1) 'Too much loose talk.' Good for President Obama for saying this during his speech yesterday at AIPAC:
Already, there is too much loose talk of war. Over the last few weeks, such talk has only benefited the Iranian government, by driving up the price of oil, which they depend on to fund their nuclear program. For the sake of Israel's security, America's security, and the peace and security of the world, now is not the time for bluster. Now is the time to let our increased pressure sink in, and to sustain the broad international coalition we have built. Now is the time to heed the timeless advice from Teddy Roosevelt: Speak softly; carry a big stick.*
It is embarrassing to have to point this out, but: the truly strong figures in American history have not resorted to bluster like the bomb-Iran talk of recent weeks. Think of Eisenhower. Think of Lincoln. You don't need to equate Barack Obama with either of them, and I am not doing so, to recognize the strength it requires to distance yourself from tough talk rather than using it to puff yourself up. Let's see which of this week's subsequent speakers can demonstrate strength in the same way.
2) 'Every single time.' The ritual of the AIPAC speech really is something. I am trying to think of a parallel for the first part of this address, in which Obama explained that he was really, truly Israel's friend:
As you examine my commitment, you don't just have to count on my words. You can look at my deeds. Because over the last three years, as President of the United States, I have kept my commitments to the state of Israel. At every crucial juncture -- at every fork in the road -- we have been there for Israel. Every single time.
On the merits, Obama is of course right. And, as Andrew Sullivan has argued, Obama made the case that the U.S. has an anti-proliferation interest in preventing Iran from getting the bomb, which aligns with but is apart from Israel's own security concerns. It's the expectation of the apologia that is remarkable. I can't think of another situation where an American president, speaking to an American audience on American soil, would find it necessary or dignified to plead his bona fides in a similar way. (About England? Italy? Canada? Mexico?)