It was lame, or lame-ish, but not for the reason she gives. She wanted more tough talk on Iran to galvanize Sunni antipathy to their nuke program, but in fairness to The One, that’s not what this was about. It was a kumbaya singalong with Muslims, Shia included, and there’s no place for ultimatums in a drum circle. What made it lame, apart from didactic Mr. Rogers-esque pap like, “It is easier to blame others than to look inward; to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share,” was how few concrete solutions it offered, opting instead for the usual “le Change, c’est moi” persona-as-policy Obama shtick. As Andrew Bolt put it, “Of actual proposals to solve anything he has few. He’s offering not plans but himself. He is the Healer.” The NYT admitted the same thing buried 15 paragraphs in, natch. Politico actually reached this surreal depth in trying to rationalize why the speech was so important:
The 55-minute speech was remarkable and historic not so much for the delivery or even the words, but for the context, the orator, the moment. Obama included blunt talk about the United States, Israel, Iraq, his predecessor and al Qaeda.
When you’ve got the media calling you an oratorical genius notwithstanding the content or delivery of your speeches, you’ve got it made, kid.
Beyond the kumbaya, the most memorable bits were his whitewash of Islamic culture, culminating in the absurd assertion that every religion — including one that explicitly endorses holy war — is based on the Golden Rule. Gay Patriot, a conservative, wonders why The One had nothing to say about Islamic persecution of gays; Peter Daou, a liberal, wonders why the kaleidoscope of abuse women suffer in Muslim countries was ignored in favor of an endorsement of the hijab. At one point, to emphasize how both Israelis and Palestinians have suffered over the years, Obama even drew a tacit comparison between Gaza and, um, the Holocaust. Some bloggers, my esteemed colleague included, are impressed that The One did throw down the gauntlet on certain issues, like the fact that the Holocaust happened and that 9/11 was indeed perpetrated by Muslims, but to me that’s like having someone address a conference of flat-earthers and insist that the Earth is round. It takes no courage to do so, given the evidence; rather, it’s spine on the cheap, designed to give him cover as having “talked tough” to Muslims even though he didn’t talk tough on issues that really matter, like, say, the right of return. If he wanted to avoid contentious issues altogether in the name of kumbaya, fine, but don’t serve weak tea and then expect credit.
The strangest part? At one point, he lapsed into full-blown neoconservatism:
The fourth issue that I will address is democracy. I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: no system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other.
That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.
That’s pure Bush, up to and including the caveat that we don’t seek to impose our values on others. Bush never couched his Iraq rhetoric in terms of bending Arabs to his will; his point was always an essentialist argument, as Obama’s is here, that human beings naturally desire to be free and to govern themselves and that he was merely giving Iraqis the chance to fulfill that desire by taking out Saddam. I.e., democracy isn’t our value, it’s everyone’s value. Is that true, though? I’d bet an awful lot of progressives and “realists” would beg to differ.
Anyway, here’s Cheney.