics." She seems to be suggesting that Obama overcame this tendency. Samet points out that cadets, who are "accustomed to being exhorted,become adept at responding with an automatic enthusiasm." Being exhorted during a briefing may indeed bring out an automatic response, but her suggestion, that Obama gave them something serious to think about and so they responded with genuine interest, is misleading.

From my second-hand observation, it appears that cadets constantly deal with difficulties and specifics and are routinely confronted with things to think about that elicit genuine interest. West Point is a bustling, interesting place where the range of individuals and opinions represented defies stereotyping, and where professors are involved with their students (as Samet is), and visitors of note engage close up and personal with the cadets in a variety of venues. And that's only a fraction of what's going on. Perhaps Samet only wants to cast the Corps of Cadets in the best possible light or maybe it's Obama whom she wants to prop up.

In contrast to Samet's view that Obama's presence at West Point was "an act of honesty," here is another article that begins ,"Never before has a speech by Barack Obama felt as false as his Tuesday address. . . "

Finally, it always makes sense to hear what a cadet has to say.

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