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The Rundown

8 a.m. ET: Before much of Washington was even awake this morning, President Obama had already stirred controversy on the other side of the world, delivering a much-anticipated address in Cairo that touched on everything from Israel and Iran to women's rights and his own Muslim roots. Fittingly for a speech that ranged so widely, initial reactions have been all over the map.

Obama said he came to Cairo "to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition."

The New York Times says Obama "delivered a sweeping message that was forceful and, at times, scolding." Tweeting from Cairo, Howard Schneider writes: "Halftime analysis from the crowd: lets see how he implements it." The Wall Street Journal writes Obama was "shrewd" to include a passage on women's rights, "noteworthy coming from the father of two girls." Obama got a standing ovation at the end, and Christiane Amanpour called the speech "a continuation of President Obama's detente" with the Muslim world.

Inviting mockery from some quarters, Obama cited his own background: "I am a Christian, but my father came from a Kenyan family that includes generations of Muslims. As a boy, I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of the azaan at the break of dawn and the fall of dusk. As a young man, I worked in Chicago communities where many found dignity and peace in their Muslim faith." Mike Allen calls the comments "by far the most extensive he has made about his Muslim roots." Haaretz noted Obama's "blunt repudiation of Israel's settlement enterprise in the West Bank, an issue that has strained Washington's ties with Jerusalem."

Obama also came close to apologizing for the U.S. invasion of Iraq, a move that will certainly play badly in some ideological circles. "Although I believe that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, I also believe that events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible," Obama said. Also playing badly, to Michael Rubin on The Corner, is Obama's studious avoidance of the word "terrorism."

"No single speech can eradicate years of mistrust," Obama said. And it does seem that expectations were such that the president couldn't possible change millions of minds with his words this morning. Speaking to Egyptians, the New York Times reports "all the polish and all the excitement will fade shortly after Air Force One lifts off, most people here say, if nothing changes in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict." The New Republic's Michael Crowley spoke to an Egyptian dissident who called Obama's failure to push harder for democracy in the country "a huge disappointment, not only from Egypt's perspective but for reformers all over the world. It's not in line with what he promised during the campaign, or with his inaugural speech on January 20."

Obama's arrival in Saudi Arabia yesterday came as new audiotapes purportedly of Osama Bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri were released condemning the U.S. president and claiming his policies are a repeat of his predecessor's. The administration argues the tapes are evidence that al Qaeda feels threatened by Obama. Putting aside whether American policies have changed, the impact of such recordings certainly have. It wasn't long ago that a new Bin Laden tape would have warranted wall-to-wall news coverage. Yesterday it was noted, but never became the focus of the day.

By Ben Pershing  |  June 4, 2009; 8:02 AM ET
Go to full archive for The Rundown »

COMMENTS

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The selling of America. He's selling it right from under our noses to the very people we fought to stay free.

Way to go, Voters!

Posted by: GordonShumway | June 4, 2009 8:21 AM

As President Obama indicated, it was a speech to mark a new beginning. No American President has previously delivered a speech directed at the Muslim people in which all the main issues of contention were addressed. It is long past the time for westerners to stop equating all Muslims with terrorism. This was a speech of decency, respect and tolerance. Clearly actions are now needed. They will take time, patience, goodwill and co-operation. Sadly, he is not Aladdin with a genie in a bottle. So, critics who want instant solutions and action better quit their make believe world and come into the real one. He cannot change the world on his own. Looking at all the problems in the Middle East through the prisms of the past, will not lead to solutions. It is easy to say he will fail. It is far harder, and better, to help him succeed.

Posted by: mharvie | June 4, 2009 8:30 AM

About time we started using diplomacy and our position as the leading democracy to start positive changes for the better.

Posted by: builder701 | June 4, 2009 8:50 AM

A message to GordonShumway (first poster). Oh, my, how you hide your head. George Bush sold our country to everyone who he would need to finance his unjustifiable wars (funny man, just the other day he said he went to war to save American lives -- I guess he didn't count the over 4,000 soldiers who have died), and then, to add more financial destruction, allowed the greedy Republicans of his Party to bankrupt the country of its riches. China and the Arabs, dear Sir, own us now, and it will be years before we can get out from under the internal economic damage. Bottom line: we were sold a long time ago. Please do your reading before you proffer words of hate. No one minds a good debate and opposing views; what people mind are mindless, hostile, hateful words that are devoid of facts, and do not forward a dialog that just might get us to a compromise -- oh, as Obama is trying to do, to save us -- and the planet -- from a growing, new world that has the ability to destroy everyone.

Posted by: lrb100 | June 4, 2009 8:56 AM

OMG Pres. Obama has a Muslim background? If you listen to his critics you'd think it was breaking news.

Posted by: AverageJane | June 4, 2009 9:07 AM

I agree with Irb: there is no need for Shumway's negativity and ignorance. I have only one question for him: when did the U.S. ever fight a war with Egypt to "stay free". He must be confusing Egypt with England, the only country to ever invade the U.S. (as such) in 1812. Check the history.

One small point about Iraq. The scandal of the American invasion continues to get worse as it was revealed that one of the contractors billed the U.S. millions for armoured vehicles that it not only hadn't delivered but never even built! At a time when the U.S. was flying in dollar bills by the pallet load and no one was checking the invoices, it's no wonder such swindles were rampant. One of the criminals behind the scheme is named Kafka. Tja.

Chris Brown in Hamburg

Posted by: chrisbrown12 | June 4, 2009 9:35 AM

Are Jews Ready for Obama's World? Probably not: Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman:

In Cairo today, the real Barack Obama showed up. The question is whether we Jews are ready. During the campaign, candidate Obama was very careful to court the Jewish vote. He even went so far as to declare Jerusalem the united capital of Israel. While he said often that his presidency would be about change, many Jews were lulled into believing that change would skip over us.

In Cairo, the real Obama showed up. Many Jews will analyze every word with a microscope and weigh what President Obama said about Israelis versus what he said about Palestinians, searching for nuances that either reveal a latent bias to the Palestinians or find comfort in his continued support for and identification with Israel and its unique relationship with the United States.

Over the next few days, countless articles will be written, analyzing whether President Obama is "good for the Jews" or "bad for the Jews." This conversation, however, reflects most deeply how unprepared we are for Obama's world.

http://hartman.org.il/Opinion_C_View_Eng.asp?Article_Id=353

Posted by: aabbey1 | June 4, 2009 10:16 AM

I am incredibly proud of our President and our country today. This speech could never imaginably fully please everyone. To pander to one group would be to alienate himself from another. Obama was stuck between a rock and a hard place trying to balance the demands of so many ears.

But Obama made the tough decisions, showing understanding of the faults and needs of the Arab world, Israel, and even the United States. This is the kind of diplomacy that can help start to transform our perception in the world. A landmark speech that I hope can start to address the true fight against terrorism- information and education.

Posted by: mlyons2 | June 4, 2009 10:21 AM

aabbey1....

I'm a Jew. I support Pres. Obama. Please don't lump all Jews in with this lunatic fringe of folks who think that building settlements is a good idea and that Israel can do no wrong. It can and currently is.

A lot of us are very ready for what the President wants, and that's peace and if you ask me it is a desire that bridges gaps over religion.

Posted by: rawk | June 4, 2009 10:22 AM

Obama is selling America alright.

He's selling the version of America that has attracted generations of immigrants to this country -- and which has -- at times -- inspired other nations.

The speech overall was good. The timing was excellent too. He's making a number of smart moves and developing the ground work for future diplomacy. It's a lot easier to negotiate a position when there is a reservoir of goodwill as opposed to one of mutual hostility and resentment.

Count this as another one of the campaign promises that Obama has delivered on (or at least made the promised downpayment). There are a number of factors that remain out of his control, but he's doing a very good job managing multiple challenges.

Posted by: JPRS | June 4, 2009 10:24 AM

"The selling of America. He's selling it right from under our noses to the very people we fought to stay free.

Way to go, Voters!

Posted by: GordonShumway "

Time to go back to Melmac, Gordon.

Posted by: tracymohr | June 4, 2009 10:24 AM

Herr Hartmann, Dear Abbey,

Is there such as a thing as "the jews". Your concept of Jerusalem as "the united capital" is also a distortion. What Obama said was that he recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, nothing about an exclusively "jewish" capital.

Your concept of an Obama world (as opposed to what a Bush-world? a McCain World? a Hartman world? multiply by bilions of worlds?) is also devisive. We live in one world, planet Earth.

The intersting change that you can believe in or not is in Israel. Netanyahu suddenly claims there was some under the table deal cut with Bush and Rice giving Israel the right to build as many settlements as they see fit in the Occupied Territories, even though the terms of the stalled "road map" were clearly otherwise. Is he accusing Rice of lying?

Chris Brown in Hamburg

Posted by: chrisbrown12 | June 4, 2009 10:28 AM

"The selling of America. He's selling it right from under our noses to the very people we fought to stay free."
I think we fought to stay free of the British and the Nazis. While 9/11 is totally unjustified and murderous, the attackers were not Egyptians, Palestinians, or even Iraqis. They were Saudis, Bush friends. No wonder Bush was catatonic in Florida- he couldn't believe his friends did it. His response- attack the Iraqis and torture everybody to link Iraq to 9/11. And BTW, never forget what we did to Iran in the 50s - topple the elected government and install the Shah and his SAVAK. Those wounds may never heal specially if a friend or relative was murdered by SAVAK (courtesy of the CIA).

Posted by: bgreston | June 4, 2009 11:03 AM

The President has called the world to its common values. One wonders what the effect of his words might have been had his predecessor delivered them after 9/11. Nevertheless, cynics who insist that these values have been obliterated over the past eight years give themselves too much credit. America has survived their time in office, and the world may yet turn to our country as a source of leadership.

Posted by: thewolf1 | June 4, 2009 12:28 PM

I read the speech. I found it thoughtful and sometimes inspiring, at other times a bit too predictable in its rhetorical style. I don't see anything in this speech that indicates that he has inappropriately apologized, wimped out, or sold out. He has told the truth about our history.

Obama will reap a firestorm of criticism for this speech, and I'll be quite surprised if the loudest of that criticism turns out to be even remotely rational. I will be saddened when the American right, AIPAC, and others howl. I will be even more saddened if it turns out that too few Muslim attitudes are changed for the better.

Full disclosure: I'm a centrist Democrat and a committed Christian.

Posted by: post_reader_in_wv | June 4, 2009 12:45 PM

Contrary to what one "Egyptian Dissident" claimed, I found the bit in Obama's speech about governments needing to guarantee the rights of its citizens, guarantee equality, freedom, maintain transparency and accountability to the will of the people; the bit about having a superficial elections not making one free or a democracy; I found all this to be a thinly veiled critique of the current Egyptian government.

Posted by: aucegypt2009 | June 4, 2009 12:48 PM

I arose early to hear the speech live and found it to meet 9but not exceed) my expectations. What does exceed my expectations about this President is that he seems very capable of "planning the work AND working the plan."

Clearly the efforts before Obama were going NOWHERE. His attempt to start on a different trajectory is timely and I am optimistic that the freedom loving people of the region and the world will rally to out standard bearer.

Posted by: gandalfthegrey | June 4, 2009 1:16 PM

I'd like to see what type of speech President Obama's opponents on this blog would have given in a Islamic country as well as the reaction the world would give them afterward. It is one of probably many speeches and behind the scenes policy discussions that must happen if people really want peace in the world. This is simply a first step down a walking journey of 1,000 miles. This had to happen before you reach the more substantive parts of the journey. At least it happened and the President should have our support. Where has our outrage, stereotypes, tough talk and name calling gotten us for the last 40 years? Time to try a new approach. I think this is a smart way to start...we can always revert back to threats (which were not successful) if diplomacy doesn't work. The man has been President for just over 5 months. Contrary to Rush Limbaugh's "magical negro" statement, President Obama, or any man can't just wave his arms, give a speech and presto! Change the world. Especially with all the naysayers deliberately trying to sabotage the man's ideas at ever turn with negativism, name-calling and outright stupidity.

Posted by: gtaylor301 | June 4, 2009 3:00 PM

The audience in Cairo this morning had the privilege of hearing first-hand one of the great speeches of the century, and one of the bravest. If ever a people has been granted the right leader for their time, it’s us, now, with Obama. Yes, he was eloquent, but that’s the least of it. What matters -- what makes it great and important statement for our time -- is the breadth and calm of Obama’s historic vision, the clarity of his thought, and the power of his humanity.

If his listeners, in and outside of the U.S., can rise to the challenge, Obama will have finally put the long international nightmare of the Cheney-Bush years behind us, and opened a credible path toward a peaceful, prosperous & tolerant future.

Posted by: NYCObserver | June 4, 2009 3:02 PM

American voters should beware of newly elected presidents uttering silky phrases to any audiences, at home or abroad. Obama is a Trojan Horse. That's not a compliment.

Posted by: CharlesGriffith1 | June 4, 2009 5:55 PM

American voters should beware of newly elected presidents uttering silky phrases to any audiences, at home or abroad. Obama is a Trojan Horse. That's not a compliment.

Posted by: CharlesGriffith1 | June 4, 2009 6:02 PM

It was an awesome speech. Grown-up, honest and forthright. We are truly blessed to have this guy at the helm.

Mitt Romney will no doubt try his "Apology Tour" line again in commenting on this speech because Obama had the audacity to acknowledge our overthrow of a democratically-elected government in Iran (because they were going to nationalize their oil in 1953 and Big Oil wouldn't stand for it). It's a shame that Republicans have forgotten the Golden Rule. But at least our president remembers it.

Posted by: B2O2 | June 4, 2009 6:38 PM

The Speech was moving, honest from the heart...but the content disturbing.

It's alright to respect other cultures and religions.....but not to go out of the way and bend over to appease.....almost compromising the shining beacon of leadership image that America has had in upholding democracy, human/ civil/ women's rights.

And who is he trying to appease?.....a dictatorial non secular goverment in Egypt that hasn't seen free and fair elections for decades....

and a day before that in non-democratic, non-secular, lowest human and feminie rights state in the world of saudi....where women are not allowed to be on the streets alone even in Abayas and get whipped and people beheaded in public...whihc still carries the Draconian blood-Law?

It was disturbing to hear where Obama's genuine sympathies lie.

a_D



Posted by: anu_d | June 4, 2009 9:37 PM

America, formed as a christian nation "One Nation Under God". It is easy for a Muslim raised Obama to quote The "Holy" Qur'an before The Holy Bible! Obama claims he is a Christian, yet denies the first commandment Exodus 20:3-5
3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

Allah is not my God nor the God of any practicing Christian. Any efforts by our alleged Christian President to support Muslims or cause our nation, (the greater part of being Christian) to serve The muslim religion or community economically, socially or in any other fashion is in direct contradiction of the highest law.
And before any adhoc theologians wish to erase the authority of the old testament spouting verses out of what Christ said, Jesus said, I have not come to remove the law but to uphold it!

I myself unable to speak for others, will not support any such legislation or political move to serve any other god or a religion that does so.

I have noted the predominance of Obama supporters commenting! this should be as much about Religious Freedom for Christians as it is for Muslims! Surely our Founding Fathers did not envision this religious invasion of our country set to destroy the morals and values that they held in highest regard.

Posted by: jonnathon_grimmett | June 5, 2009 1:23 AM

I felt that the speech was good, well delivered, but most importantly it was smart. If we can speak to the moderate Islamists, and to the moderate Israelis, and the moderate Arabs, we can truly effect public opinion in the middle east. It is their opinions that will drive the peace process. The majority of the people on this earth are moderate politically in terms of their faith; not islamic extremist, not right wing jewish nationalist, not right wing christian.

Most disturbing, is the fact that the neocons here at home drove public opinion using fear of Islam in order to, what looks like, justify a war against an enemy of our nation (a nation that formerly threatened the father of our then president) and profits were reaped. Wait to see what Cheney's delayed Haliburton payouts will be next time he files his taxes.

Our very nation was founded by those who travelled here in order to live in a country for those free to live and express their religious views.

Posted by: seanachai1 | June 5, 2009 2:45 AM

If our president was brilliant he would shine.
Shining means to live for others.
It does not mean ride the fence, appease the crowd, nor bow to other almighty gods by appealing to their leaders.
Life is a short thing. We must not always get what we want-but seek the truth. If Obama is a wolf in sheeps clothing, we must stand for what is right and change his view of Israel. I truly feel that Israel is in need of freedom that we can uphold. If Israel is not on a platform with the USA, our country will falter. Why not seek a democracy or the seeds of a democracy in Egypt to attain freedoms there? He made some promises that he is not able to keep...we are unprepared for an OBAMA world. This does not mean he is failing, he is doing the mediocre job he intended to do, being the "appeaser' we all need at times, but he's not a force for other countries to reckon with. But he may WRECK the nation in his fence riding mahem.

Posted by: USAkeepusfree | June 5, 2009 1:51 PM

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