We have since learned a lot about Obama’s oratory, and its relation to reality. He was able to call forth visions of the seas receding; he caused people to faint during campaign appearances; he provided the lyric for a video in which Hollywood stars endlessly repeated a single sentence; he caused a columnist to rank one of the speeches on where it stood in Obama’s lifetime oeuvre. We learned that the key point was always the let-me-be-clear moment — and sure enough, there was one in the Libya statement.
The statement consisted of 14 paragraphs that mixed strong adjectives with weak verbs. The only action items were to ask his administration to prepare options; to send an undersecretary of state to talk to other nations; and to send his secretary of state to a meeting of the Human Rights Council next week. The let-me-be-clear moment came in the 13th paragraph:
So let me be clear. The change that is taking place across the region is being driven by the people of the region. This change doesn’t represent the work of the United States or any foreign power. It represents the aspiration of people who are seeking a better life.
The one thing he wanted to make clear was that we had nothing to do with the “change” — perhaps afraid the unnamed Libyan dictator might blame him for it. In the final paragraph, Obama conveyed a commitment to “continue to stand up for freedom, stand up for justice, and stand up for the dignity of all people.” You have to admit, he has a gift.