8 a.m. ET: Yesterday around this time, President Obama was delivering an historic speech to the Muslim world, an address that included tough words for Israel and recognition that "the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable." Roughly an hour from now, Obama will pay tribute to victims of the Holocaust by touring Buchenwald concentration camp with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The contrast between Thursday's agenda and today's neatly encapsulates the ambitious scope of Obama's trip. Of course, yesterday's address mixed empathy for the Palestinians with a firm defense of Israel's right to exist. And it included both veiled criticisms of his predecessor's policies and a broader defense of America's efforts to combat terror. So is the president trying to be all things to all people? Is this arrogance or, to borrow from a book title, audacity?
The Economist called the Cairo speech "a superb oratorical performance" that "will bring hope across the Middle East and farther afield." But The Washington Post reports that "his efforts to use new language to recast old grievances have already prompted debate and consternation in some quarters." And words aside, what will Obama actually do next on the several fronts covered in his address. "Despite his often soaring rhetoric, the president actually outlined a strategic agenda for U.S. interests that is narrowly defined and limited in scope," Robert Satloff writes in The New Republic.
Appearing earlier today at a press conference with Merkel, Obama reiterated his commitment to finding a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, but he added that "the United States can't force peace upon the parties." Obama has also been working to persuade Germany and other European allies to help him close the prison at Guantanamo Bay by agreeing to take some detainees, though he said today he didn't seek any firm commitment from Merkel today. Obama can only hope that he has some luck on that front while he's abroad, because as the Washington Times writes, he "isn't finding any takers in the U.S." .
Coincidentally or not, on a day when most of the press was preoccupied with events across the world, Michelle Obama announced a shakeup in the East Wing. Jackie Norris is out as the First Lady's chief of staff, and Susan Sher is in. Oddly, the White House statement on the move did not give any reason for it, not even that Norris wished to spend more time with her family.
Also on domestic soil, the administration's supplemental spending request has stalled on Capitol Hill. House Democratic leaders decided to put off a vote on the measure, originally slated for today, until next week, Though there is broad bipartisan agreement on the need for cash to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the bill has become bogged down over White House requests for the IMF and to close the prison at Guanatanamo Bay.
And Sonia Sotomayor's full Judiciary Committee questionnaire was released yesterday, as well as dozens of past speeches that shed light on both her judicial philosophy and personal views on ethnicity and other issues. Shockingly, the questionnaire revealed that the White House first contacted Sotomayor about the Supreme Court opening before David Souter announced his retirement. Does Obama employ psychics? That seems to be the only plausible explanation. The questionnaire can also serve as a window on the nominee's prioriites. Reuters notes that Sotomayor did not include the famous New Haven firefighters' case as being among the most significant of her judicial career, but did include her 1995 decision that helped end the Major League Baseball strike.
June 5, 2009; 8:15 AM ET
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