President Obama’s comments are, of course, listened to carefully around the world. What he’s been saying doesn’t sound like commanders-in-chief who have gone before him.

Slips of the tongue, or revealing ideology?

It had to be the strangest comment ever made by an American commander in chief. In the middle of his Nuclear Security Summit last week, President Obama told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, “Whether we like it or not, we remain a dominant military superpower.”

No other American president has ever taken such a frankly apologetic stance about American power. Whether we like it or not? These are the words of the first nuclear pacifist to sit in the White House. Not even the famously invertebrate Jimmy Carter was so willing to bow to the despots of the world while publicly wringing his hands over America’s power and purpose.

We’ve been hearing a lot in the press this past week the phrase ‘war of words’, mostly related to President Clinton and Rush Limbaugh, and media sycophants just keep repeating what they’re hearing from each other. But this piece looks at another sort of conflict and what it’s communicating.

“Rogue states” is being pushed aside in favor of the less confrontational “outliers.”

“Islamic radicalism” is being converted to the less religiously freighted “violent extremism.”

And in one of the most important speeches of his presidency, Barack Obama omitted a term that was the Bush administration’s obsession, terrorism, as part of a larger effort to de-emphasize the issue in America’s relations with Muslim states.

Diplomats, academics and foreign leaders are hotly debating whether Obama, who won the White House promising dramatic change in U.S. foreign policy, has actually substantively changed much. But there’s little question that he has made a pronounced shift in how the U.S. talks about the rest of the world — and in a way that has opened him up to charges of being soft toward America’s enemies.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) was so incensed at the administration’s recent decision to end its use of the phrase “Islamic extremism” that he fired off a letter to Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan. Lieberman worries that if Obama doesn’t confront the true nature of the threat, he can’t stop it.

“The failure to identify our enemy for what it is — violent Islamist extremism — is offensive and contradicts thousands of years of accepted military and intelligence doctrine to ‘know your enemy,’” Lieberman wrote, later calling the decision “absolutely Orwellian” in a TV interview.

Especially since Barack Obama came up through the Saul Alinsky school and applies his rules for radicals with such deft skill. Especially this one:

Rule 11: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, polarize it. Don’t try to attack abstract corporations or bureaucracies. Identify a responsible individual. Ignore attempts to shift or spread the blame.

So to recap the past year, President Obama has personalized and polarized Fox News, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, certainly the Republicans, people who ‘cling to their guns and religion’, and all sorts of American institutions. He’s even picked on the Cambridge police and the Supreme Court justices.

But he won’t call the enemy “the enemy,” or terrorism “terrorism.”

“It’s evidence of a lack of seriousness in understanding the nature of the problem they face,” John Bolton, the Bush administration’s ambassador to the United Nations and a frequent Obama critic, told POLITICO. “… It’s a dangerous policy for us.”

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....