Obama’s Cairo speech: Surprisingly good

posted at 9:28 am on June 4, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

I didn’t get the chance to watch Barack Obama’s Cairo speech live, although I’m sure that it will be chopped up on YouTube within the next couple of hours.  Instead, I read the full text posted by Andrew Malcolm, as well as Andrew’s commentary, and in most ways, it wouldn’t differ from a similar speech given by any recent American President.  In fact, the Cairo audience may have been a little surprised about the depth of the defense of Israel’s right to exist in peace, as well as the strong denunciation of 9/11 Trutherism that has been wildly popular among Arabs, even though Osama bin Laden claimed credit long ago for the attack.

Not surprisingly, Obama emphasized the rights of Palestinians to live in their own state, which the Washington Post’s Howard Schneider reported via Twitter prompted a lot of head-nodding.  Obama added this scolding to Arab nations, though, that may have come as a surprise:

Finally, the Arab States must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities. The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems. Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state; to recognize Israel’s legitimacy; and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past.

That was a not-so-subtle jab at the practice of various Arab and Muslim states to use the Palestinian issue to whip up anti-Israel sentiment for their own domestic purposes.  Egypt has diplomatic relations with Israel, but is not above doing some of that itself, which makes this jab a little more sharp, given the setting.  It seems a little surprising — and refreshing — that Obama would challenge this practice in a speech in Cairo.

Israel, Obama said, has to accept a two-state solution with real sovereignty.  Well, they have, on numerous occasions.  They’ve also withdrawn from Gaza; Obama appeared to blame Israel for the misery of the Gazans, rather than Hamas, who keeps launching wars against Israel.  Obama could have shown a little more backbone in pointing that out, and it seems like pandering to have avoided it.  However, he did instruct the audience about Israel’s right to exist:

America’s strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.

Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed – more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction – or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews – is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.

Speaking of baseless, ignorant, and hateful, Obama tried to set the record straight on 9/11, and set a baseline for American security:

The situation in Afghanistan demonstrates America’s goals, and our need to work together. Over seven years ago, the United States pursued al Qaeda and the Taliban with broad international support. We did not go by choice, we went because of necessity. I am aware that some question or justify the events of 9/11. But let us be clear: 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.

Make no mistake: we do not want to keep our troops in Afghanistan. We seek no military bases there. It is agonizing for America to lose our young men and women. It is costly and politically difficult to continue this conflict. We would gladly bring every single one of our troops home if we could be confident that there were not violent extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan determined to kill as many Americans as they possibly can. But that is not yet the case.

Most of the rest of the speech was standard boilerplate, heavy on the compatibility of Islam and America and historical examples going back to our founding.  Obama didn’t mention the Barbary Pirates, but he did note that the US has over 1200 mosques and claimed that almost 8 million Muslims live in the US.  That number is the subject of dispute; CAIR claims 8 million, but the CIA and other surveys put it at less than 2 million.  For the purposes of this audience, Obama used the highest number, apparently to make the biggest impression.

Did it work? Schneider says it only received light applause at the end, so perhaps Obama told a few too many hard truths for Egyptian tastes — which is why we questioned that decision.  On the whole, though, Obama defended American positions on Israel and Afghanistan with more strength than he does here at home.

Of course, the big question will be whether this does anything at all for our standing in the Muslim world.  Frankly, I doubt it; this may wind up eroding Obama’s standing instead.  Still, a much better effort than I’d feared.

Update: Yid with Lid strongly disagrees with me on Obama’s defense of Israel, so be sure to read all of his post.

Update II: I note on Twitter that plenty of people are upset with Obama’s quoting of the Koran and his positive spin on Islam, ie, “religion of peace,” “Golden Rule,” etc.  He is in Cairo, after all, and to quote an old aphorism, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.  Appealing to people’s better natures is a rhetorical device with a long history — and a long history of mixed results.  However, I don’t hear anything in this speech that Bush didn’t say himself.

Update III: I would also say that I didn’t see much apologizing for America in this speech, but that there was some; Obama mentions Gitmo and the 1950s coup d’etat in Iran.  Also, Michelle takes my point about the tenor of this speech sounding a lot like Bush’s, but she consistently objected to that in Bush’s speeches as well.


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Obama’s comment linking Islam to algebra sets off anti-Islam riots in US inner-city schools

sargentj on June 5, 2009 at 2:22 PM

Hello –

As a Senior Advisor to the President, I’m here in Cairo, Egypt where civil liberties and their standard of living are the envy of the world where I watched President Obama deliver an appalling unprecedented speech calling for a new beginning in which we willingly subject ourselves to our enemies and apologize profusely for combating evil in the past and defending ourselves in the present for the United States and Muslim communities around the world.

We all know that there has been tension between the United States and some Muslim communities you know, like the guys who drive airplanes into our buildings. But, as the President said this morning, if all sides face the sources of tension squarely and focus on mutual interests Hope! Change! Death to Ah-mer-eek-a!, we can find a new way forward (our staff is working around the clock to determine just which way “forward” is – we’ll let you know when we know).

The President outlined some big goals for this new beginning in his speech — including disrupting, dismantling, and defeating violent extremism Remember the DHS report we had to rescind that identified pro-lifers and veterans as terrorists? That’s who we’re talking about. It was a historic speech, and since many Americans were asleep at the time it was given weird – the same thing happens every time Kerry gives a speech, too we wanted to make sure you had a chance to see it:

Majority-Muslim countries around the world are filled with extraordinary people Khomeini, Khadaffi, Osama bin Laden, the Taliban to name just a few who simply want to live their lives and see their children live better lives, just as in Afghanistan 10 years ago America even better yet, without an America. Indeed, part of what makes America great is having nearly seventy thousand seven hundred thousand seven million Muslim Americans living here today and enriching our culture and communities even insisting that our communities receive such enrichment, so generous are these people.

We can extend that kind of relationship abroad. Just think of every place socialism and weak diplomacy have worked before! It won’t always be easy there are still dissidents to intimidate and purge, but if we make an effort to dismantle everything our nation was built upon and the means to defend it bridge our differences rather than resigning ourselves to animosity C’mon people! Stop overreacting to so called terrorist acts and threats already!, we can move toward a more peaceful world under Sharia law over time.

Thank you,
David Axelrod
Senior Advisor to the President

sargentj on June 5, 2009 at 2:38 PM

ricer1 on June 5, 2009 at 11:22 AM

Apologies for the oversight. Late last night (with a sleepy head) I scanned the thread and yours stuck out because of the bold text. My eye keyed in on that text and I knew immediately the case to which you were referring and remembered discussing that Brewer opinion in my Con Law class. I wasn’t aware of US v. Macintosh, 283 U.S. 605 and I will read more into the opinion as time permits.

When citing my “clarification”, I wasn’t arguing for a side in the matter, just providing Justice Brewer’s expounded subsequent statements. I make no argument against the notion that the United States’ Founders were believers largely in a Christian God; there is ample evidence to that fact, even withstanding instances of dissenting opinions and conflicting statements. We should also remember the historical context — that this was during the transition from the puritanical Reformation period to the Age of Enlightenment, a period of time where analytical conflicts existed between conventional wisdom and philosophical pondering. In other words, even if people of that era rationalized against the notion of God, it was extremely controversial to speak of any doubt because of the ubiquitousness of the belief system and for the fact that the very nature of belief is that it is *firmly* held and deeply personal. I’m not intimating that the Founders were “secretly religious” or in doubt of God, simply that the social context is important when looking at history. The same is to be said when examining other aspects of American history, including slavery, the women’s suffrage movement, etc.

Alexis de Tocqueville once observed a striking contrast between Europe and the United States in the 1800s. In America, he said the spirit of liberty and the spirit of religion were not only seen as compatible but worked together mutually reinforcing the responsible practice of each. It is important that each of us defend that spirit. That we never allow the pursuit of liberty to be abridged to limit the religious practice of others, but that we equally do not allow religious beliefs to abridge the freedom of the individual.

EarthToZoey on June 5, 2009 at 3:24 PM

EarthToZoey on June 5, 2009 at 3:24 PM

I’m not intimating that the Founders were “secretly religious”…

Replace that with ‘irreligious’.

EarthToZoey on June 5, 2009 at 3:30 PM

…I hate Islam itself because it is a warrior religion idealogy created by a plagiarist warlord who raised his tribe’s Moon god above all others…

FIFY.

-Aslan’s Girl

Aslans Girl on June 5, 2009 at 4:49 PM

I say BS to calling the speech “surprisingly good.” Yeah, if you like the chin and nose up most of the time.

rlwo2008 on June 5, 2009 at 5:52 PM

Yea; What’s happening is this butt wipe playing the odds;
You play the lottery with your speeches, and you’re bound to get one winner!

Cybergeezer on June 5, 2009 at 7:02 PM

OBAMA IS GOD!

Cybergeezer on June 5, 2009 at 7:26 PM

Surprisingly good? Ed, YOU are what’s a surprise, and it isn’t “good.” There goes another one down the O-hole.

leftnomore on June 5, 2009 at 8:45 PM

I thought his speech was very insulting. It was not surprisingly good. Couldn’t believe what I just read. Obingo is a dangerous man and he thinks he is God. He isn’t God and I detest that man to the highest. He is killing our Country and is getting by with it. Makes me sick. How dare him tell Israel that they should give the Palestinian’s land for a home! Who cares! Those people will never be peaceful. Cannot wait for the day that Israel kicks butt on a few Countries over there. Wish they would hurry up and get it done with.

sheebe on June 5, 2009 at 10:19 PM

“Naturally the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”

~Hermann Goering

Ugly on June 6, 2009 at 4:04 AM

Update II: I note on Twitter that plenty of people are upset with Obama’s quoting of the Koran and his positive spin on Islam, ie, “religion of peace,” “Golden Rule,” etc.

He is in Cairo, after all, and to quote an old aphorism, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Appealing to people’s better natures is a rhetorical device with a long history — and a long history of mixed results. …..

(emphasis mine)

Ed, I guess you don’t agree with your buddy Rush that one side has to WIN in order for there to be peace and that Israel has already conceded WAY TOO much ALREADY?

Update III: I would also say that I didn’t see much apologizing for America in this speech, but that there was some; Obama mentions Gitmo and the 1950s coup d’etat in Iran. …

Oh…so now if Obama doesn’t apologize much, it’s a good speech!? So that’s the level of competence that you now lower yourself to, as a blogger?

Also, Michelle takes my point about the tenor of this speech sounding a lot like Bush’s, but she consistently objected to that in Bush’s speeches as well.

Well that’s because Bush was an appeaser as well!!

GEEZE, ED…..!!

What… are you trying to be the Pope of conservative bloggers?!

You are an extremely disappointing blogger in holding the line on all too many standards of conservatism and competence thereof.

I find you trying too hard to be nice to your syndicated columnist sponsors, for the reason of them accepting your columns.

Mcguyver on June 6, 2009 at 10:21 AM

Obama’s Cairo speech: Surprisingly good
posted at 9:28 am on June 4, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Keep up with the butt kissing title’s, Ed.
You might even beat Chris Matthews at a job in the Whitehouse.

Mcguyver on June 6, 2009 at 10:39 AM

Ed, you should be ashamed of yourself with all your butt kissing, making nice and trying to hard to endear your syndicated columns buyers.

I see that your blog hit numbers are going steadily down and that all of the true conservative commenters on this site don’t agree with you.

If you don’t apologize, I hope your site comes to utter ruin for your bullshit butt kissing and I hope all the Limbaugh letter readers write you about a million letters of disappointment, for being such a nitwit softbrained Dutch-dough-boy.

You deserve all the hell that’s coming to you from true conservatives.

Suck.

It.

Up.

Mcguyver on June 6, 2009 at 10:48 AM

Jihad Watch reader James H. referred me to the comments here. I just wanted to thank everyone for their kind words about my comments on the Obama speech. It’s a chill appeasing wind blowing everywhere, ain’t it? Maybe this site should change its name, eh?

Robert Spencer on June 6, 2009 at 12:33 PM

I see Ed has now joined the rest of the Barry Soetoro cheer leading state run media.

Ed are you trying to get a job at MSNBC or the White House?

What a disappointment you have become.

ScottyDog on June 6, 2009 at 3:35 PM

Ed are you trying to get a job at MSNBC or the White House?

What a disappointment you have become.

ScottyDog on June 6, 2009 at 3:35 PM

Chris Matthews, the pastor of Leg Tingles church, must be giving out free membership this week to the best conservative butt kisser of the week.

Mcguyver on June 6, 2009 at 4:12 PM

It’s a chill appeasing wind blowing everywhere, ain’t it? Maybe this site should change its name, eh?

Robert Spencer on June 6, 2009 at 12:33 PM

See Ed.

Your not getting any traction among conservatives with this undeserving and unqualified praise of Obama.

Yea yea, I know Ed, you say your boss says to do and say whatever you believe no matter WHAT the readers think……

That’s all fine and dandy, but it would be illuminating to know exactly what your principles are that are worth getting this much flack for.

….Oh wait… maybe you don’t have any principles? And you’re just fishing for support and flattery? And if so, from who? From George S.? (George being a fictional character that gives money to those who praise Obama).

You know… perhaps if you could find some brass balls like Rush got for his fighting spirit, you wouldn’t have to settle for cotton balls for testicles.

Mcguyver on June 6, 2009 at 4:30 PM

Ed,

You’ve lost it with this one. What the heck are you thinking??? I’m getting worried about you.

scharlesc on June 6, 2009 at 10:04 PM

As Ed has totally screwed this one up, here is a better assessment:

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1244035008682&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

The comparison of Palestinians to American blacks was totally ridiculous and Obama overlooking many of the oppressive policies that are present even in “moderate” Muslim countries made this an exercise in moral equivalence.

Sad to see Ed go down the same street of failure like Allah. Michelle should blow these two out of here. No wonder traffic is down.

echosyst on June 6, 2009 at 10:25 PM

Barack (Big Brother) Obama’s Speech was doubleplusgood. I heard it on the prolefeed from the Ministry of truth.

I dare not say that in my opinion it was doubleplusungood or I will be sent down the memory hole.

Geochelone on June 7, 2009 at 4:57 AM

Who are you kidding? Suprisingly good? Do you know anything about Islam?

Mark

http://mark24609.blogspot.com/2009/06/obamas-message-to-islam.html

mark24609 on June 8, 2009 at 1:22 AM

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