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Ron Radosh

Obama’s Speech: How Should Conservatives View It?

June 5th, 2009 - 9:52 am

I will be blogging later, and am preparing a major blog article on Klehr and Haynes’ book
Spies
, and the response to it by panicked leftists. This may take the whole day to prepare, and I might not post it until tomorrow.

But, I did want to call attention to two very divergent views of Obama’s Cairo speech. The first, surprisingly, is by David Horowitz, at Frontpagemag.com. As you can see, Horowitz gives Obama an uncritical reading and has a completely favorable response. For a man who is usually as tough-minded as they come, this time David fails to read between the lines, and responds to the power of Obama’s rhetoric. It is hard not to, if one watched the speech on TV and succumbed to his charisma and delivery. I am glad that David understands that if and when an American President with whom conservatives often disagree makes a powerful statement in defense of our nation, he should be supported. But I think that this time, a careful look at Obama’s speech reveals many examples of both moral equivalence and an approach that actually surrenders a great deal to America’s real enemies.

The contrary view, whose author took much time to reflect on the speech before setting down to write, is by Robert Satloff, executive director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Contrary to David, Satloff separates what he thinks is positive from what he believes is in fact quite dangerous. Not only does Satloff think that Obama offered an “implicit acceptance of political Islam,” he writes the following about Obama’s ideas on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

This parallelism was perhaps most artificial in the president’s discussion of the contours of the Arab-Israeli conflict. While no impartial observer can dispute the hardship of Palestinian life, it runs counter to history to suggest that Palestinians have “suffered in pursuit of a homeland,” when, since 1937, Palestinian leaders have rejected no fewer than six proposals to achieve just that goal. Similarly, the president’s statement about Palestinians who “wait in refugee camps . . . for a life of peace and security” says as much about Arab governments’ indifference to their fate as the inability to reach a diplomatic solution with Israel. And the president’s drawing of a connection from the Palestinian conflict with Israel to the fight for civil rights in America or the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa will be interpreted by many as an endorsement of the moral righteousness of the Palestinian cause, not — as he apparently intended — a call for strict nonviolence.  

Contrast Satloff’s last sentence with that written by Horowitz, who argues that Obama “drew a parallel between the struggles of American blacks for civil rights and Palestinians. But unlike Condoleeza Rice who not too long ago drew the same parallel to aggrandize the PLO terrorists as civil rights activists, Obama drew a sharp and revealing line of distinction between them: “Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America’s founding.’ And that was really the core of Obama’s speech. It was a defense of America’s founding and America’s mission.”

I urge readers to read both Horowitz and Satloff in their entirety, and then decide who is right for themselves. As they say on Fox News, we report, you decide.

Update: Cathy Young blogs today  on the same subject, and as usual, strikes her own original position.  Her article can be found here: http://cathyyoung.wordpress.com/2009/06/05/parsing-obama/

NOTICE TO MY BLOG READERS:  The book talk my wife and I gave two weeks ago  in NYC  is on Book TV- C-Span2- tonight at 7 pm EST. We talk about our new book, “A Safe Haven: Harry S.  Truman and the Founding of Israel.”  Posted on Sunday, June 7.

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