The reaction to Obama’s big speech in Cairo last week broke mainly along predictable political lines. If you liked Obama before the speech, you probably liked all or most of his address; if you viewed him with any degree of wariness before, chances are he said nothing to make you change your mind. A few notable responses:
Writing on his New Majority blog, conservative pundit and former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum complained that Obama’s speech amounted to an “amazing spectacle of an American president taking an equidistant position between the country he leads and its detractors and enemies. It is as if he saw himself as a judge in some legal dispute, People of the Islamic World v. United States. But the job to which he was elected was not that of impartial judge, but that of leader and champion of the American nation.”
And, Frum added, Obama’s “analogy between the situation of the Palestinians and American slavery should deeply offend African-Americans. Africans did not find themselves in bondage on American soil because of wars they started. They were never given the opportunity to achieve their emancipation via negotiated settlement. They were not impoverished because their leaders stole billions of dollars of donated aid.”
Conservative David Horowitz, in contrast, found much to like in Obama’s words. In a piece for Salon.com Horowitz wrote: “Yes, he rewrote history, particularly the history of Muslim and Arab rapacity and bigotry, and he pandered a lot. But the pandering was in large part diplomacy and far less than conservatives were predicting, and far less than the pandering that characterized his previous attempts to mollify the Muslim world. He most pointedly did not apologize for American actions after 9/11, or seek to find excuses for the terrorist attacks in our policies and behavior before 9/11….
Horowitz noted that “Obama began – began – by telling the Muslim world that the bond between Israel and the United States is unbreakable, and by opening the wound of the Jews that made a homeland for them a moral imperative…. And then he characterized Holocaust deniers like Ahmadinejad as despicable, and identified them as a cause of war in the Middle East, and announced that he was going to Buchenwald the next day (clearly to underscore that fact)….”
“Conservatives,” Horowitz concluded, “will make a great mistake if they fail to see this speech for what it was…. It was a forthright statement by an American leader in a Muslim capital explaining why America is in fact the global leader in those battles that matter most to people everywhere: freedom, equality, and peace.”
The always acerbic Mark Steyn, meanwhile, focused on the disconnect between the Obama administration’s authoritarian tone with Israel and Obama’s statement in Cairo that “No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons.”
And yet, Steyn wryly observed,
a “single nation” certainly has the right to tell another nation anything it wants if that nation happens to be the Zionist Entity: As Hillary Clinton just instructed Israel regarding its West Bank communities, there has to be “a stop to settlements – not some settlements, not outposts, not natural-growth exceptions.”… At a stroke, the administration has endorsed “the Muslim world’s” view of those non-Muslims who happen to find themselves within what it regards as lands belonging to Islam: the Jewish and Christian communities are free to stand still or shrink, but not to grow. Would Obama be comfortable mandating “no natural growth” to Israel’s million-and-a-half Muslims? No. But the administration has embraced “the Muslim world’s” commitment to one-way multiculturalism, whereby Islam expands in the West but Christianity and Judaism shrivel remorselessly in the Middle East.
No one was happier with Obama’s speech than Patrick Buchanan, who exulted that “a new day has arrived and a sea change has taken place. The Israel-centric Middle East policy of George W. Bush is dead…. Where Bush refused to meet with Yasir Arafat or recognize Hamas’s election victory, and outsourced Mideast policy to Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, Obama has confronted Bibi Netanyahu and handed Israel an ultimatum: Halt all settlement growth, now, and come back to me with your plan for a Palestinian state.”
Buchanan was particularly satisfied with Obama for “directly challenging the thesis of Israel and its lobby, AIPAC, that U.S. and Israeli interests are one and the same, that we are partners.” And, Buchanan added, the president has a lot of support; in fact, “Obama can make a case that he better represents the Jewish community in the United States than the Israel lobby, as he won 78 percent of the Jewish vote.”
Buchanan’s verdict: “For Israel and the United States, the days of wine and roses are over.”
Jason Maoz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org