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Back to the Grind

Have all those inspiring words -- most recently in Cairo and Normandy -- set the bar too high for the Obama presidency?

Jonathan Weisman and Laura Meckler write in the Wall Street Journal: "President Barack Obama returned home from abroad Sunday to find that his own oratory laying out an ever-more-ambitious agenda, both in foreign and domestic policy, is ratcheting up demands for concrete achievements."

Mike Allen writes for Politico: "Obama is moving into a new season of his presidency where it's clear that his celebrity is going to be durable, and now he wants to start leveraging it to add clear accomplishments on a long list of issues that have flummoxed his predecessors."

New York Times opinion columnist Roger Cohen describes Obama's central formula as calling upon people to view "differences honestly, air them, recognize our common humanity, overcome mistrust, build coalitions through seeing our shared interests, and rise above hurt by valuing the future's promise over the past's scourge. What saves this message from the tawdry is Obama's own embodiment of these values in his unlikely life story, his tremendous intellectual courage, and his gift for empathy. The Cairo speech was a brave idea executed with sensitivity." But now, he writes: "All the rhetorical groundwork the president has now laid — on Iran, Israel-Palestine, the Muslim world — will come to nothing if high principle is not matched by street-smart cunning and maneuver. Obama's got to get off the podium and down into the bazaar if he's going to come home with the goods."

Alan Cowell writes in the New York Times about Obama's soaring D-Day speech in Normandy: "Whatever has happened before, Mr. Obama seemed to say repeatedly, can be overcome. 'You remind us that in the end, human destiny is not determined by forces beyond our control,' he told veterans of the D-Day landings in Normandy on Saturday. 'Our history has always been the sum total of the choices made and the actions taken by each individual man and woman. It has always been up to us.'"

Here is Obama on the Middle East, from his remarks in France on Saturday in a joint appearance with the French president: "Both sides are going to have obligations. I've discussed the importance of a cessation of settlement construction, but I also want to reemphasize, because that's gotten more attention than what I've also said, which is the Palestinians have to renounce violence, end incitement, improve their governance capacity so that Israelis can be confident that the Palestinians can follow through on any commitments they make across the table."

Here's Obama on North Korea, in the same appearance: "North Korea's actions over the last several months have been extraordinarily provocative and they have made no bones about the fact that they are testing nuclear weapons, testing missiles that potentially would have intercontinental capacity.... My preference is always to use a diplomatic approach. But diplomacy has to involve the other side engaging in a serious way in trying to solve problems. And we have not seen that kind of reaction from North Korea. So we will continue to consult with our allies. We'll continue to consult with all the parties who previously have been involved in the six-party talks. But we are going to take a very hard look at how we move forward on these issues, and I don't think that there should be an assumption that we will simply continue down a path in which North Korea is constantly destabilizing the region and we just react in the same ways by, after they've done these things for a while, then we reward them."

Edwin Chen and Julianna Goldman write for Bloomberg: "As Obama concludes his fourth trip abroad as president, he has added to his portfolio, playing First Tourist... From Ottawa to Paris, his often unexpected appearances win the attention of the local citizenry while serving up a sharp contrast to the style of his predecessor, who rarely took in the sights and sounds of the countries he visited.... Obama, a self-described 'student of history,' was particularly enthusiastic about visiting the pyramids, aides said."

AFP reports: "A US 'taster' tested the food being dished up to President Barack Obama at a dinner in a French restaurant, a waiter said Sunday. 'They have someone who tastes the dishes,' said waiter Gabriel de Carvalho from the 'La Fontaine de Mars' restaurant where Obama and his family turned up for dinner on Saturday night."

By Dan Froomkin  |  June 8, 2009; 2:26 PM ET
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How refreshing to have a President who can go out in public without enraging the locals, both domestic and foreign. But the real reason Bush never went out in public anywhere was because he wasn't interested in anything... except biking, I guess.

Posted by: stephenlouis | June 8, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Please, PLEASE change the name of this blog to the "Why I loathe Bush and love Obama" blog. You completely and utterly suspend any journalistic impulses when it comes to your mancrush on the present Administration, and keep going back to the former one to feed your congenital need to keep poking sticks in the eyes of guys who left the White House half a year ago.

I'm begging. I know it won't do any good, but I am anyway.

Posted by: keithward64 | June 8, 2009 6:03 PM | Report abuse

"congenital need to keep poking sticks in the eyes of guys who left the White House half a year ago."

Look around you. Administrations don't operate in a bubble, and the impact of their decisions often lasts much longer than their terms.

But I can understand why Bush-supporting flat earthers would want to change the subject. It interferes with the "it was the Democrats' fault" line of blame and deflection that always follows Republican presidencies.

Posted by: BigTunaTim | June 9, 2009 10:00 AM | Report abuse

I disagree with Keithward that there's a bias as described--and moreover also believe the old crew's dirty laundry that's still being cleaned up--and the fact that Cheney's been on TV more than he was in the last term--combine to make them worthy of some eye poking...and the new folks, while making mistakes, are a noticable improvement over the last administration.

Posted by: Cubby_Michael | June 9, 2009 11:03 AM | Report abuse

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