"We are at war." So said the 44th president of the United States on Jan. 7, 2010. These four words, a profound statement of the obvious, were belatedly uttered as our commander in chief transitioned from tropical sunsets on his "Hawaiian holiday" to klieg lights at the White House in the aftermath of the Christmas Day "near-miss" terror attack aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 enroute from Amsterdam to Detroit. The phrase was startling - because it wasn't an affirmation of a mindset Mr. Obama brought to office. Rather it was the reluctant admission of facts Mr. Obama has spent a year in office diligently trying to deny.
A year into this presidency, the so-called mainstream media and those who sample American public opinion are assessing what has changed and trying to explain the remarkable plunge in the president's "approval rating."
Two states he carried handily in the last election - Virginia and Massachusetts - have gone Republican. On the anniversary of his inaugural, polls show a significant majority of American voters believe the nation is "on the wrong track." A Zogby International survey found 40 percent believe Mr. Obama has "done worse than expected" and only 13 percent say he has "done better" than anticipated.
Though most political pundits ascribe rising antipathy toward Mr. Obama as the consequence of massive unemployment, a stagnant economic recovery and concern over massive spending and accumulating debt, there is also a growing sentiment that our commander in chief is simply unable to protect us from those who are trying to kill us.
Supporters of this president - and they are legion - have tried to portray the Christmas Day attack as an epiphany for Mr. Obama, but there is little evidence that this is so.
His Jan. 7 remarks, intended we are told, to "reassure us" - show that the O-Team still doesn't "get it." He limits the war we are in to be only against al Qaeda. He still speaks of radical Islamic terrorists as "foes" and "adversaries" and "lone recruits." His response to the Christmas Day attack was to order reviews, review the reviews, and report - with "full accountability and transparency" the findings of these reviews.
He describes Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab as a "suspect" who "allegedly tried to ignite an explosive device on his body," and notes that the 23-year-old Nigerian was "subdued," taken into "custody" and charged with a crime. Rest assured, however, that a "full investigation" was launched into this "attempted act of terrorism." Our "war time president" sounds more like a small-town mayor reporting on the fire department's progress in getting the neighbor's cat out of a tree.
On his first full day in office, Mr. Obama signed two executive orders - 13491 and 13492 - a form of presidential hypnosis designed to erase from our collective memories the fact that we are at war, so we could all move on to more important things like expanding government. The first executive order mandated that individuals in U.S. custody "shall not be subjected to any interrogation technique or approach" unauthorized by a published "Army Field Manual." The second order directed closure of the Guantanamo Bay terrorist detention facility. American and European political leftists were euphoric. The terrorists were happy to get home to Yemen.
On Feb. 17, Mr. Obama ordered the deployment of more than 12,000 troops to Afghanistan, saying the situation "demands urgent attention and swift action." Then he dithered for nine months, before half-heartedly announcinga kinda, sorta, escalation-cum-retreat policy at West Point on Dec. 1.
Despite promises to "look forward, not back," Mr. Obama ordered the release - in alarming detail - of four classified CIA memos on enhanced interrogation techniques. He then authorized his attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate those who wrote and carried out the interrogations.
When he isn't throwing his predecessor over the side, he throws Uncle Sam under the bus. Mr. Obama's global "penance and kow-tow tour," in which he bows to foreign potentates and apologizes for America, has gone on unabated since he became president. Last month in Oslo, Norway, in accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, he all but apologized for being the "commander in chief of the military of a nation in the midst of two wars."
After invoking the memory of Martin Luther King's real courage to a room-full of simpering European pacifists, Mr. Obama described himself as "living testimony to the moral force of non-violence." He then held a surreal debate with himself regarding the "difficult questions about the relationship between war and peace, and our effort to replace one with the other."
We are at war, Mr. President. You said it yourself. Now, if only you believed it.
Oliver North is the host of "War Stories" on the Fox News Channel, the author of "American Heroes"(B&H Books, 2008), and the founder and honorary chairman of Freedom Alliance.