what other people think

The Cairo Speech: Classic Obama

As we wrote earlier, President Obama “called for an alliance and a new beginning between America and the Muslim world” in his highly anticipated speech in Cairo this morning. The 55-minute address covered a broad range of topics, from Israel-Palestine, Iraq, and Iran to women’s rights, democracy, and religious freedom. Those are topics fraught with potential controversy, and what pleased Obama’s audience in the Muslim world is upsetting some in America. Meanwhile, others saw this speech as the Obama we all have come to expect: nuanced, even-handed, and tolerant.

• Matt Yglesias says that Obama and his team are “not afraid to try to express complicated or difficult ideas” and are willing “to try to really explain the complicated and difficult ideas rather than sweep them under the rug.” [Think Progress]

• Hugh Hewitt’s two major objections to the speech are that the ideas it laid out were not “a huge break with the Bush Administration’s policies with regard to Islam,” and that Obama presented a moral equivalency between the Israelis and the Palestinians. [Town Hall]

• Steve Benen believes nobody can say Obama “ducked the hard questions.” The speech was “a dramatic success.” [Political Animal/Washington Monthly]

• Alex Koppelman thinks the message that dominated Obama’s speech was, “I understand you.” While “it didn’t mark any substantive shifts,” it was seen as “a chance to forge human bonds based on the unique connection the president has to the Muslim world.” [War Room/Salon]

• James Fallows writes that “this was yet another in the series of speeches” beginning with the race speech in Philadelphia fifteen months ago “that individually and as a group really are out of phase with anything we have known in contemporary political rhetoric.” [Atlantic]

• Shmuel Rosner wonders if Obama knows “not just how to say the right words, but also how to achieve all, or even a handful of, the goals he has so beautifully and expressively laid out today.” [New Republic]

• Stephen Hayes finds it “extraordinary” how little attention Obama paid to what’s happened in Iraq, “the most remarkable development in the region in decades.” Obama also “called for women’s equality in platitudes and the only country he singled out for criticism” was the United States. [Blog/Weekly Standard]

• Marc Ambinder looks at reactions from Twitter from around the world. “Younger twitterers in the Muslim world seem to be ecstatic. A lot of attention is being paid to his language (’Muslim communities’ instead of ‘Muslim world.’ Israelis seem to be upset; the settlers are irate.” [Atlantic]

• Blake Hounshell thinks Obama took an odd stance on the hijab. While Obama “seems to view this controversial article of clothing uncritically,” he “should understand that women in Muslim communities don’t always feel that they have a choice about wearing the hijab.” Oh, and he mispronounced the name of the school he was speaking at. [Passport/Foreign Policy]

• Craig Crawford writes that the speech “made good on the promise of this man to begin the process of transforming relations and undermining terrorists.” The speech “gracefully shifted from historical tensions to current conflicts between Muslim nations and the western world.” Obama’s seeming acknowledgment “that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake … will probably do more to impress the Muslim world than just about anything else in this historic speech.” [Trail Mix/CQ Politics]

• Mike Allen believes the speech “was remarkable and historic not so much for the delivery or even the words, but for the context, the orator, the moment. Obama included blunt talk about the United States, Israel, Iraq, his predecessor and al Qaeda.”

• Jeff Zeleny and Helene Cooper call it perhaps “the riskiest speech” of Obama’s presidency. He “evoked a new and nuanced tone” and his “message was sweeping and forceful — at times scolding.” [NYT]

• Chuck Todd and friends call the address “classic Obama: It was nuanced and called for an honest discussion about the circumstances that currently divide Christians, Jews, and Muslims,” though “George W. Bush said some very similar things when he was president.” [First Read/MSNBC]

• Ed Morrissey, surprisingly, calls the speech “surprisingly good.” He’s pleased that Obama “defended American positions on Israel and Afghanistan with more strength than he does here at home,” though it remains to be seen whether that will do “anything at all for our standing in the Muslim world.” [Hot Air]

• Peter Daou says the speech was “disappointingly weak on human rights and specifically women’s rights.” [HuffPo]

The Cairo Speech: Classic Obama