Barack Obama must have gone off script again in West Lafayette, Indiana on Wednesday. When addressing the crowd on national security, Obama mangled the attack on Pearl Harbor. For a Hawaii native, this tops the Young Gaffer list of historical fumbles (via Dean Barnett):
But it is wonderful to be back in Indiana. In a few moments, we’ll open up the discussion. But I want to offer a few comments about some of the emerging threats that we face in the 21st century and offer some ideas about how we can face those threats.
Throughout our history, America’s confronted constantly evolving danger, from the oppression of an empire, to the lawlessness of the frontier, from the bomb that fell on Pearl Harbor, to the threat of nuclear annihilation. Americans have adapted to the threats posed by an ever-changing world.
Just to clarify: a whole lot of bombs fell on Pearl Harbor. And the threat wasn’t the bomb, it was the empire that sent massive waves of planes to drop them on our Pacific Fleet. Those bombs fell because we didn’t adapt to the threat, and in fact we kept telling ourselves that we could talk the Japanese out of their policy of aggression and empire. We came within a few aircraft carriers of losing the Pacific out of our willful blindness to the nature of the Japanese.
The same can be said for the “nuclear annihilation” Obama also mentions. The threat wasn’t nuclear annihilation as such; that was part of the threat, not the entire threat itself. The real threat came from another kind of empire, one that wanted to conquer from within as well as without — and the American Left after 1969 spent most of its time arguing that the threat didn’t really exist, that Soviet Communism wanted peaceful coexistence, and that socialism and Communism were the achievement of Utopia. After Jimmy Carter’s disastrous cheek-kissing with Leonid Brezhnev and the invasion of Afghanistan that followed, America woke up and put adults in charge – and within a decade, the Soviet Union collapsed of its own contradictions and rot.
This gaffe goes beyond placing Auschwitz and Treblinka in western Germany or putting American troops in Poland during World War II. It speaks to a fundamental superficiality of Obama, a man who seizes tropes and themes with little understanding of their significance or their details. Obama reveals himself as a man who doesn’t understand threats at all, and whose instinctive responses would make them far worse.
Update: Here’s the video; the stumble comes in the first moments. Note the long pause as Obama talks about the bomb at Pearl Harbor. It looks like he went off script: