Commentary Magazine


The Speech He Chose Not to Give

November 9 — the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall — was a slow day at the White House. (How slow? Look at the Picture of the Day posted on the White House website for that day.) The main events were a brief afternoon reception and an evening meeting with a foreign leader, neither of which had been on the calendar 48 hours before.

President Obama might have used the relatively slow day to give the speech he had planned to give on November 10 to the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America (considered one of the most important meetings of the year for the organized Jewish community, with several thousand in attendance, meeting less than three miles from the White House), since he’d had to cancel his November 10 appearance to travel to Fort Hood.

But proceeding with that speech would undoubtedly have invited comparison to his 2008 “Let Me Be Clear” speech to AIPAC — the one in which he had said he would use “all elements of American power” to pressure Iran:

I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. That starts with aggressive, principled diplomacy without self-defeating preconditions, but with a clear-eyed understanding of our interests. We have no time to waste. …

We will open up lines of communication, build an agenda, coordinate closely with our allies, and evaluate the potential for progress. Contrary to the claims of some, I have no interest in sitting down with our adversaries just for the sake of talking. But as President of the United States, I would be willing to lead tough and principled diplomacy with the appropriate Iranian leader at a time and place of my choosing. …

Finally, let there be no doubt: I will always keep the threat of military action on the table to defend our security and our ally Israel. …

I will make known to allies and adversaries alike [a pledge] that America maintains an unwavering friendship with Israel, and an unshakeable commitment to its security.

Does anyone think that Obama’s diplomacy with Iran has been “aggressive,” “tough,” and “principled”? Or that he was the one who chose the time and place it started? Or that an agenda was built before it commenced? Or that the threat of military action remains on the table? Or that America’s friendship with Israel under his administration is unwavering?

Or that the reason he chose not to give his speech to the General Assembly a day early was that he could not fit it into his schedule?

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