‘It is time to focus on nation building here at home’

One probably doesn’t need to be an expert in public opinion to know that Americans have grown weary of war, and desperately want to see a stronger domestic economy. It appears President Obama is acutely aware of these sentiments, too.

Indeed, perhaps what was most politically interesting about his remarks last night on U.S. policy in Afghanistan wasn’t related to the troop withdrawals or conditions for Taliban negotiations, but rather, the fact that he talked at some length about the U.S. economy in a speech about national security.

“Above all, we are a nation whose strength abroad has been anchored in opportunity for our citizens here at home. Over the last decade, we have spent a trillion dollars on war, at a time of rising debt and hard economic times. Now, we must invest in America’s greatest resource — our people.

“We must unleash innovation that creates new jobs and industries, while living within our means. We must rebuild our infrastructure and find new and clean sources of energy. And most of all, after a decade of passionate debate, we must recapture the common purpose that we shared at the beginning of this time of war. For our nation draws strength from our differences, and when our union is strong no hill is too steep, no horizon is beyond our reach.

“America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home. […]

“[L]et us finish the work at hand. Let us responsibly end these wars, and reclaim the American Dream that is at the center of our story. With confidence in our cause, with faith in our fellow citizens, and with hope in our hearts, let us go about the work of extending the promise of America — for this generation, and the next.”

For those Americans who may be more concerned with the unemployment rate than the troop-withdrawal rate, it was smart to include this rhetoric. The White House doesn’t want to give the impression that his principal focus is overseas.

And while the Republican response to the policy in Afghanistan was surprisingly disjointed — nearly as many Republicans are to Obama’s left, wanting a faster drawdown, as to his right — it’s also worth keeping in mind that the GOP’s approach to the domestic policy is far clearer: they’re against it.

Obama wants to “invest in … our people,” but Republicans see “invest” as an ugly code word for “spending” — and “spending” is bad. Obama wants to “unleash innovation,” but the GOP considers this “big government.” Obama wants to “rebuild our infrastructure and find new and clean sources of energy,” and Republicans consider both of these socialistic plots to undermine America.

“We must recapture the common purpose”? I’m afraid that’s impossible for the foreseeable future.