Jon Stewart on the sincerity of Obama’s National Security speech

Note: These Jon Stewart segments were covered by John earlier (see here), who made a good point about the Dept of Justice busting potheads but not bankers. I see these segments differently, as Stewart’s commentary on Obama’s National Security speech, and one that supports a point I made earlier — how sincere is Obama in expressing regret and wanting limitations to presidential power, which he himself has greatly expanded.

With that in mind, please read on if this aspect interests you.

President Obama recently gave a major national security speech in which he questioned the soul of a nation that forced him to do bad things, like torture Guantanamo prisoners with months of force-feeding.

In reporting that speech and its notable protester, I suggested we question Obama’s sincerity:

I could not have said it more clearly than digby and Joan McCarter did on last weekend’s Virtually Speaking Sundays — it’s second-term scandal season, the IRS dust-up has right-wing legs, Fox is all over “Bengazi”, and Obama now needs his base. Joan and digby made their point in regard to why no more benefit cuts push from Obama, and tied it to Clinton’s abandoned plan to privatize Social Security after a certain blue dress failed to get a cleaning.

But the point is general. Watch for Obama to be lavish with base-friendly words so long as Fox holds all these phony scandals up for outrage. If the outrage or outrages start to take hold, as some have, Obama will pivot to suddenly liking the left, just as he does during campaign season. In my opinion — and also McCarter’s and digby’s — the pivot has already started.

My response? He’s still Obama, and we have way too much history with him. Don’t . be . fooled.

Of course he sounded sincere; he’s very convincing at that. For example, this also sounded sincere:

Obama 2008: “When you look at Social Security, I believe … cutting benefits is not the right answer. There are too many seniors all across the country who are struggling with the limited benefits that they have.” How’d that work out for us? “Shared sacrifice, tough choices” as far as the eye can see.

Jon Stewart on Obama’s speech

Media coverage of that speech has been all over the map, but most commenters have at least acknowledged the sincerity Obama expressed — or perhaps the effectiveness of his portrayal of sincerity. Chris Hayes, for example, was from time to time rather complimentary, and to be honest, some of the sentiments expressed by Obama were admirable. For example:

Look at the current situation, where we are force-feeding detainees who are holding a hunger strike. Is that who we are?

The problem is, that section could also have been written:

Look at the current situation, where I am force-feeding detainees who are holding a hunger strike. Is that who I am?

Mobius-strip_320px-Möbius_stripAs the protester pointed out to the president’s face, “you are the commander-in-chief.” To which I would add, “Sir, if you want to change your behavior, feel free to, you know, do it.” As a result, I hear the speech as a version of “Stop me before I have to do it again.”

I’m not sure what sincerity means in that context. I mean, what was he asking of us? “Please help me come to grips with my behavior?” There’s a Möbius strip aspect to this — a folding back on itself — that’s truly disconcerting, at least to me.

Thankfully, both Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert saw this as well, and each built segments around it. This is Stewart’s, part 1:

Stewart at 1:26 (my emphasis and paragraphing):

“It is a good point. How a nation and its leaders react to threats, both external and internal, says a great deal about that administration’s values and ideals.

“And while it’s hard to judge an administration by the actions it says it wants to take, but can’t — perhaps we can learn something about the administration from the actions it says it won’t take, but does.”

That’s good writing, but notice something more subtle. Obama in the quote above put the blame on the nation for “our” behavior. Stewart puts the blame back on the administration’s values and ideals. In other words, my point above.

From there on the contradictions — and audio clips — just line themselves up for inclusion. A very nice segment. Stewart pivots to transparency and “free press” but the point is the same. For example, in the segment (2:00) Obama is quoted from the same speech saying:

“A free press is essential for our democracy.”

And frankly, he sounds like he means it. Sincerity. But does he? Stewart takes the rest of the segment dismantling the claim. Good comedy writing and good political analysis.

If you enjoyed it, here’s the continuation, part 2:

Is this speech evidence of Obama’s sincerity and evidence of a administration pivot — or a tribute to his ability to effectively portray it? Is the cause a real change of heart, or a return to the (yes, ever-welcoming) arms of his oft-scorned left-wing base?

I’ll leave that to you to decide. Me, I plan to watch his actions. Suggest you do the same. If Obama really is saying, “Stop me before I do it again” — we’ll know if he does it again. After all, the man who just said this

From our use of drones to the detention of terrorist suspects, the decisions we are making will define the type of nation – and world – that we leave to our children. So America is at a crossroads.

… also just said this …

Even then, the use of drones is heavily constrained. America does not take strikes when we have the ability to capture individual terrorists – our preference is always to detain, interrogate, and prosecute them.

… a statement that has been contradicted, without refutation, in sworn testimony before Congress. I have to say, it’s a fascinating speech.


To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius

Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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  • cole3244

    if we really admitted what we have become we would fight our existence as we have all tyrannical nations, or at least we used to.

  • Indigo

    Poverty for the many, prosperity for the few.

  • sisterlauren

    What happens to a government of corruption when the money runs out? It seems like a march to collective poverty to me.

  • sisterlauren

    It is justified by the Doctrine of Discovery.

  • sisterlauren

    Obviously Biden would also have to be impeached. He is drug war dirty, there is no way he would make a good president, and the crimes of Obama have his obvious approval.

  • sisterlauren

    Obama was especially weaselly this time, since it involves war crimes.

    We caught him outright lying. His ‘blame the victim’ routine is getting really old; less and less people are buying it.

  • sisterlauren

    It is a scary trend, isn’t it?

  • sisterlauren

    Of course they pay people to comment. I bet some senators do it too. Wouldn’t you if you were in their position? I sure would.

    BTW, I was blocked from posting at AlterNet.

  • sisterlauren

    Vote Green.

  • ezpz


    The formula? The one to bring out the sneak trolls?

    I used to be good in algebra, geometry, calculus and analytic geometry, but this one has me stumped. Maybe because I’m not a sneak troll?

  • da=0

  • Something my Irish family will never forget or forgive. Revenge is a dish best served cold, like most English cuisine.

  • da=0

  • FunMe

    Exactly! It’s never been a cave.

    What he does before he gets what he wants as a closet republican is called a “dog and pony show”.

  • FunMe

    “He has turned his back on the country” not to mentioned fulfilling his oath to ““I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

    So much for being a “constitutional” lawyer!

  • FunMe

    So true!

  • ezpz


  • Bush would have made a good, bad Muppet.

  • “worse than Bush”—–Bingo!

  • ezpz

    Yes, that is a good link. I put the word “executive” into the search bar, and it was fascinating to scroll down the pages and see how many times it came up and the CONTEXT in which it came up. I never thought I would utter the words “worse than Bush” but Obama has earned that description.

    Even though that site has not been updated since last June, It’s still great in the way it documents the similarities between between Obama and Bush, and in most -if not all- cases Obama far surpasses Bush – in the wrong direction.

  • simpler than that—-Obozo is a born sociopath.

  • JayRandal

    I believe Elite choose Obama because he exhibited to them his lack of empathy for common
    Americans. He is cold-hearted in may ways so as a child something happened to him. Perhaps
    his mother leaving him Hawaii to be raised by his grand parents had something to do with it.

    His African father abandoning him completely had something to do with it.

  • lynchie

    He lacks one basic essential, backbone. He has no moral compass, lacks compassion and leadership. These are essential if you want to be remembered as more than an empty suit and a sop for big business.

  • lynchie

    No compassion and no conscience will do that for you.

  • Bill_Perdue

    If you oppose Obama you’ll get lots of them. And if you do it enough they they come crawling out from under their rocks. I used to wonder if the the DNC really did pay people to comment but now I know better. Maybe karmanot will tell you about it sometime.

    Oh, and that’s a good link. Thanks.

  • luwokoveheh

    мy clαѕѕмαтe’ѕ мoтнer мαĸeѕ $65/нr oɴ тнe coмpυтer. ѕнe нαѕ вeeɴ wιтнoυт worĸ ғor ѕιх мoɴтнѕ вυт lαѕт мoɴтн нer pαy cнecĸ wαѕ $20220 jυѕт worĸιɴɢ oɴ тнe coмpυтer ғor α ғew нoυrѕ. reαd мore oɴ тнιѕ ѕιтe Zap2­2­.c­o&shym&shy

  • ezpz

    Yeah, that too.

  • FunMe

    So full of s***!

  • FunMe

    Obama lies a lot, doesn’t he? Glad I didn’t reelected him.
    My response will is now: don’t look at me, I didn’t vote for the lying guy!

  • FunMe

    I love you GP!
    OK, I love your posts. Why aren’t more people pointing things out like you do? Especially the press?

  • Mike Meyer

    GITMO—Because its a product of Americans, its a product of Democrats&Republicans, NOT just Obama. Third party, Folks.

  • Ford Prefect

    Well, even a stopped clock is right twice a day. If O is a dictator (which could be fair in some respects), he’s the most passive-aggressive dictator in history. On second thought, how American would that be? A passive-aggressive plutocratic despot?

  • ezpz

    A good comparison – Justin Bieber to Obama. They both seem so full of themselves.

  • I’ve worked out a new formula for sneak trolls: da= Vx10 or da=Vx0

  • emjayay

    I guess we should let them die. It worked out OK for the Brits with the IRA guys.

  • emjayay

    Because the right wing is right. He’s a Dictator. Kind of like Hitler.

  • arcadesproject

    I’ve never seen a better, smoother liar. Never. This guy is like one of those guys who can talk five women into marrying him. What’s extraordinary, to me, is his ease and fluency, his lack of anxiety, guilt, any trace of conscience. I don’t think he has one.

  • arcadesproject

    most interesting question….evah.

  • Indigo

    “Let me be clear” is professor-talk. It means the class is too damned stupid to have an inkling what the topic is, how perfectly I understand it, and how well I have managed it.

    Or as Justin Bieber recently claimed, “I’m an artist! You should respect me!”

  • Indigo

    Which brings us to the question of who or what is behind the curtain?

  • Indigo

    I’m beginning to think in terms of the liberal and democratic government of India where laws against rape and others in favor of many social and economic reforms sit on the books, unenforceable because the finances were never settled but they will be strictly enforced just as soon as the issues related to corruption and bribes are resolved and the budget settled into place. Yes, indeed.

    And they mean it, too. It’s just that other priorities . . . yada . . . yada . . . yada.

    This is an old show, it’s called government by corruption. Uncomfortably enough, it looks like it’s going to stay on track like this at least into 2014 and the mid-term elections. I look for him to move the prisoners out of Guantanamo by mid-2014 or early 15 regardless.

  • samizdat

    …and Kyoto, and Kobe, and Tokyo, and…many other Japanese cities which were fire-bombed, often resulting in casualty counts equal to or exceeding the Hiroshima and Nagasaki blasts.

  • ezpz

    Yes, and Bush’s “let me be clear” was “make no mistake” as he scrunched his eyes together even closer than they already were, and he would get all intense and serious looking and stuff….

  • ezpz


  • ezpz


  • Max_1

    Sincerity… say what you mean and mean what you say.

    IF Obama meant to close GITMO… he wouldn’t have ket it open.

  • The “Let me be clear” is Obozo’s version of Dubya’s moron smirk.

  • Very like++++++ (includes troll repellent)

  • And they don’t even wait until the month’s supply of Cheetos wrappers and biggie fries baskets fill the wastebaskets.

  • Slowly building up a an apprentice troll following. It takes time but the slithery ones will out.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Well, there’s that whole Clinton ambition thing. We’ll see. Right now she’s running.

  • Thanks ezpz

  • And force feeding not guilty prisoners at that. The continuing criminality of that horror gulag is squarely on Obama’s watch and his weaselly discharge of moral authority and deflection is disgusting.

  • If economic analysis, bank racketeers, and Wall Street are any indicators, Obozo will leave office on the brink of a Crash/Depression that will make all those that came before look like child’s play. (see Gretchen Morgensen on Bill Moyers). His Republican successor of either party will be the next Hoover. I can’t imagine Hills stepping into that trap.

  • “how sincere is Obama in expressing regret and wanting limitations to presidential power, which he himself has greatly expanded.” Not even remotely. He’s just brushed off a meme taken from the Eisenhower play book. He also plainly states that it is morally and ethically and legally justifiable to murder civilians in collateral damage. But, then that has been game since the bombing of Dresden and Hamburg.

  • Sweetie

    He was using the royal we.

  • Sweetie

    Just one? Dear, I managed to get three recently.

  • Sweetie

    Pay no attention to the man in front of the curtain.

  • ezpz

    Lol, yes, I’m grateful.

  • Yeah, I know what you mean. “Says the guy whose DoJ just hoovered up all the phone calls across a bunch of AP-used phone lines…”

  • Naja pallida

    Could be worse, could be spouting out of context Bible quotes at you!

  • ezpz

    I think I have his ‘tells’ down.
    For starters, he opens his mouth….

    Seriously, though: he cocks his head way to the right, often with his eyes going the other way; he gets that blank, deer in the headlights look; he stutters; he looks down; he says “let me be clear.”

  • ezpz

    Well said.

    Thank you – and everyone. (:

  • Kelley Kramer

    “A free press is essential for our democracy.”

    That is the most outrageous statement I have seen all year. Not only has Obama gone after more whistle-blowers than any prez in US history, Obama has gone after more whistle-blowers than every US president COMBINED!

    As George Carlin would say… stunningly full of sh*t !

    Its too bad I cant watch the clip, I would love to see his facial ticks during and right after that, it would be a great way to learn his ‘tells’.

    The most transparent admin in US history, bwhahahahahaha!

    Audacity? Yes, indeed.

  • ezpz

    I don’t see any attempt at all, not even a’half-hearted’ one; nor do I think he caves.
    Let’s not call empty rhetoric an attempt. And let’s not call it a ‘cave’ when that’s what he wanted (or didn’t want in this case) in the first place.

  • Bill_Perdue

    It’s pretty clear by now that Obama’s union busting campaign, his constantly escalating wars of aggression and his war on the Bill of Rights are part and parcel of an extremely right wing program.

    Those policies will be continued and expanded in the next administration, whether it’s run by a Republican like Hillary Clinton or one nominated by the Republicans themselves.

    I’d join the chorus on the left demanding his impeachment except for one factor: Biden. I held back supporting Nixon’s impeachment and conviction until Agnew was safely behind bars.

  • condew

    On the other hand, it’s pure Obama to make one half-hearted attempt, and then cave because he is so scared of conflict that any pushback at all is enough to neuter him.

  • Ford Prefect

    There are three levels on which Obama’s BS rhetoric lives: 1) the NatSec journos receive OTR briefings from anonymous sources in advance of O’Bummer’s speech which is much more honest and detailed than the speech itself; 2) the speech, which is mostly CYA, evasion of responsibility, Double-Think and outright inane bullshit; 3) the administration’s actions, which bear little or no relation to the speech at all.

    If you follow Jeremy Scahill, Micah Zenko or similar, you knew more detail before the speech happened more than you did after the speech. Obama was especially weaselly this time, since it involves war crimes. He’s not responsible for war crimes, WE are. Or that’s how he puts it. And in the end, nothing he says has much to do with what he actually does, which is obviously far worse.

    It’s nice to see Stewart pointing out the BS in O’s speeches and actions. His segment on Too Big To Jail is excellent!

  • Re: supply-side and trickle-down economics– I think it’s worked out exactly as they wanted and intended. The promises were supposed to be empty because they were never truly sincere.

  • Welcome to the club. :-)

  • nicho

    Clarence, take your meds.

  • nicho

    Think of what a sad life that is. The only things they trust you with are emptying waste baskets and downvoting blog entries. They don’t even trust you to troll.

  • Obama says the right things and asks, “Is this who we are?”

    Here’s the obvious problem: I don’t have the power to decide to force-feed hunger striking prisoners in the Gitmo Gulag — but Obama does and did. I can’t order that prisoners there who’ve been cleared of any wrongdoing be returned to their own countries or released to another nation willing to take them, but the President, through statutory powers granted to him by Congress, could do so, yet for some reason has chosen not to release any prisoners at all.

    I don’t have the power to decide to launch drone missiles at suspected terrorists, even when I know it will kill people near them — but Obama has that power and exercises it. I’m not the one who can order the Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute those who leak to the press, the whistleblowers, and the pot dispensary owners, nor can I order the DEA to reschedule marijuana as a controlled drug that does have medical uses. I can’t say I will veto any bill that cuts Social Security benefits, whether fast through direct cuts or slowly through chained-CPI, yet he could.

    The President of the United States has all these powers and much more. Hell, Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona has shown more backbone, saying she’ll veto everything until the AZ legislature expands Medicare — and has been following up on that promise. I think she’s a GOP wingnut, but I have to give her credit for keeping her word and holding a firm line.

    Obama seems to be asking, essentially, “Why oh why don’t we as Americans elect politicians and leaders who reflect our higher ideals, our nobler selves? Oh, but we should, for we are not a people who do these terrible things” — while expecting us to overlook the man right there who could do something about it. Who has powers that less than a couple dozen men have ever had the privilege to control and wield, yet constantly claims his hands are tied, that he simply must do these terrible things and cannot take the right, moral, and Constitutional paths.

    There is nothing stopping him from being that kind of great, idealistic leader who uses his power to the utmost to do so many good and right things — except himself.

  • clarenceswinney

    The surplus Bush inherited from Clinton was largely due to the Social Security Trust Fund.
    Bush argued it would be better to give the projected surplus to the private sector via tax cuts.
    It was not better. The income of the wealthy grew but workers got stagnant wages. Working class households were hit hardest and Republicans began intense promotions to cut important social programs. Republicans should have known Supply Side did not work. The failed promises about growth and revenue have damaged the health, education and retirement programs that the working Class depends upon. The debt burden came with Supply Side promises. Since 1980, it was increased
    $1900B by Reagan; $1500B by Bush I; $1400 by Clinton; $6100B by Bush II; $5100B by Obama.
    One half of Obama debt add on belong to Bush Tax Cuts, two wars and Part D Medicare.

  • lynchie

    ezpz. You are blessed. The down vote is the sign that you have pissed off a O bot. I trust not a single word he utters because he is never accountable for not doing what he promises. He is the king of the grandiose speech, invoking rule of law, that is what America stands for, etc., etc. He is not a leader, is totally passive and only cares about how many million is being set aside for him after this term. He has turned his back on the country and lacks the will to stand up and clearly hold the feet of Congress to the fire. No he would rather champion the 1% because that is where he cherishes adulation. The 99% lack the ways of rewarding him for his efforts so selling out the poor and elderly at the expense of the 1% makes perfect sense to him. He is not compassionate, is devoid real core values and frankly I see him as a token President. Put in to placate the black community and progressives but carefully chosen for his willingness to take instructions. He surrounded himself with equally incompetent failures and has no intention of achieving anything of substance during his two terms. Health care reform rewarded the insurance companies with 45 million more customers with no thought of how we will pay for it. He has totally been missing in action in explaining and championing his programs.

  • JayRandal

    Force feeding detainees at GITMO violates Geneva Conventions. Everything going on at that so-called prison violates international protocols of justice. Prison should be shut down. What to
    be done with inmates who were never properly tried for crimes a dilemma? Formally charge them
    with trials or release them back to home countries for prosecution. GITMO should be shut-down
    completely and land holding given back to Cuba.

  • emjayay

    Oddly, this time even though there is an ad in the same place as this comment box, the box is on top of the ad not under it, and not covering the Post as tag down there in the lower right hand corner. So I guess it’s a step in the right direction.

  • ezpz

    Oh lookie, I have merited my very own down voting stalker.

  • zerosumgame0005

    not to be too mean, that “we” is us, the ones who allowed the reptards and NIMBY bozo’s to block it the first time he tried to close the place…

  • ezpz

    Here’s a good site that chronicles his betrayals, the disconnect between his rhetoric and actions, as well as the comparisons to Bush:

  • ezpz

    I cringe whenever I hear him say “let me be clear” because I know that a big fat blatant lie (bigger, fatter, more blatant than his usual) is about to be spewed.

    I also find it interesting how often he uses the first person as in *I* have directed *my* administration, and yet when it comes to the drone killing and indefinite detention programs, suddenly it becomes *we* and *our*.

  • nicho

    Is that who we are? Nope, we’re far worse than that.

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