Not since President Obama’s speech to graduating cadets of the class of 2014 at West Point have there been remarks to a military academy as atonal as those Vice President Harris just delivered to the midshipmen at Annapolis. Ms. Harris talked to our midshipmen trained for naval warfare of the perils of climate change and the niftiness of solar panels. Not a peep about how Russia, Iran, and Red China are maneuvering for conquest.
What a wan note on which to begin the Memorial Day weekend at which we remember our fallen. It’s similar to the blunder that President Obama made when, as we were at the height of the global war on terror, he went to West Point and tried to inspire the cadets by lecturing them on how not every problem has a military solution. The New York Post headline called it “The Long Gray Whine.”
The remarks of Ms. Harris, like those of Mr. Obama, fit the strategy of retreat and appeasement that seems to have been favored by the Democratic Party in recent decades. It started, in our view, with Vietnam and since has marked the party’s policies in one theater after another — right now in the Middle East and Afghanistan. And it’s not that our liberal traditions don’t offer a prism through which to understand our military academies.
We marked this when five years ago the then-president of Harvard, war historian Drew Faust, spoke at West Point. She had brought ROTC back to Harvard. She then went up the Hudson to deliver a tribute that we called “surprisingly personal and moving.” She spoke of her great-grandfather, who went to West Point and, in the Apache War, appeared in arms against Geronimo and, in World War I, breached the Hindenburg Line.
President Faust called it a “supreme honor” to stand on West Point’s hallowed ground. She wished more Harvard students were training for the military. She spoke of the Gallup poll’s finding that, as Ms. Faust put it, “the military is the last institution in which Americans have high confidence. Not organized religion, not government, not newspapers, not banks — you. You and all you represent.”
“We need you,” she said, “now more than ever.”
That is even more true today than when Ms. Faust spoke at West Point. The “threats” Ms. Harris spoke of were climate change, infectious disease, and “criminal hackers.” In her politically correct condescension she failed to mention even once the threat from, say, Communist China. What an oversight, particularly at Annapolis. It is to the Pacific that so many of our newest ensigns are headed, and it is China who will meet them there.
This is not a moment to offer platitudes about the weather and joking references to gender. It was and is a moment, even if it’s not usually done, to talk about, say, serious strategy and to pledge support — for, say, the Navy’s Pacific Deterrence Initiative that is now coming before the Senate over which Ms. Harris presides. She could have pledged to give the middies the materiel they need and sought to summon their martial spirit.