Friday, June 5, 2009

Thoughts on Obama's Muslim Speech

My main take was that it was the speech we might expect of a UN Secretary-General, not a US President. It was a 'missed opportunity' in that it failed to stand up for US positions and our allies.

More in my Comment to Rick Moran's review:

“I was insufficiently harsh and brutal on the president, on Muslims, and on the media.” No - Just the President. He is way-UNDER-criticized by the fawning lamestreamers in the media, that it doesnt hurt to ask - “To what end? What is his goal here? What did it/ will it accomplish?” He needs a kick in the pants and needs to stop being graded on his intentions (as if ANY President doesnt have good intentions) and START grading him on RESULTS.

For example this comment: “President Obama decided to tempt the fates, grab history by the tail, and take on a task from which Hercules himself would have shied away: changing the perception of how the United States is viewed in the Muslim world.”

Um, sorry, but … rubbish. GHWBush tried to change perceptions - Oslo accords. Clinton tried as well - He had Arafat over for a visit. GWBush after 9/11 directly addressed Arab people, gave a famous speech on democracy …
Yes, Obama has uniquely decided to talk directly to foreign audiences, in a way not much seen since Reagan in ‘tear down that wall’ mode. That innovation is different and would be useful, if it was put to good use with a message that gave an American message in a palatable way to Muslim audiences. But it wasnt (see below). In other words, lets stop giving this nonsensical “oh, he’s trying so that means it must be some good.” So was Bush and I never heard his great efforts to move the ball on democracy in Arab countries win plaudits ‘for effort’. Results count. WE didnt grade previous presidents on effort, lets not do it here.

There was too much in Obama’s speech that was flat-out false and fatuous that it rendered it useless to the job of winning Muslims audiences to OUR side. Rather, it simple ingratiated Obama with them by pandering to their preconceived notions, except in a few places, where the push was soft the point of not-being-there.

Obama comes off as sounding more like a candidate for UN secretary-general than a US President, not *challenging* these foreign audiences to respect serious truths about terrorism and freedom and democracy, but pandering to them by flattering them with white lies (eg his hyperbole about Islamic science is nonsense that comes straight out from pro-muslim propaganda PR) that elided the essential problems and challenges they face. In short, pandering aint leadership nor statesmanship. Its just pandering, and unless he’s running for mayor of Cairo one has to ask “To what end?”

The hammer-hits-nail part of Moran’s analysis was this: “while forcing them to listen to a few (too few, as it turned out) truths about Islam and the threat of extremists”

TOO FEW. Indeed. Not a ‘great speech’ or even good speech. But a missed opportunity

To put an analogy on it: Obama could flatter a black American audience with a message akin to Al Sharpton’s, or he could challenge them with the tough love of a Bill Cosby message. One might get more applause, but which one would do most good?

I saw the comment ’stupid and dangerous’ as one reaction. It fits. The stupid part is how Obama in effect distanced himself from America - “Hey those bad Americans did that, its not me” - in an attempt to curry favor. So the muslim world will like HIM, but it will not necessarily cause the NEEDED self-examination nor look differently or more positively at what USA is doing. The dangerous part was the false moral equivalences that will - if taken seriously - put America in a rhetorical and policy box when facing real threats. Is he serious that Iran has the same rights to nuclear technology as the USA? Will his false moral equivalences move us closer? Not really because it panders to the most resistant and stubborn in the Arab world.

“All in all, it really was a quite forgettable speech domestically except for the objectionable parts. ” - I agree. In catering to the muslim audiences, Obama has said many things (again!) that raise hairs on spine back home.

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