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Renouncing Bush's Worldview

A whole speech about Islam, and President Obama didn't use the word "terrorists" even once?

Obama's conservative critics, along with some media observers, are up in arms -- which is a real testament to how effectively the Bush administration linked the one word to the other.

Indeed, it was a key part of its concerted campaign to stoke the public fears that made possible a global war that, in terms of scope and tactics, went far beyond anything that would have otherwise been remotely acceptable to the American public.

Here's how Politico's Josh Gerstein described Obama's offense:

In a nearly 6,000-word address Thursday extending an olive branch to the Muslim world, President Barack Obama managed never to utter the one word that comes to mind most often when many Americans think about Islam: terrorism.

Obama's attempt to "decouple Islam entirely from those who perpetrate violence" was "just one aspect of his speech that seems sure to draw fire from conservatives, and particularly those who are strong supporters of Israel, Gerstein wrote.

On CNN, Wolf Blitzer repeatedly marveled -- and not in a good way -- at Obama's "refusal" to use the term.

Or as Glenn Kessler and Jacqueline L. Salmon write in The Washington Post, "his efforts to use new language to recast old grievances have already prompted debate and consternation in some quarters."

But Obama's careful word choices were another major step in unraveling one of the most toxic rhetorical legacies of the Bush era.

Daniel Levy writes for TPM Cafe:

Gone was the arrogance and lecturing....Out too was the purple finger version of democratization and even the traditional American condescension toward the Palestinian narrative. But perhaps most remarkably of all, the words 'terror' or 'terrorism' did not pass the president's lips. Here was a leader and a team around him smart enough to acknowledge that certain words have become too tainted, too laden with baggage, their use has become counter-productive, today the Global War on Terror framing was truly laid to rest.

Robert Dreyfuss blogs for the Nation:

[B]y not mentioning "terror" or "terrorism" in his 55-minute address, Obama has formally turned the corner on the post-9/11 nightmare conjured by President Bush and his ilk. If Obama sustains this, it has enormous potential not only to improve US relations with the Muslim world. It will utterly alter the discourse inside the United States, which for nearly eight long years has been distorted by the fear-mongering, Muslim-bashing, Osama-inflating, homeland security-worrying neoconservatives and their political allies.

He adds:

Interesting, isn't it, that...the only criticism of the Cairo speech is coming from (1) the neocons and their allies, and (2) Osama bin Laden, who is clearly panicking about Obama's play for mainstream and conservative Muslim opinion. Strange bedfellows, indeed.

(See also today's Cartoon Watch.)

Gary Kamiya writes for Salon that

George W. Bush's "war on terror," which culminated in his invasion of Iraq, foolishly treated all militant Islamist groups as America's enemies and made the paranoid neoconservative idea of a "clash of civilizations" a self-fulfilling prophecy...

Fanatics like al-Qaida have little standing in the Arab/Muslim world, and Bush's ill-advised conflation of them with groups that do have popular followings only enhanced their popularity. By rejecting "terrorism" as the defining term for America's Middle East policy, and by abandoning Bush's amorphous and unwinnable "war" against it, Obama instantly recast America's entire relationship with the Middle East. The era of moralistic and self-defeating name-calling in U.S. Middle East foreign policy appears to be over.

Steven Waldman writes for Beliefnet: "Obama's speech reminds us that 9/11 needn't have led to a conflict between the West and Islam. It's a reminder of the road not taken."

So what went wrong? Waldman says Bush himself "maintained a generous attitude toward Islam," but

the base of his party, religious conservatives, did not -- and Bush went along. A major Protestant leader referred to Muhammad as a "demon-possessed pedophile," another called Islam a "vile, wicked religion." Bush's spokesmen would occasionally aver that the President disagreed with such sentiments but their [sic] was no indignation and before long anti-Islamic rhetoric became absolutely commonplace in evangelical circles.

When General Gerry Boykin made his famous comments that his God was "a real God" and that of Islam "was an idol." Boykin was not fired and, indeed, was involved in torture policy. It turns out, during this time, the military intelligence briefings were arriving on Bush's desk adorned with Bible quotes. Muslims who believed this was a Holy War against them, it turns out, had at least some evidence for that notion.

All of that paled in comparison to the prolonged Iraq war and the photos from Abu Ghraib -- including evidence that torturers specifically used mockery of Islam as a torture technique.

Welcome back, America, says the New York Times editorial board:

When President Bush spoke in the months and years after Sept. 11, 2001, we often — chillingly — felt as if we didn't recognize the United States. His vision was of a country racked with fear and bent on vengeance, one that imposed invidious choices on the world and on itself. When we listened to President Obama speak in Cairo on Thursday, we recognized the United States.

Another aspect of Obama's speech that was particularly galling to his critics was his attempt to see both sides of various issues -- particularly the Arab-Israeli conflict. Although he insisted that America's bond to Israel is "unbreakable," Obama spoke about the Israelis and Palestinians with an even-handedness that would have been unthinkable coming from Bush. And that was Bush in public. (Another point Obama made was that -- in contrast to, say, the secret deals Bush reached with the Israelis -- "America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs.")

Michael Slackman writes in the New York Times:

On one level, President Obama's speech succeeded in reaching out to Muslims across the Middle East, winning widespread praise for his respectful approach, his quotations from the Koran and his forthright references to highly fraught political conflicts.

But Mr. Obama's calibrated remarks also asked listeners in a region shaken by hatred to take two steps that have long been anathema: forgetting the past and understanding an opposing view. For a president who proclaimed a goal of asking people to listen to uncomfortable truths, it was clear that parts of his speech resonated deeply with his intended audience and others fell on deaf ears, in Israel as well as the Muslim world.

Marc Lynch blogs for Foreign Policy:

I don't think I have ever heard any American politician, much less President, so eloquently, empathetically, and directly equate the suffering and aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians....

He posed sharp challenges to Israelis and Palestinians alike, directly addressing the realities of Palestinian life under occupation and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza while also empathizing with Israeli fears. He positioned the U.S. as the even-handed broker it needs to be.

In this country, critics more accustomed to the Neocon, pick-a-side world view disparaged this as the worst kind of moral equivalency.

And the most ardent Bush/Cheney dead-enders lashed out by calling Obama's comments -- particularly those in which he acknowledged that emotional reactions at the highest levels of government led America after 9/11 to "act contrary to our traditions and our ideals" -- essentially treasonous.

Liz Cheney, the daughter of the former vice president, said on CNN of this country's terrorist enemies:

I'm sure they took heart from the president going onto foreign soil and saying that in the aftermath of 9/11, the United States abandoned -- fell short of its values.

Former Bush speechwriter (and torture defender) Marc Thiessen writes in a USA Today op-ed:

On foreign soil, he accused our intelligence community of committing torture — validating years of al-Qaeda propaganda in the region. He talked about closing Guantanamo Bay without any defense of the good men and women who run it — even though his own attorney general, Eric Holder, has admitted it was a model prison.

Instead, he echoed al-Qaeda's calumnies against our military and intelligence communities — and did so in a foreign land. This was shameful and unprecedented. They deserved better from their commander in chief.

Of course, all Obama was speaking was the plain truth. And all of this takes me back to June 2005, when -- in what became the ultimate symbol of the Republican party's crass politicization of national security -- Bush political guru Karl Rove suggested that liberals sympathized with the enemy and were intent on endangering American troops.

Some conservative critics took a different tack -- arguing that Obama hadn't really departed that far from Bush's principles.

Blogger Hugh Hewitt complained of the "false idea" that the ideas in Obama's speech "represent a huge break with the Bush Administration's policies with regard to Islam. Of course they don't."

The Wall Street Journal editorial board writes:

One benefit of the Obama Presidency is that it is validating much of George W. Bush's security agenda and foreign policy merely by dint of autobiographical rebranding. That was clear enough yesterday in Cairo, where President Obama advertised "a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world." But what he mostly offered were artfully repackaged versions of themes President Bush sounded with his freedom agenda. We mean that as a compliment, albeit with a couple of large caveats.

And indeed, as David Corn blogs for Congressional Quarterly: "It is not hard to imagine George W. Bush, as president, saying" some of "those same words."

Yet millions of people at home and abroad would not have believed his claim to have no interest in sustaining a US military presence in Afghanistan, Iraq or anywhere else. Why? Well, if you don't know, you slept through the first eight years of this century. The fine words that Bush did frequently speak about promoting democracy abroad and protecting the world from tyrants and terrorists were undermined by his misrepresentations of the actual threats (see WMDs in Iraq) and his actions (see rushing to war in Iraq when the UN weapons inspections process was under way and working).

So what's next? Jeffrey Fleishman writes in the Los Angeles Times:

The words were a start, but the question here remains: Is Obama the face of genuine change in U.S. foreign policy or will he merely offer a sparkle of promise before he is overwhelmed by troubles from the bombed alleys of the Gaza Strip to the mountains of Afghanistan?

In a roundtable interview after his speech yesterday with regional reporters, Obama faced repeated question about what he would do if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected American demands to stop expanding Israeli settlements in the Palestinian West Bank. Obama said he had faith.

I believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu will recognize the strategic need to deal with this issue. And that in some ways he may have an opportunity that a labor or more left leader might not have. There's the famous example of Richard Nixon going to China. A Democrat couldn't have gone to China. A liberal couldn't have gone to China. But a big, anti-communist like Richard Nixon could open that door.

He refused to set a timetable:

Netanyahu has only been in office, what is it, a month and a half? I mean, since the government formed. I mean, he was elected April 1st. So, two months. We've been waiting 60 years. So we maybe might just want to try a few more months before everybody starts looking at doomsday scenarios.

Obama had tough words for the Palestinian Hamas faction, which currently rules Gaza.

If Hamas's approach is based on the idea that Israel will cease to exist, that's an illusion. And what that means is that they are more interested in talk than in results. If they are serious about delivering a Palestinian state, then they should renounce violence, accept the framework provided by the previous agreements, recognize Israel's right to exist. That still leaves enormous room for them to negotiate on a whole host of issues. But at minimum they can't provide the results for the people they claim to represent if they're not acknowledging reality. So, you know, this is really a decision for Hamas to make.

And, asked why he hadn't made his first major speech to Muslims in Indonesia, where he spent part of his childhood, Obama replied:

I thought it was important to come to Cairo because I think, if we're honest, the greatest tension when it comes to the relationship between the Muslim world and the United States in recent years has centered around the Middle East. In some ways, going to Indonesia would almost be cheating -- (laughter) -- because I would have a home court advantage.

By Dan Froomkin  |  June 5, 2009; 12:30 PM ET
Categories:  Middle East  
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Comments

Why do CNN and others even consider Liz Cheney for expert opinions! She is a lawyer and Daddy Cheney's little girl who was handed plum jobs because of Cheney. I guess she is taking after her old man by NOT serving in the military yet professing a worldly knowledge of strategic national interests, considering herself an expert on interrogation techniques (what is and what is not torture), and so obviously rabidly anti-Obama she cannot express an unbiased point of view. Enough of her!

Posted by: cpusss | June 5, 2009 12:58 PM | Report abuse

It shouldn't be surprising that Wolf Blitzer was upset about the lack of terror references given that he used to work for AIPAC.

What struck me was the media's use of words like "stunning" and "extraordinary" to describe a speech that simply offered a balanced American policy towards millions of people in a critical region of the world.

I'm proud of the President for giving the speech and hope he now backs it up with action.

Posted by: jds35 | June 5, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Al-Qaida could not exist, let alone flourish, were it not for the silence, acquiesence and support of the worlds Islamic population. Its members didn't spring from the earth without parents, siblings and extended families who fail to rat them out or stop supporting them. So until the Episcopalians start strapping on suicide vests or Baptists start planting roadside bombs, we'll just have to have a right ol' fear of what the Islamists want to do to us.

Posted by: ronjaboy | June 5, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

"On foreign soil, [Obama] accused our intelligence community of committing torture — validating years of al-Qaeda propaganda in the region." -Marc Thiessen

That one sentence says so many things about the neoconservative mindset. First, it's notable to them that Obama made these comments on foreign soil, presumably because it somehow makes us seem weaker. Then there's the fully expected inherent denial that torture ever took place, since we were merely interrogating in an enhanced manner. Third, they have no idea that propaganda based on truth and reality isn't propaganda, it's reporting. (A corollary to this is that many of them will accuse me of being an Al Qaeda supporter for pointing that out.) Fourth, there's almost a sense of pride that they held the "secret" for so long until Obama ruined it for everyone. And lastly, it's clear that admitting to the torture was infinitely worse in their view than the torture itself.

Do we have any Bull Moose members here? How about Whigs? Is there any reason to believe at this point that the GOP won't suffer the same fate at the rate they've cratered into madness?

Posted by: BigTunaTim | June 5, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Well said, Tim!

Posted by: dbitt | June 5, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

one person's "terrorist" is another person's freedom fighter.

Bush had a knack for making words, words like terrorism, into one word punch lines. Every time I hear the word "Homeland" I get visions of Germans in brown shirts.

At least Obama didn't appologize for being an American.

Posted by: mdsinc | June 5, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse

To Ronjaboy:
In fact, the Christianists just completed another act of domestic terrorism, i.e., violence to advance a political agenda, by murdering Dr. Tiller. The record of Christianist terror against family planning clinics is lengthy and well documented. Bombings, murder, extensive vandalism, intimidation, slander, and harassment are all tools in the Christianist toolbox.

I ain't afraid of your Jesus, I'm afraid of what you do in the name of your God.--Holly Near

Posted by: srw3 | June 5, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

At ronjaboy:
It is in fact, the silence of the anti-abortion groups about the violent, radical wing of their movement that allows this illegal, immoral violence to continue.

I ain't afraid of your Jesus, I'm afraid of what you do in the name of your God.--Holly Near

Posted by: srw3 | June 5, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

I think the saddest part of this trip so far is the fact that while many factions are at least giving some time and thought to the idea of beginning anew there are two factions that are in complete agreement that the current President is wrong. Osama bin Laden and the Republican party especially the past administration. When you side with terrorists then you are the enemy - perhaps it is time to announce if you are Republican then you are a terrorist . . . after all anyone who didn't march in step with them after 9-11 was a terrorist -- and it's OK to disagree with current administration but not when it matches Osama bin Laden's point of view -- that's way over the line.

Posted by: Lemon7221 | June 5, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

The comment that the major criticism of the President's speech comes from the neocons and Osama bin Laden reminds me of the old Arab adage "the enemy of my enemy is my friend". Strange bedfellows indeed !

Posted by: jmsbh | June 5, 2009 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Wow Froomkin, love the sources. Robert "Lyndon Laroche is my political master" Dreyfuss and Gary "I hope the Iraqi's kick our butts" Kamiya.

Stay classy Dan.

Posted by: SharpshootingPugilist | June 5, 2009 1:58 PM | Report abuse

The only groups I see having negative comments about Obama's speach are Al-Qaeda and FOX News. The question is only which one we can ignore and which one we can't ignore.

Posted by: BOBSTERII | June 5, 2009 2:10 PM | Report abuse

What struck me was the media's use of words like "stunning" and "extraordinary" to describe a speech that simply offered a balanced American policy towards millions of people in a critical region of the world.

I'm proud of the President for giving the speech and hope he now backs it up with action.

-----------

I agree, Obama made America look intelligent.

I was thinking back to when the average TV political commentator could actually use a term like "strategic diplomatic nuclear deterrence" and actually understand the greater implications.

That ain't O'Reily.

And though it isn't "shock-and-awe" and though it certainly takes time, he's actually mapping a method of containing terrorism, intelligently, while not destroying the US simoultaneously.

Despite Cheney's violent posturing, no one was fearful of him, and he did nothing but harm to the US.

Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | June 5, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Stay in your mental trailer, ronjaboy. There have been some hideous Christian terrorists--remember Timothy McVeigh and Eric Rudolph? Not to mention the man who murdered George Tiller.

Not only did the previous administration wage a pointlessly large war--involving the invasion of a country unrelated to our terrorist attack--but they were stupid enough to cloak it with Christian terms and images. (The whole torture and abuse of detainees thing--and I'm referring to Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, and other prisons where like treatment took place as well--certainly didn't help.)

The simple reality is, no one religion is capable of overrunning the world, not as long as there are any racial or cultural differences to speak of. Furthermore, it's foolish in the extreme to look at any major religion--be it Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism or otherwise--as being monolithic. There are divisions within any of these major faiths. Each has its extremists, and its large mass of moderates.

Obama was speaking largely to the large mass of Muslim moderates. Those who might tacitly support some of al Qaeda's tactics, and whom Obama wants above all to convince, that violence, and specifically al Qaeda's violence, is not the means to a worthwhile end. That al Qaeda's violence is opposed to their being able to live peacefully. Or is that too strange a concept--Muslims simply wanting to live in peace?

Posted by: whizbang9a | June 5, 2009 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Once Iraq is stable country like we want them to be and we are helping them with that; we can start giving them same weapons like we give to Israel and we can help them with $50B a year. Can we do that or we messed their country up and we can't help it at all, EVER.

Posted by: BOBSTERII | June 5, 2009 2:17 PM | Report abuse

I think the last 8 years has proved we can't beat the Islamist terrorists, stop Iran having nuclear weapons, democratize the Middle East, save the Palestinian refuges, etc. with the failed policies of the Bush/Cheney administration. Northern Ireland is an object lesson - only settled by diplomacy, reconciliation and compromise (by all parties).

So I thought it was an excellent speech - I actually took the time to listen to it all, and spotted the 5 references to "democracy" (unlike some commentators). In itself, the speech achieves nothing but good will. But at least it clears the table for further progress.

The neocons (like our enemies) are foaming at the mouth because they are losing. Losing the argument, losing credibility, and losing political ground.

I will reserve judgment until I see real results, but it was a great first step. I just wish I liked his domestic policies as much as his foreign policies!

Posted by: jg97986 | June 5, 2009 2:18 PM | Report abuse

We do ourselves a disservice by associating one religion or one region of the world with terrorism. 9/11 was a terrible attack, but the deaths of those who died in Oklahoma City, who were killed by the Unabomber, or of the doctor who was slain at his church just this week are as keenly felt. The defense of this country needs to be based on clear eyed anticipation of actual threats rather than on knee jerk reactions.

Posted by: fletc3her | June 5, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Bushs' margins of victory in the elections were very close, both times. I remember the time President Bush referred to terrorists as 'folks'. What a conflagration of media coverage over this one word.... Our current President has been so volumous in His speeches. More detailed. I believe His recent speech was more directed at the majority of Arab citizens and not at the current extreme-ists. And somehow maybe He was trying to appeal to potential future terrorists, basically children now. How many ex presidents directly addressed Al Capone? Or 'Bugsy' Moran? Or any other gangster? Our current Presider obviously does not accept the current status quo. When we think about it... what is the one thing that all of us do have to spend? The future of course. So the Prez chose not to make one speech that referred to the single most negative aspect from a certain area of the world. He did not pre-judge any of His listeners in that audience. It looks like a solid building block to future dialog... and maybe, someday... Peace.

Posted by: deepthroat21 | June 5, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Point of fact the anti-abortion groups, with the exception of Operation Rescue, did in fact condemn the murder of Dr. Tiller. Nor is the anti-abortion faction that subscribes to that kind of violence active enough or widespread enough to draw the comparison with Al-Quaida, not to mention that their targets are by definition limited to a infinitismally small number.

Tim McVeigh, Eric Rudolph, the guy who shot Tiller, the guy who shot the Dr. in Buffalo, so we're talking less than 10 compared with tens of thousands of Islamic enemies.

Posted by: ronjaboy | June 5, 2009 2:52 PM | Report abuse

@SSP: "Wow Froomkin, love the sources."

The last refuge of a neocon with no leg to stand on.

Posted by: BigTunaTim | June 5, 2009 3:01 PM | Report abuse

I am glad to see some of you saying in public what I've been crowing for years: White supremacists ARE terrorists. (Hint: Ronjaboy, Tim McVeigh killed WAY more than ten people.) The thing that concerned me most about the Bush approach, and believe me there was a lot to concern people, was his syllogistic assumption that because all Arabs/Muslims are terrorists, then all terrorists must therefore be Arabs/Muslims. That's a double whammy, because it's a syllogism based on a false premise to begin with. White domestic terrorists are much more to be feared, because they for the most part are native speakers of English, have SSN's and driver's licenses, and generally behave and move about like me and probably you.

If there is any doubt, here's a video showcasing the very probably unholy alliance of al-Qaeda and white supremacists. I caught this on CNN the other day: http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/03/29/schuster.column/index.html
And http://www.8bm.com/diatribes/volume02/029/603.htm

So concentrating on profiling people with brown skin from the Middle East can be dangerous and counterproductive.

Posted by: bucinka8 | June 5, 2009 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Al-Qaida could not exist, let alone flourish, were it not for the silence, acquiesence and support of the worlds Islamic population. Its members didn't spring from the earth without parents, siblings and extended families who fail to rat them out or stop supporting them. So until the Episcopalians start strapping on suicide vests or Baptists start planting roadside bombs, we'll just have to have a right ol' fear of what the Islamists want to do to us.

_____________________

Sadly, we have domestics terrorists. McVeigh, Kaczinski, Rudolph and Roeder. They didn't spring from the earth without parents and siblings and others who voiced what they put into action.

Suicide missions are not soley owned by Islam.

Posted by: arancia12 | June 5, 2009 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Point of fact the anti-abortion groups, with the exception of Operation Rescue, did in fact condemn the murder of Dr. Tiller. Nor is the anti-abortion faction that subscribes to that kind of violence active enough or widespread enough to draw the comparison with Al-Quaida, not to mention that their targets are by definition limited to a infinitismally small number.

Tim McVeigh, Eric Rudolph, the guy who shot Tiller, the guy who shot the Dr. in Buffalo, so we're talking less than 10 compared with tens of thousands of Islamic enemies.

Posted by: ronjaboy | June 5, 2009 2:52 PM
______________

Just how many domestic terrorists are too many?

The terrorists who perpetrated 9.11 were not encouraged by factions within our own country.

Islam has as many enemies here in the US. As a matter of fact, many of their enemies are stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan and Dubai and Kuwait.


Posted by: arancia12 | June 5, 2009 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Besides, at least a few of those abortion groups who denounced Tiller's murder, did so in almost exulting terms: "we're sorry that the executioner's soul was sent to God before it had a chance to prepare itself." Though, bucinka8, I think ronjaboy was talking about the number of domestic terrorists--fewer than 10--and not about the number of their victims. And he's wrong. There have been hundreds of terrorists in the US, spawned by many groups, including the Black Liberation Army, the KKK (of course), the Jewish Defense League, the Weathermen, and Rudolph's: the Army of God. (And that's just a quickie list from Wikipedia!)

No one ethnicity or religion has a monopoly on violence and terror. None before has had the means or ingenuity to pull off anything like 9/11, obviously. I think bin Laden is a hero to so many people, in part because their societies are othewise so closed that they have no alternate means to express themselves.

I also have a suspicion that bin Laden himself has become a cultic figure, and may be worshipped in days to come.

Posted by: whizbang9a | June 5, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

A note on format:

I love the new offset layout for the quoted material.

Keep up the good work on the content, too.

Posted by: wistlo | June 5, 2009 3:41 PM | Report abuse

The anti-abortion groups who condemned the murder of Dr Tiller did so in couched language that leaves one the impression that they are not really that upset or bothered by the murder. Operation rescue condemned the murder but in terms that left no doubt how they really felt about it.

One terrorism war based on religion that none mention is the war in Northern Ireland. Catholics and Protestants have been killing each other for years and only time will tell if we are at the true end of the war or just working through a lull in the fighting.

The most important thing about Obama’s speech, to me, is that he is making an effort to decouple Islam from our battle with AQ. If we can make it clear that our fight is not with the general populace of these countries but with AQ and the Taliban, then perhaps the general populace will begin to lean towards our way or sit out rather than morally, physically and financially support AQ. We cannot beat AQ unless they are marginalized, we cannot marginalize them if the entire Mideast feels that they and their religion are the target. Obama’s speech is a start in that direction. Now if our nations actions will mirror the rhetoric we will be on our way, or at least start making progress.

Posted by: m_mcmahon | June 5, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Interesting to see that Dan didn't cite Krauthammer's column today. I'd be interested to know the reason--has Krauthammer become such a propagandist that Froomkin doesn't find him worthy of citing?

Posted by: joe17 | June 5, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

My guess would be that there is no point in quoting Krauthammer, everyone knows what he's going to say before his column even appears. The neocon columnists are as predictable as sunup and as interchangeable as piston rods

Posted by: chrisfox8 | June 5, 2009 4:19 PM | Report abuse

It’s amazing to hear conservatives talk about Pres. Obama validating Bush. Bush had eight years and did not reach out to anyone – except right wingers. Pres. Obama has an open hand for everyone even Republicans but Republicans have “clenched fist”.

For people who don’t think Pres. Obama speaking to others on their own soil is a good idea you’re listening to the wrong people. I have several friends from foreign countries and I cannot believe the difference in their attitude toward Americans.

I know it’s not a popular thing to say but “I’m proud to be an American”. Now when I go to foreign countries I will not have to defend the U.S. I had to and it was hard especially after the Abu Graib pictures.

Posted by: rlj1 | June 5, 2009 4:28 PM | Report abuse


He didn't even mention the Islamofascist Caliphate of Evil! Or the Axis Powers of Evil!

Posted by: motorfriend | June 5, 2009 4:39 PM | Report abuse


When the President does it, it's not terrorism.

It's Shock & Awe followed by Shake & Bake.

Posted by: motorfriend | June 5, 2009 4:43 PM | Report abuse

You got it, chrisfox8. Writers like Krauthammer, you know they're going to attack Obama in any way they can think of--the only question is how. I'll give Chuckie this much credit: his critique was slightly more artful than Boehner's.

Posted by: whizbang9a | June 5, 2009 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Joe17: I'm also surprised that Dan didn't include excerpts from Charles Krauthammer's column in the WP.

I will concede part of his argument, namely that the Palestinians "never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity". The President's speech even acknowledged the destructive and counterproductive behavior of Hamas.

However, some of Krauthammer's statements were just plain bizarre. For example, he justified West Bank settlements as Israel's natural need for accommodating population growth. Ironically, that sounds eerily like Nazi Germany's "Lebensraum" rationale.

The isolation of Gaza also inhibits healthy commerce that would improve the Palestinian economy. Both sides bear some responsibility for that unfortunate situation.

Does anyone else have any opinions on the Krauthammer column du jour?

Posted by: MillPond2 | June 5, 2009 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Absolutely, millpond2. His central argument--that Israel could simply trade an equivalent amount of real estate for the seized settlements--does make sense to me. I wonder, without knowing much about the areas in question, if the land Israel would conceivably trade is equivalent in value to what they'e seized (I'm thinking of Indian reservations here).

Obama stops short of insisting that Israel give back everything it seized in 1967 (which included the current settlement area). He knows that Israel will never willingly surrender the Golan Heights. So Krauthammer's argument, up to that point, I agree with--and it makes me wonder if Obama isn't really willing to negotiate about the settlments after all--but only with a different, more pro-Palestinian, frame of reference.

But Krauthammer's argument in favor of continuing to build as a result of population expansion is foolish. The road maps since 2000 have all specified freezing of settlement building as one of the terms of the agreement. Krauthammer says we should honor the existing agreements. If so...why keep building?

Posted by: whizbang9a | June 5, 2009 5:43 PM | Report abuse

It's hard for outsiders to realize just how strong a hold the settlers have on Israeli politics. While many are against them, everyone is afraid of them; they're armed to the teeth, reflexively violent, far-right as they come. At some point, sooner better than later, Israel will have to close the settlements and reabsorb these nutbars, and they are going to be hopping mad. Many Israeli politicians and opponents of the Lebensraumers are going to be gunned down in the street.

Posted by: chrisfox8 | June 5, 2009 6:56 PM | Report abuse

Thanks whizbang9a and chrisfox8: That was the kind of response I was hoping for.

Posted by: MillPond2 | June 5, 2009 9:20 PM | Report abuse

Though, bucinka8, I think ronjaboy was talking about the number of domestic terrorists--fewer than 10--and not about the number of their victims. And he's wrong. There have been hundreds of terrorists in the US, spawned by many groups, including the Black Liberation Army, the KKK (of course), the Jewish Defense League, the Weathermen, and Rudolph's: the Army of God. (And that's just a quickie list from Wikipedia!)
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Fair enough, whizbang9a. His writing was ambiguous, and I guess I took the wrong reading. You, of course, are correct, and yes, that's only a partial list. It was only 25 years ago the The Order killed Alan Berg and Bobby Mathews died in the Whidbey Island shootout. They, like McVeigh, were using "The Turner Diaries" as training material. The Klan's terrorism goes back to 1865. There are many more domestic terrorists whose names have been lost to all but historians.

Posted by: bucinka8 | June 5, 2009 11:32 PM | Report abuse

"And the most ardent Bush/Cheney dead-enders lashed out by calling Obama's comments -- particularly those in which he acknowledged that emotional reactions at the highest levels of government led America after 9/11 to "act contrary to our traditions and our ideals" -- essentially treasonous."

Yes, and to think that history will be kind if it remembers Cheney, et al, as only misguided torturers. At several points during the Iraq debacle, national security concerns, viewed with reality based vision, would have deployed more troops to Afghanistan. Instead, even more were "surged" into Iraq--now, if leaving the nation vulnerable while not utilizing the military to confront ACTUAL threats to national security is good policy--I can see where the neocons would view pragmatic, practical discussion as treasonous.

Posted by: cynubie | June 6, 2009 6:22 AM | Report abuse

Shouldn't Obama have mentioned the connection between Christianity and crusading and invasion? Americans may not perceive the imbalance between an attack by a few dozen individuals costing 3000 lives and major war costing hundreds of thousands of lives and displacement of millions, but the rest of the world (especially muslims) does.

Posted by: dowty | June 6, 2009 9:41 AM | Report abuse

My pleasure, millpond2. You're one of the most reasonable folks here. I always enjoy a good discussion, minus the namecalling (though I can't keep myself from replying sometimes--a guilty pleasure).

dowty--I think the memory of the Crusades is deeply-ingrained enough, and not an American creation, that Obama felt no need to touch it. Would you be expecting our President to apologize for the actions of all Europe, or western civilization? I think that would've been attempting too much, for no reason at all. Obama keeping his focus contemporary was appropriate. He mentioned history insofar as it is still manifest today--i.e., the Jews claiming a homeland in the area of Palestine. It's not like any of the Crusader States still exists as a political entity. It's the principle of keeping your eye on the ball. For Obama to touch on events of nearly 1,000 years ago, for their own sake, would amount to taking his eye off it.

And chrisfox8--I knew pretty much nothing about this settlement area before Obama began targeting it lately. From what you and others say, it sounds like a mix of west-of-the-Pecos, every-man-makes-his-own-justice kind of place, with a backwoods militia-type camp here in the US. In other words, milidly terrifying. Doesn't sound like the kind of folks interested in any kind of compromise, so Israel would have to forcibly resettle them, and risk civil unrest. That makes me think even more that Obama's statement on settlements is a negotiating ploy--in baseball terms, a little chin music.

Posted by: whizbang9a | June 6, 2009 11:25 AM | Report abuse

If only Occam's Razor would rule, we would be free of these constructs that favor style over substance. However, they do serve Dan's world view and perhaps the view over many. I should be glad that substance still rules and that many will settle for style to make them happy.

That is revenge enough for my happy soul. After all, revenge is for idiots and children.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | June 6, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

ronjaboy: ok, we have McVeigh, Unibomber, Roeder, Ruby Ridge, Waco, and let's not forget those two men arrested last fall in Tenn. who were going to shoot blacks on their way to DC to kill Obama, and also the cop killer who alledgedly heard from Beck that Obama was going to take everyone's guns. All far right side of the political spectrum, all Americans. Other than a few enviroterroists who don't actually KILL people, domestic terrorism has been from the right side. McCain/Palin rallies last year were horribly racist and angry, along with all of the tea parties. Oh, I just remembered a lefty incident. The Dixie Chicks said they were ashamed that the President was from Texas. Yeah, three traditionally married women with kids and no surgically enhanced body parts get professionally ostarsized in a campaign led by conservative media, to the point that they receive death threats, yet no one was screaming freedom of speech for them, like with Miss "Jugs for Jesus" California. Hypocrisy, thy name is neo-conservative.

Posted by: katem1 | June 8, 2009 10:25 AM | Report abuse

I thought Obama's speech was outstanding. In Egypt was a good strategy.
I can't bring myself to understand the fact that Yale and Harvard gave Bush a diploma. And now Cheney is taking the majority of the blame.
To settle the world and the tension we must pull out of these third world countries. The condition of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan are no match for the U.S. military. So why are we there? How can you call the people their extremist when your occupying their country?
Prosecute all war crimes and tell Obama to stop trying to cover them up before he commits them too. The Muslims may forgive us for the intrusion.
Put the Saudis on notices that we will pursue the guilty party and they will be held responsible just like the Libyans were in the eighties.

Posted by: kimkimminni1 | June 8, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Some of us have been saying for years that Osama and the Neocons love each other. It's a well known FACT that Bush was a recruitment tool for Al Qaeda and Osama was used as a foil to get whatever Bush wanted (including re-election).

So it's no surprise that these two parasitic groups are up in arms that Obama doesn't want to continue down the same self destructive path.

Boo hooo to the idiot Neocons; go find some other citizens to terrorize......Americans have had it with you.

Posted by: theobserver4 | June 8, 2009 10:46 AM | Report abuse

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