It may have been absolutely coincidental that President Barack Obama’s address from the Oval Office Sunday evening was just about 14 minutes long, the same as the number of people killed in what he has finally called an act of terrorism in San Bernardino, Calif., last Wednesday.
What Obama clearly intended to do was reclaim the narrative on terrorism that, for the most part, has been commanded by the various presidential candidates, both Republicans and Democrats. Whether he succeeded depends on whom you ask, though at least for the moment the pulpit is his.
In only his third speech from the Oval Office, the president said that terrorism is a “cancer for which we have no immediate cure.” However, he said, “We will overcome it. We will destroy ISIL and any other organization that tries to harm us. We will prevail by being strong and smart, resilient and relentless.”
Although there was no new strategy proposed, he stuck to his position of not committing any troops on the ground in the region where the terrorists have secured large territories in Syria and Iraq.
He also stressed the importance of Muslim American leaders to help in preventing any more of their followers from going “down the dark path of radicalization.” The Muslim communities, he said, are “some of our strongest allies … we cannot turn against one another by this fight defined as war between America and Islam.”
As part of the ongoing assault against the Islamic State group, Obama said, “I have authorized U.S. forces to take out terrorists abroad precisely because I know how real the danger is.”
Among the things he has proposed is a measure to prohibit anyone on the no-fly terrorist watch list from purchasing firearms. This measure was rejected the other day by the Republican-controlled Senate and will probably be passed in the House, though it is not veto-proof.
“What could possibly be the argument for allowing a terrorist suspect to buy a semi-automatic weapon?” the president asked. Of course, there is no way to completely stop terrorists from getting guns, but at least, he seemed to suggest, the measures could make it harder for them get them.
The Republican candidates are unanimously opposed to the measure, charging that the no-fly list violates the rights of those who haven’t been convicted of a crime. Even more pertinent is their abiding allegiance to the NRA.
In his hesitancy to describe the San Bernardino massacre as a terrorist act, Obama was assailed by Republicans. He explained that the FBI was still investigating the situation and causing him to withhold judgment. But soon there was enough evidence to indicate the couple had committed an act of terrorism and they were poised to do a lot more.