Obama's disconcerting speech to the American Legion
Yesterday, as I was battling the flu and resting up, I happened to switch in the TV and saw Barack Obama speaking to the American Legion convention in Charlotte. Since I was already nauseated, there seemed to be little downside in watching the Commander-in-Chief addressing veterans. But the speech and its response soon left me feeling even more uncomfortable than I had been. (video below)
Obama himself seemed completely disconnected, as if he were doing this speech because he had to, because his staff told him that he had blown off the Legionnaires too often sending Biden or videotaped remarks the past few years, and now that the VA scandal was in the news, it would look terrible for him not to show up in Charlotte. Going through the motions, but without any conviction or heart.
And the Legionnaires responded in kind. There was no outright booing, but there was also no response, or even worse, a smattering of applause in response to obvious applause lines, which soon went flat or silent. The UK Daily Mail, which is unafraid to violate the American journalistic conventions around coverage of Obama, put it this way:
President Barack Obama faced a tough crowd on Tuesday – American military veterans – and fell flat on his applause lines as he failed to win over the American Legion's convention-goers.
His 35-minute speech seemed to have reminded the audience of the stark divide between the White House's policy choices and the feelings of the men and women often called on to carry them out.
A Virginia legionnaire who served in the U.S. Marine Corps told MailOnline that 'a small group of Obama's admirers – and there are some here – sat near the front and tried to generate applause for him about 10 times.'
'They didn't get much pickup,' the retired lieutenant colonel said of the 'instigators' gathered at the Charlotte, North Carolina event, but 'they were persistent. You could tell when the applause was genuine and when it wasn't. It was obvious to everyone here.'
Most of the veterans sat on their hands, leaving awkward silences where White House speechwriters expected ovations.
I have given enough speeches in my life that I have an auto-empathy response to a speaker flailing as badly as Obama was yesterday. After a few minutes enduring the Great Disconnect, I could watch no more, and I went back to my ordinary nausea. You can watch as much of it as you have the stomach for: