Byron York: Why did Obama give that terrorism speech?


President Obama reportedly gave his Oval Office address Sunday night in an effort to make up for a seeming lack of sensitivity to the public's concerns about terrorism in the wake of Paris and San Bernardino. But in the end, Obama's brief speech -- immediately after, he donned a tuxedo and dashed to a Kennedy Center gala -- contained no new measures against ISIS, and he spent as much time repeating old warnings not to offend Muslim sensibilities as he spent discussing any particular effort to combat terrorism.

Obama began by describing the San Bernardino killings, stressing that the government has "no evidence" that Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik were "directed" to act by any foreign entity. (He said nothing about whether the two were inspired by ISIS, only that -- using an Obama favorite phrase -- they had, on their own, embraced a "perverted interpretation" of Islam.) The one slight surprise in the early part of Obama's speech is that he described the San Bernardino killings as "an act of terrorism," which might be obvious for most Americans but was a step forward for the president.

Obama then began a perfunctory and cliched -- "As Commander-in-Chief, I have no greater responsibility than the security of the American people" -- section on the history of terrorism. The news in that brief analysis was that Obama said the following about developments in the wake of U.S. post-9/11 security measures:

As we've become better at preventing complex, multifaceted attacks like 9/11, terrorists turned to less complicated acts of violence like the mass shootings that are all too common in our society. It is this type of attack that we saw at Fort Hood in 2009; in Chattanooga earlier this year; and now in San Bernardino.

That was apparently the first time Obama has referred to Fort Hood and Chattanooga as terrorism; in the past, his administration has said the former was "workplace violence" and the latter was unexplained.

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