June 4, 2009: President Obama’s Speech to the Muslim World in Cairo & Honoring Ronald Reagan


Stephen Crowley/The New York Times


In Focus: Stats

  • Addressing Muslims, Obama Pushes Mideast Peace: In opening a bold overture to the Islamic world on Thursday, President Obama confronted frictions between Muslims and the West, but he reserved some of his bluntest words for Israel, as he expressed sympathy for the Palestinians and what he called the “daily humiliations, large and small, that come with occupation.” While Mr. Obama emphasized that America’s bond with Israel was “unbreakable,” he spoke in equally powerful terms of the Palestinian people, describing their plight as “intolerable” after 60 years of statelessness, and twice referring to “Palestine” in a way that put Palestinians on parallel footing with Israelis…. – NYT, 6-5-09
  • Americans Remain Skeptical About Middle East Peace Just 32% think Israel and Arabs will ever live in peace: With President Barack Obama seeking to engage the Arab world with his speech in Cairo, Americans’ confidence that there will ever be peace in the Middle East is at near-record lows. Only 32% of U.S. adults surveyed by USA Today and Gallup in late May believe “there will come a time when Israel and the Arab nations will be able to settle their differences and live in peace”; 66% disagree. – Gallup, 6-4-09
  • Poll Watch: Early Reactions to Sotomayor: Quinnipiac University, Gallup and The Associated Press polls each found Americans support the President’s pick to replace Justice David H. Souter on the Supreme Court. The Quinnipiac poll found 55 percent of voters approve of Judge Sotomayor’s nomination, while 54 percent of Americans surveyed by Gallup and 50 percent of those polled by the AP said they would like to see the Senate confirm the nomination when they hold hearings sometime this summer. Judge Sotomayor, who would be the third woman and the first Hispanic justice to serve on the Supreme Court, enjoys strong support from several groups of voters in particular — blacks (85 percent), Democrats (80 percent), women (60 percent) and Hispanics (58 percent), according to the Quinnipiac poll. White evangelical Christians, however, oppose the nomination 41 to 35 percent…. – NYT, 6-4-09


nancy reagan photoDoug Mills/The New York Times Nancy Reagan wiped tears away as a statue of former President Reagan was installed in the Capitol Building on Wednesday. Among the Congressional lawmakers joining the first lady were Representative John A. Boehner, House Republican leader from Ohio; Senator Harry Reid, Senate majority leader from Nevada; Senator Mitch McConnell, Senate Republican leader from Kentucky.

The Headlines…

  • In Buchenwald, Obama to target Holocaust denial: In a solemn rendezvous with history, President Barack Obama will visit a scene of the 20th century’s great European horror to make an urgent point about the fear that still stalks its survivors. After meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel in this city crushed by allied bombing in World War II, Obama was to fly by helicopter Friday to the Buchenwald concentration camp, where an estimated 56,000 people perished. Most were Jews — worked to death, shot or hanged by Nazi guards. The visit comes on the eve of commemorations in France of the 65th anniversary of the Allies’ D-Day invasion — and the day after Obama’s long-awaited speech to the Muslim world seeking a fresh start in relations with America…. 0 AP, 6-5-09
  • Expectation mounts ahead of Obamas’ Paris weekend: Not since the Kennedy era has an American first lady — and in tow, her presidential husband — been so eagerly awaited in Paris. Officials on both sides of the Atlantic were short on specifics about the American first couple’s upcoming weekend in the City of Light. The White House has only spoken openly about the D-Day commemorations in Normandy…. – AP, 6-4-09
  • Obama seeks common cause with Muslim world: Invoking the Quran and his rarely used middle name, Barack Hussein Obama declared Thursday that America has a common cause with Islam and never will be at war with the faith — an overture intently watched by the Muslim world and welcomed in unlikely quarters. An Iranian cleric called the president’s speech “an initial step for removing misconceptions.”
    Obama spoke at a seat of Islamic learning, his 55-minute address suffused with respect for touchstones of the religion. He said the time had come to “speak the truth” and “seek a new beginning.”
    “America and Islam are not exclusive,” he said, “and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles of justice and progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”… – AP, 6-4-09
  • Do Obama’s words reveal his Middle East sympathies?: A close examination of the speech underscores how Obama, four months into his presidency, is still introducing himself — and what he stands for — to Americans and the world….
    But now, with Thursday’s speech in Cairo, Obama is laying bare more of his sympathies and inclinations in the volatile area of Middle East politics. Obama spoke, for example, of Palestinian “resistance” — a word that can cast Israel as an illegitimate occupier. He drew parallels between Palestinians and the struggles of black Americans in slavery and of black South Africans during apartheid. Both references made some allies of Israel uneasy. Moreover, in his defense of Israel’s legitimacy, Obama cited the Holocaust and centuries of anti-Semitism, but not the belief of some Jews that their claim to the land is rooted in the Bible and reaches back thousands of years…. – LAT, 6-5-09
  • World Reaction Mixed On Obama’s Cairo Speech: President Obama’s much anticipated speech to Muslims was watched by people of all faiths around the world. The reaction ranges from praises for a new beginning in Muslim-American relations to skepticism about setting words to action. From the Gaza Strip to Kabul to Washington, D.C., the world held its breath as President Obama made his historic speech to the Muslim world. “I’ve come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world,” he said…. – VOA, 6-4-09
  • Analysis: Obama’s Islam success depends on Israel: President Barack Obama’s speech to Muslims also had a huge and attentive Jewish audience, attuned to any suggestion that he might soften U.S. support for Israel or make nice with Iran at the expense of the Jewish state. His careful words illustrate the constraints posed by Obama’s political obligations as he tries to reinvigorate America’s honest- broker status in the Islamic world…..
    An Israeli government statement issued after Obama spoke ignored his calls for a settlement freeze and the creation of an independent Palestinian state — demands that the hawkish Netanyahu continues to reject. “We share President Obama’s hope that the American effort heralds the beginning of a new era that will bring about an end to the conflict,” the statement said, noting that Israel’s security must be guaranteed. – AP, 6-4-09
  • Many Muslims Praise Tone of Speech, but Call for Action: Mr. Obama won over many Muslims for delivering what many viewed as a respectful address — peppered with the moral message Muslims receive at weekly homilies and the straightforward talk they rarely get from their own leadership. Muslims in the Middle East and beyond praised U.S. President Barack Obama for the tone of his speech Thursday, but they had more of a mixed reaction to the substance of the address. “The Holy Quran tells us, ‘Be conscious of God and speak always the truth,’ ” said Mr. Obama, quoting the Muslim holy book in his hour-long speech at Cairo University. “That is what I will try to do.”… – WSJ, 6-4-09
  • Varying Responses to Speech in Mideast Highlight Divisions: 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…. – NYT, 6-4-09
  • Gender and heritage a frequent topic for Sotomayor: Sonia Sotomayor told the Senate on Thursday that the White House never questioned her about cases or issues she might have to decide as a Supreme Court justice, a disclosure gleaned from reams of documents that reveal she has spoken repeatedly about how her gender and Latina heritage affect her judging…. – AP, 6-4-09
  • Speeches Show Judge’s Steady Focus on Diversity and Struggle: In speech after speech over the years, Judge Sonia Sotomayor has returned to the themes of diversity, struggle, heritage and alienation that have both powered and complicated her nomination to the Supreme Court…. – NYT, 6-5-09
  • Democrats may add car vouchers to war fund bill: U.S. congressional Democrats are considering fast-tracking legislation to boost auto sales by offering Americans vouchers to trade in older, less fuel-efficient vehicles for ones that get better mileage, a congressional aide said on Thursday. The legislation, known as “cash for clunkers,” would be added to a pending war funding measure in Congress, but “no final decisions have been made” despite wide support for the voucher program, said Nadeam Elshami, a spokesman for Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi…. – Reuters, 6-4-09
  • Rival Messages as Obama Lands in the Mideast: Aiming to repair the American relationship with the Muslim world, President Obama was greeted on Wednesday with reminders of the vast gulfs his Cairo speech must bridge, as voices as disparate as Al Qaeda’s and the Israeli government’s competed to shape how Mr. Obama’s message would be heard…. – NYT, 6-3-09
  • Israelis Say Bush Agreed to West Bank Growth: Senior Israeli officials accused President Obama on Wednesday of failing to acknowledge what they called clear understandings with the Bush administration that allowed Israel to build West Bank settlement housing within certain guidelines while still publicly claiming to honor a settlement “freeze.” The complaint was the latest in a growing rift between the Obama administration and the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over how to move forward to achieve peace in the Middle East. Mr. Obama was in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday and is scheduled to address the Muslim world from Cairo on Thursday…. – NYT, 6-3-09
  • First lady Michelle Obama joins push for Sotomayor: The White House dispatched first lady Michelle Obama to defend Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor on Wednesday, part of a broad offensive to humanize the judge that came as former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich backed off his harsh criticism of her as a racist. Mrs. Obama told students at a high school graduation that Sotomayor is “more than ready” to be a justice and compared the judge’s life story of humble beginnings and high achievement to the paths taken by her husband and herself…. – AP, 6-3-09
  • Public plan threatens bipartisan health deal: President Barack Obama’s hopes for a bipartisan health deal seemed in jeopardy Thursday as GOP senators protested his renewed support for a new public health insurance plan, and a key Democratic chairman declared that such a plan would likely be in the Senate’s bill. A public plan that would compete with private insurers is opposed by nearly all Republicans. Obama long has supported it, but he had avoided going into detail about his health goals, leaving the specifics to Congress and emphasizing hopes for a bipartisan bill…. – AP, 6-4-09
  • Sotomayor’s Talk Made No Waves in ’01: For an event that has emerged as one of the biggest issues in the confirmation of a Supreme Court justice, the speech Judge Sonia Sotomayor delivered in 2001 generated little notice at the time from the audience at a symposium on Latinos and the law. Ms. Sotomayor’s comment that she hoped a “wise Latina” would usually reach a better judicial conclusion than a white male has prompted cries of racism from her detractors and calls from Republican senators for an explanation. To critics like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), Ms. Sotomayor was clearly saying that members of one ethnic group make better judges than those of another…. – WSJ, 6-3-09
  • Obama outlines health care plan for all: President Barack Obama, providing the first real details on how he wants to reshape the nation’s health care system, urged Congress on Wednesday toward a sweeping overhaul that would allow Americans to buy into a government insurance plan. In a letter to two senators leading the health care debate, Obama also moved toward accepting a requirement for every American to buy health insurance, as long as the plan provides a “hardship waiver” to exempt poor people from having to pay…. “The plans you are discussing embody my core belief that Americans should have better choices for health insurance, building on the principle that if they like the coverage they have now, they can keep it, while seeing their costs lowered as our reforms take hold,” Obama wrote…. – AP, 6-3-09
  • Obama Names a Republican to Lead the Humanities Endowment: President Obama intends to nominate Jim Leach, a former Republican congressman from Iowa who is now a professor at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, as the next chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the White House said on Wednesday. “I am confident that with Jim as its head, the National Endowment for the Humanities will continue on its vital mission of supporting the humanities and giving the American public access to the rich resources of our culture,” Mr. Obama said in a statement…. – NYT, 6-3-09
  • Dems use war funding bill for more GI benefits: Congressional Democrats are using an approximately $100 billion war funding bill to give recently expanded GI Bill education benefits to the children of military service members who die while on active duty. The provision, pressed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Texas, would give GI Bill benefits — which were greatly expanded last year — to each child of a service member killed in action or while on active duty, instead of a single family member as permitted under current rules…. – AP, 6-3-09
  • Nancy Reagan on hand as statue of President Reagan unveiled in D.C: Former First Lady Nancy Reagan held back tears Wednesday as she helped to unveil and then gently caressed a 7-foot bronze statue of her “Ronnie” that went on display at the Capitol. The statue in the Capitol’s soaring Rotunda, where the late President Ronald Reagan lay in state after his death at age 93 in 2004, was “a wonderful likeness of Ronnie and he would be so proud,” said Nancy Reagan, who will be 88 next month. “The last time we were in this room was for Ronnie’s service,” Reagan said. “So it’s nice to be back under happier circumstances.” – NY Daily News, 6-3-09
  • Nancy Reagan Joins Mrs. Obama for Lunch: Michelle Obama and Nancy Reagan will meet for the first time on Wednesday over lunch at the White House, an Obama administration official said… – NYT, 6-2-09
  • Obama Urges Quick Action by Senators on Insurance: President Obama on Tuesday affirmed his support for the creation of a government-sponsored health insurance plan, but he acknowledged that such a plan would sharply reduce the chances for Republican support of legislation to overhaul the health care system, Democratic senators said…. – NYT, 6-2-09
  • Sotomayor counters GOP critics over bias claims: Judge Sonia Sotomayor on Tuesday countered Republican charges that she would let her background dictate her rulings as Americans signaled a favorable first impression of President Barack Obama’s first Supreme Court choice. A new Associated Press-GfK poll suggested that Americans have a more positive view of her than they did of any of former President George W. Bush’s nominees to the high court. Half backed her confirmation…. – AP, 6-2-09
  • Nancy Reagan and Obama Kiss and Make Up: It was a kiss and make up session at the White House Tuesday, with President Obama towering over former First Lady Nancy Reagan as he signed a proclamation establishing the Ronald Reagan Centennial Commission. The commission is supposed to organize activities to mark the 100th anniversary, in 2011, of President Reagan’s birth. But enough about that; today’s White House event was also a chance for Mr. Obama to make up with Mrs. Reagan, whom he famously — and inexplicably — dissed back in November during the transition…. – NYT, 6-2-09
  • Pres. Obama holds surprise meeting with Ehud Barak: United States President Barack Obama made a surprise appearance yesterday at a meeting Defense Minister Ehud Barak was holding in Washington, shortly before the U.S. leader was set to leave on a five-day trip to the Middle East. Obama spoke for about 15 minutes with Barak, who was meeting with National Security Adviser Gen. Jim Jones at the time. While Obama’s official schedule did not include a meeting with Barak, he has in the past dropped into other officials’ meetings with international figures. Obama intends to give Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu four to six weeks to provide an “updated position” regarding construction in the settlements and the two-state principle…. – Haaretz, 6-2-09
  • Minnesota Gov Pawlenty says won’t seek third term: Republican Tim Pawlenty said on Tuesday he would not seek a third term as Minnesota’s governor but deflected questions about whether he would run for U.S. president in 2012. “I’m not ruling anything in or out,” the 48-year-old Pawlenty told reporters in Minnesota, adding he planned to offer his party new ideas. “I have 19 months left in my term — this is not a wake,” Pawlenty said, joking that he planned to tend to his lawn…. – Reuters, 6-2-09
  • Obama: Nationalization of GM to be short-term: In a defining moment for American capitalism, President Barack Obama ushered General Motors Corp. into bankruptcy protection Monday and put the government behind the wheel of the company that once symbolized the nation’s economic muscle. The fallen giant, the largest U.S. industrial company ever to enter bankruptcy, is shedding some 21,000 jobs and 2,600 dealers. Sparing few communities, the retrenchment amounts to one-third of its U.S. work force and 40 percent of its dealerships…. – AP, 6-1-09
  • Analysis: Gov’t firmly behind the wheel at GM: President Barack Obama now owns General Motors, even though he insists he’s taking it out only for a spin. Hours after the government sent GM into court Monday to file for Chapter 11 protection, Obama declared, “What I have no interest in doing is running GM.” But with a 60 percent equity stake in the carmaker and $50 billion in taxpayer money riding on GM’s success, the federal government is far from a hands-off investor…. – AP, 6-1-09
  • Ex-US Rep formally announces run for Ohio governor: Former Ohio Congressman John Kasich kicked off his campaign for governor Monday, saying he would eventually eliminate the state’s income tax while Democrats leveled a pre-emptive strike to tie him to Wall Street greed and irresponsibility…. – AP, 6-1-09
  • Judge: Gitmo legal documents must be public: A federal judge ordered the United States on Monday to publicly reveal unclassified versions of its allegations and evidence justifying the continued imprisonment of more than 100 detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay…. – AP, 6-1-09
  • Obama is confusing the Left on Gitmo: Folks on the Left are confused because, for one thing, it is the Barack Obama hour, they love him, and they want to support him on just about everything. But there he is doing what he said he would not do on Guantanamo Bay. How to get around it? Well, if you have been reading what they write and listening to what they say, it’s pretty clear that many, if not all, have decided to put their faith in Obama’s dodges instead of his deeds…. – Washington Examiner, 5-27-09


Political Quotes

  • Text: Obama’s Speech in Cairo: The text of President Obama’s prepared remarks to the Muslim world, delivered on June 4, 2009, as released by the White House. – NYTMp3 DownloadVideo
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON A NEW BEGINNING Cairo University Cairo, Egypt: So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, those who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. And this cycle of suspicion and discord must end.
    I’ve come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles — principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.
    I do so recognizing that change cannot happen overnight. I know there’s been a lot of publicity about this speech, but no single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, nor can I answer in the time that I have this afternoon all the complex questions that brought us to this point. But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly to each other the things we hold in our hearts and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground. As the Holy Koran tells us, “Be conscious of God and speak always the truth.” (Applause.) That is what I will try to do today — to speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task before us, and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart…. – White House, 6-4-09
  • Obama cites Quran, but message is interfaith: President Barack Obama showed respect for Islam by quoting from the Quran in his speech Thursday but did so in a way meant to resonate with Christians and Jews as well. The passages he chose from the Muslim holy book had meanings that were universal in their appeal. He also referred once to the Talmud, the collection of Jewish law, and quoted a verse from the Gospel of Matthew. Both underscored the Quranic verses. “The Holy Quran tells us, ‘Mankind, we have created you male and a female. And we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another,'” Obama said in the Cairo address. “The Talmud tells us, ‘The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace.’ The Holy Bible tells us, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.'”… – AP, 6-4-09
  • Israel Government spokesman Mark Regev: “Israel shares the hope expressed by President Obama that his efforts will indeed lead to a new period of peace and reconciliation in the Middle East. a period where Israel will be recognized as a Jewish state and that we can live without fear of violence and terrorism.”
  • Saeb Erekat, a chief advisor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas: “Now I hope that in the next few months, President Obama will lay a real plan with time lines, monitors and mechanisms to implement and translate the vision of two states to a realistic political track.”
  • Obama on Obama: “We have a joke around the White House. We’re just going to keep on telling the truth until it stops working — and nowhere is truth-telling more important than the Middle East.” “Stop saying one thing behind closed doors and saying something else publicly…. There are a lot of Arab countries more concerned about Iran developing a nuclear weapon than the ‘threat’ from Israel, but won’t admit it.” There are a lot of Israelis, “who recognize that their current path is unsustainable, and they need to make some tough choices on settlements to achieve a two-state solution — that is in their long-term interest — but not enough folks are willing to recognize that publicly.” There are a lot of Palestinians who “recognize that the constant incitement and negative rhetoric with respect to Israel” has not delivered a single “benefit to their people and had they taken a more constructive approach and sought the moral high ground” they would be much better off today — but they won’t say it aloud…. – NYT, 6-3-09
  • The President Spells Out His Vision on Health Care Reform – White House, 6-3-09
  • Obama makes nice with Nancy Reagan: President Obama kissed and made up with Nancy Reagan today at a White House event to create a commission to celebrate the centennial of her husband Ronald’s birth.
    “Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not, and a way that Bill Clinton did not,” he said in an interview with the Reno Gazette-Journal in January 2008.
    And today, Obama said, “President Reagan understood that while there are often strong disagreements between parties and political adversaries — disagreements that can be a source of conflict and bitterness — it is important to keep in mind all that we share….President Reagan helped as much as any President to restore a sense of optimism in our country, a spirit that transcended politics — that transcended even the most heated arguments of the day.”
    “I want to thank our special guest here today, Nancy Reagan, our former first lady, who redefined that role in her time at the White House — and who has, in the many years since, taken on a new role, as an advocate on behalf of treatments that hold the promise of improving and saving lives,” Obama said. “And I should just add, she has been extraordinarily gracious to both me and Michelle during our transition here and I’m thankful for that.
    “There are few who are not moved by the love that Ms. Reagan felt for her husband — and fewer still who are not inspired by how this love led her to take up the twin causes of stem cell research and Alzheimer’s research. In saying a long goodbye, Nancy Reagan became a voice on behalf of millions of families experiencing the depleting, aching reality of Alzheimer’s disease.”
    When Obama escorted Nancy Reagan into the Diplomatic Reception Room, she walked using a cane in her right hand, while her left hand was in the crook of the president’s arm, where it stayed the entire time he spoke, according to the press pool report.
    When he escorted her out, she again had her hand in the crook of his elbow. The president leaned down, and said, “Michelle….She just thinks the world of you.” – Boston Globe, 6-2-09
  • Taking Shifts to Walk the Dog: Who’s walking Bo? Well, the Obamas are taking shifts. The president takes the night shift, usually just before 10 p.m., the first lady, Michelle Obama, told Time magazine. She walks the dog in the early morning (and picks up a few other shifts during the day, for good measure). “We sort of handle Bo like we did the kids,” said Mrs. Obama, who appears on the cover of this week’s Time magazine. “I’m the early-morning person … Once I go to bed, I don’t care what happens. Just make sure the dog doesn’t have an accident.”…
    “I know women who have given up a lot of themselves,” she said. “And there were times in my marriage where I put stuff aside. This isn’t one of those times.” – NYT, 6-2-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON GENERAL MOTORS RESTRUCTURING Grand Foyer: What we have, then, is a credible plan that is full of promise. But GM can’t put this plan into effect on its own. Executing this plan will require a substantial amount of money that only a government can provide. Considering GM’s extensive operations within their borders, the governments of Canada and Ontario have agreed to do their part with an investment in GM’s future, and I want to thank them for doing so. I also want to thank the government of Germany for working diligently to reach a Memorandum of Understanding on the sale of a major stake in GM’s European Division and for providing interim funding that will make it possible for that transaction to be finalized.
    But of course GM is an American company with tens of thousands of employees in this country, and responsibility for its future ultimately rests with us. That’s why our government will be making a significant additional investment of about $30 billion in GM — an investment that will entitle American taxpayers to ownership of about 60 percent of the new GM…. What we are not doing — what I have no interest in doing — is running GM. GM will be run by a private board of directors and management team with a track record in American manufacturing that reflects a commitment to innovation and quality. They — and not the government — will call the shots and make the decisions about how to turn this company around. The federal government will refrain from exercising its rights as a shareholder in all but the most fundamental corporate decisions. When a difficult decision has to be made on matters like where to open a new plant or what type of new car to make, the new GM, not the United States government, will make that decision. In short, our goal is to get GM back on its feet, take a hands-off approach, and get out quickly…..
    I’m confident that the steps I’m announcing today will mark the end of an old GM, and the beginning of a new GM; a new GM that can produce the high-quality, safe, and fuel-efficient cars of tomorrow; that can lead America towards an energy independent future; and that is once more a symbol of America’s success…. – White House, 6-1-09
  • Cheney “wrong” on facts: Obama: President Barack Obama on Monday struck back at one of his toughest critics, saying former Vice President Dick Cheney was wrong when he criticized White House plans to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay. “He also happens to be wrong. Last time, immediately after his speech, I think there was a fact check on his speech that didn’t get a very good grade,” Obama told NPR News…. – Reuters, 6-1-09
  • Romney criticizes Obama’s defense cuts: “Backing away from missile defense and depleting the defense budget to fund new social programs, particularly in the face of global turmoil, would put America and Americans at risk,” he said. Romney, speaking to the conservative Heritage Foundation, called Obama’s proposal to cut missile defense programs a “grave miscalculation” in light of North Korea’s provocations, Iran’s near-nuclear status and Pakistan’s instability….
    “Arrogant, delusional tyrants can’t be stopped by earnest words and furrowed brows,” he said. “Action, strong bold action coming from a position of strength and determination, is the only effective deterrent.” “I know the liberals have opposed missile defense ever since Ronald Reagan came up with it,” he said. “But this is too big an issue for ideology or politics to prevail over national security.”…
    “I take issue with President Obama’s recent tour of apology,” Romney said. “It’s not because America hasn’t made mistakes — we have – but because America’s mistakes are overwhelmed by what America has meant to the hopes and aspirations of people throughout the world.”… – AP, 6-1-09
  • Romney says Obama is putting nation at risk Words not enough in dealing with tyrants, he says: “The president’s planned budgets and multitrillion dollar deficits, financed by a level of borrowing never before attempted by any nation, puts our whole economy in jeopardy,” Romney said in the speech, sponsored by the conservative Heritage Foundation. “He may take us past the tipping point and create a crisis of confidence in the dollar that would burden us for years.”… “Arrogant, delusional tyrants can’t be stopped by earnest words and furrowed brows,” Romney said. “Action — strong bold action — coming from a position of strength and determination, is the only effective deterrent.”… – Salt Lake Tribune, 6-1-09


The President in Cairo

Historians’ Comments

  • SUMAIYA HAMDANI, George Mason University “Obama’s Speech Could Mark Shift in U.S.-Muslim Relations”: I was very impressed with the speech, actually, and I was impressed with the speech for a lot of reasons. I think, first and foremost, the quality of the speech was one that was very different from the previous administration and, I think, for most administrations, U.S. administrations. Obama was speaking to an audience, as opposed to at an audience. And… By which I mean that he engaged the audience in terms that resonated with them. For example, whereas most U.S. presidents and policymakers have spoken in terms of freedom and democracy, much of his speech was really about justice, which is a concept around which political discourse is built in many over other parts of the world, including the Islamic world. And I think that he also was able to engage the audience in terms of what was particular to their culture and heritage. But at the same time, what made it universal, in the introduction to his speech — sorry.
    I would — my colleagues are putting Obama’s speech or putting his feet to the fire much more than I would. I listened to the speech as a speech by an American president. I listened to it for what kind of rationale he would provide for the kinds of policies — rather than specific policies, but the rationale for the kinds of policies he would pursue. And I listened to the speech, I have to admit, as an American Muslim. And on all of those levels, I found the speech impressive, in the sense that, again, he engaged the audience in terms that made sense to them. I think with regard to, for example, the Palestinian issue, the fact that a U.S. president talked about the humiliation that Palestinians suffer under occupation — I think those words are very important, because those are words the Palestinians have used to talk about their experience as displaced people, as refugees, as people trapped in the kind of Bantustans that exist in the occupied territories. And American presidents have not addressed them in terms that they themselves have used to describe their condition….
    I think realistically not much. I mean, as he himself said in a speech, one speech does not make a big difference. But I think what he did do in the context of a speech — and an important one at that — was to engage his audience and create this potential for common understanding and mutual interest. One of the things that impressed me about the speech was that, unlike many political pundits and many authors of the contemporary scene in the Islamic world, he attempted to transcend what has been a kind of accepted “othering” of Islam. He talked about the sort of debt that world civilization has to Islam. And in doing that, I think he transcended the sort of clash of civilization paradigm that has become so accepted. And I think, in talking about Islam as to, quote, “a part of America,” he went beyond the “othering” of Muslims in the West, which I think was also very important. – PBS Newshour, 6-4-09
  • Burton Visotzky “Obama cites Quran, but message is interfaith”: “Obama’s taking that step, showing familiarity with the Quran, is the palpable demonstration of the respect he went to Cairo to show,” said Burton Visotzky, a professor of interreligious studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York… – AP, 6-4-09
  • Julian Zelizer, professor, Princeton University: “President Obama should highlight three important points. The first is that the administration is committed to improving relations with the Muslim world after the tensions that have been building over the past decade — before and after 9/11. Diplomacy and financial assistance will be part of the mix. Second, he should reiterate his commitment to democratization and human rights in this region of the world. And finally, he should call for regional coalitions which include Israel to find ways to contain growing threats such as Iran without having to resort to war.” – Politico, 6-3-09
  • David Orentlicher, professor, Indiana University: “The president should reaffirm the message from his visit to Turkey that the United States is not at war with Islam, that the United States has been enriched by Muslims and that we seek broader engagement based upon mutual interest and mutual respect. He also should restate his point that ‘our partnership with the Muslim world is critical in rolling back a fringe ideology that people of all faiths reject’ and then talk about the need for Muslims to meet their responsibility in condemning the beliefs, statements and actions that arise out of that fringe ideology. The president should remind the world that Egypt was the first of Israel’s neighbors to recognize Israel and agree to a peace treaty and highlight the important model of Anwar Sadat in seeking reconciliation with one’s enemy. The president also should contrast the efforts of Sadat with the example of other Arab leaders who not only have failed to pursue peace with Israel but have rebuffed genuine peace overtures or have tried to provoke an escalation of hostilities. The president should say that the time has come to enter a new era of relationships in the Middle East, where the vision of leaders like Sadat can be realized and not thwarted by the guns of extremists.” – Politico, 6-3-09
  • Don Ritchie “Reagan returns to Washington, D.C., in bronze”: Don Ritchie, the Senate’s associate historian, said that although he was sad to see the King statue go, “I’ve rarely met a Californian who knew who he was.” “I suppose that former presidents will have more staying power,” he said. “Anyway, having your statue in the U.S. Capitol for almost eight decades is a pretty good run, even if it’s not for eternity. And since King was a minister, he would likely have recalled Solomon’s warning in Ecclesiastes: ‘Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.'” – LAT, 6-3-09
  • Robert Dallek “Familiar Obama Phrase Being Groomed as a Slogan”: President Obama told doctors and insurers on Monday that revamping health care would “lay a new foundation for our economy.” He told graduating college students on Wednesday that “we need to build a new foundation.” He told consumers on Thursday that protecting them was vital “to the new foundation we seek to build.”…
    Robert Dallek, a presidential historian, suspects Mr. Obama’s expression may suffer the same fate. “I’m not sure what it means,” Mr. Dallek said. “The successful slogans tied in a convincing way to current events. T.R.’s Square Deal, F.D.R.’s New Deal, J.F.K.’s New Frontier and L.B.J.’s Great Society all resonated because they summed up what their presidents intended and what the public was eager for at the time.” “I guess you could say the same for the New Foundation,” he added, “but foundation doesn’t strike me as a word people will comfortably take to.” – NYT, 5-15-09

The President in Cairo

White House Photo, 6/4/09, Pete Souza

The President in the Middle East

The President spoke in Cairo on America’s relationship with Muslim communities around the world, watch the video or read his remarks in a dozen languages.

Watch the Video

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