When Barack Obama delivers a big speech, he’s accustomed to receiving a large demonstration of adulation. Often, people faint at the mere sound of his voice. In Cairo, however, while Obama laid a dollop of truth onto the crowd amid the usual quotient of pandering, the crowd gave Obama a new kind of response:
You want a tough crowd? Go to Cairo and deliver a speech on Muslims, Jews, terrorism and the possibilities of Mideast peace.
While President Barack Obama received some applause and cheers during his address at Cairo University Thursday, at other times his speech fell flatter than a piece of pita bread.
To no one’s surprise, the audience liked the positive references to Islam, including an interesting one regarding the Golden Rule that Obama’s domestic audience found a little puzzling. However, when it came to Obama defending American positions, the crowd clammed up tighter than the Sphinx:
But other lines, such as when Obama vowed to protect the American people from violent attack, were met with stony silence.
“In Ankara, I made clear that America is not – and never will be – at war with Islam,” Obama said. “We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security. (Silence from the crowd.) Because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children. (More silence.) And it is my first duty as president to protect the American people.” More silence.
And when the president talked about the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on America, he was met with only stares from the audience. “But let us be clear,” the president said, “Al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 people on that day. The victims were innocent men, women and children from America and many other nations who had done nothing to harm anybody. And yet Al Qaeda chose to ruthlessly murder these people, claimed credit for the attack, and even now states their determination to kill on a massive scale. They have affiliates in many countries and are trying to expand their reach. These are not opinions to be debated; these are facts to be dealt with.”
The first press reports tried to paint this as a rousing success on the ground. Articles around the world made sure to mention that a few people shouted, “We love you!” from the crowd. Washington Post reporter Howard Schneider’s Twitter feed gave the first hints that Obama didn’t fare well, noting that the crowd only offered light applause at the end.
Will that meme remain the final impression, or will Politico’s report gain any traction? I’m betting on the former.