President Obama delivered a rare primetime address Wednesday night, laying out his strategy for dealing with the growing threat posed by the Islamic State. The speech will be picked through -- and apart -- for days and weeks (and maybe even years) but I jotted down a few of my immediate takeaways. They are below. You can -- and should -- read the full text of Obama's remarks here.
* The Reassurer-in-chief: Obama opened the speech with what amounted to a rundown of his foreign policy/national security successes including the killing of Osama bin-Laden and the ending of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. "Thanks to our military and counterterrorism professionals, America is safer," Obama said, in what will surely be one of the most quoted -- and debated -- lines of the speech. Of course, by asserting that the country is safer, Obama inevitably begs the question of why he is asking for the public support for a military action against a terrorist group.
* ISIL, 101: The President clearly grasped that most Americans have no idea what ISIS/ISIL/Islamic state really is or why they pose a real threat to us. "They execute captured prisoners," Obama said of the group. "They kill children. They enslave, rape, and force women into marriage." This sort of stakes-setting is absolutely necessary when it comes to selling the American public on what the president promised would be a "comprehensive and sustained" fight against the Islamic State. Obama knows just how war-weary Americans are -- it's why he led with all he had accomplished to end the wars -- and how high a bar they now hold for any American involvement abroad.
* This is not Iraq. This is not Iraq. This is not Iraq.: Hovering over the entirety of Obama's speech was his insistence that this conflict in no way, shape or form resembled what happened during the Iraq war. Twice he emphasized that there would not ever be American combat troops fighting in Iraq. He carefully described the fight against the Islamic State as a "counter-terrorism campaign", not a war or even an armed conflict. And he cast it as consistent with the actions has taken in the past; "this strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years," Obama said.
* I'll do it myself -- if I need to: Obama made clear that he believes he already has all the authority he needs to pursue the strategy he laid out tonight against the Islamic State. But he also made clear he'd like to have Congress behind him if at all possible. "I believe we are strongest as a nation when the President and Congress work together," he said at one point. He didn't shy away though from some direct lobbying for Congress to get behind him; "I again call on Congress to give us additional authorities and resources to train and equip these fighters," Obama said.
* America is #1: The closing moments of Obama's speech, which were noticeably free -- or close to it -- of the sort of soaring oration his allies love and his detractors loathe, was essentially a paean to American exceptionalism. "America is better positioned today to seize the future than any other nation on Earth," Obama said as he began his close. He went on to note the exceptional role the U.S. had played in beating back an ever-aggressive Russia, our country's work to contain Ebola and the U.S.'s key contribution to ridding Syria of chemical weapons. "America, our endless blessings bestow an enduring burden," Obama insisted, a line -- and a sentiment -- that Ronald Reagan would have loved.