Obama gives much-hyped speech at Cairo

Posted on June 4, 2009

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(Image Credit: AP via CBS News)

After much hype and build-up, President Obama spoke this morning at Cairo University in a speech aimed at mending ties and addressing issues with the Muslim world. I would urge you, as Red State does, to watch the video or read the transcript for yourself, both of which can be found here at the Cleveland Examiner.

It wasn’t too bad of speech, as it drew some parallels between the West and Islam, and it saw Obama acknowledge his Muslim heritage in a way that was strongly condemned when his opponents tried to do the same during the campaign. He struck a few surprisingly tough notes on Israel’s right to exist peacefully, America’s support for Israel, and the fact that yes, Arab world, al-Qaeda was indeed responsible for 9/11.

There were some missteps. Liz Cheney and Charles Krauthammer took issue with Obama’s moral equivalence rhetoric regarding women’s rights and colonialism, and Obama continues to have a squishy response to the threat of Iran’s nuclear program. And I believe Obama greatly overstated Islam’s importance to America, though perhaps intentionally to ingratiate himself toward his audience. Though Muslims are no doubt welcome and vital parts of American society, Islam isn’t as fundamental to the core of American values as it seemed Obama tried to make it, and by no means can we be considered “one of the largest Muslim countries in the world,” as Obama has tried to assert previously.

Take a quick look at this segment of the speech:

But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.

As both Allahpundit and Michelle Malkin note, this seems almost ripped out of a speech that George W. Bush would have given, speaking of the fundamental need of humanity for freedom. This came right after Obama pledged to not impose democracy on those who didn’t wish it, but it speaks to the underlying mediocrity of the speech. Despite the flowering rhetoric and the supposed shift in tone, there’s little here that’s new or ground-breaking or that isn’t pleasant platitudes that may ultimately fall on deaf ears. I don’t fault Obama for making the effort, as it undoubtedly needs to be made. But comparisons to Reagan’s “tear down this wall” speech are silly, as there was no direct challenge for action, just a mushy call to get along.

I hope Obama’s words do change some minds in the Arab and Muslim world. But it will unfortunately take more than one speech to avert the clash of civilizations and defuse tensions across the Middle East. I applaud Obama for making the effort, but I’m highly skeptical of the intended outcome.

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Posted in: News, Politics