Morning Joe: Obama’s U.N. Speech a ‘Disappointment’ Reflecting ‘Retreat’ of American Leadership

September 21, 2016

Morning Joe’s panel on Wednesday sharply criticized President Obama’s final address before the United Nations General Assembly the prior day as a "disappointment" that reflected the country’s retreat from the world and a "complete lack of any connection to any world leaders."

In his wide-ranging address, Obama touched on numerous issues but said powerful countries like the United States had a limited ability to tackle world crises, such as the ruinous Syrian civil war.

"Short answer is I thought it was a major disappointment," Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haass said. "The sporting equivalent would be running out the clock. There were no specifics about Syria."

Asked by MSNBC host Joe Scarborough if he thought it was one of the worst speeches the president had given in front of the U.N., Haass said it was.

"I thought it was at 36,000 feet, generalities, almost dispirited and defeatist about what we couldn’t accomplish in the world," Haass said, before laying out daunting challenges like a nuclear North Korea and the crisis in Syria.

Scarborough relayed the U.N. chamber was in low spirits because "of a lack of United States leadership." Haass said the overall theme over the U.N. gathering was the sense of "futility" regarding Syria.

"There doesn’t have to be a futility, if you have an American president that’s actually willing to not let tyrants cross red lines and kill 200,000 people," Scarborough said.

"What you’re seeing from Syria to the questions over TPP [the Trans-Pacific Partnership] is a sense of retreat from American leadership around the world," Haass said.

Mentioning liberal CNN journalist Fareed Zakaria’s book about a post-American world, the panel said it seemed Obama was leading the country into just that scenario.

Former CIA and NSA director Gen. Michael Hayden said Obama’s address was insightful in its analysis of the problems gripping the world, but that mere rhetoric was not enough.

"Saying it hasn’t made it so since the first six days of creation, and we have not participated in a meaningful way in a process that actually would help the circumstances on the ground in Syria and a whole lot of other places," Hayden said.

Haass quipped that the U.N. was not the "faculty lounge," a shot at Obama’s background as an academic, and that while George W. Bush showed eight years of action could be counterproductive, Obama’s eight years of inaction was harmful, too.

Former Bush administration adviser Nicolle Wallace said the sense from fellow U.N. observers was that Obama’s address showed "the complete lack of any connection to any world leaders."

"In recent history, there hasn’t been an American president with fewer or weaker relationships with world leaders," she said.