Media conservatives divided in reactions to Obama's Cairo address

Some prominent media conservatives have harshly criticized President Obama's speech in Cairo, while others offered praise for Obama's address.

Media conservatives have been divided in their responses to President Obama's June 4 address at Cairo University. Some prominent media conservatives, including Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Karl Rove, have harshly criticized the speech. However, several media conservatives offered praise for Obama's address, while conservative author David Horowitz went as far as to issue a warning: “Conservatives will make a great mistake if they fail to see this speech for what it was, and treat it as another round in the partisan food fight.”

Limbaugh -- whose importance to the Republican Party and the conservative movement GOP leaders have repeatedly emphasized -- stated on the June 4 edition of his radio show that in his speech, Obama was calling for a “world order” of “socialism” and “fascism.” Limbaugh also said that Obama was “offering a foundational reasoning for the redistribution of wealth” and “a call for the end of sovereignty.”

Similarly, on the June 4 edition of his Fox News show, Hannity claimed that Obama “decided to use his time on foreign soil to point the finger directly at America for many of the world's problems.” He went on to state: "[T]hat is our headline tonight: 'Blaming America First.'"

In addition, as the blog Think Progress noted, on the June 4 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, Fox News contributor Karl Rove said, "[O]n the important parts of the speech, that is to say understanding the nature of the U.S. relationship with the Middle East, I would give him a D minus." In judging Obama's “comments about extremism and terrorism,” Rove added: “I would give him a C minus on them.” He also said that he would give Obama “sort of a B minus or maybe a B” on “the opening” of the speech.

By contrast, several conservatives in the media approved of the speech:

Conservatives will make a great mistake if they fail to see this speech for what it was, and treat it as another round in the partisan food fight. It was not an appeasement of our enemies. 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. As conservatives we have many quarrels with the Obama administration -- and we should have. But this speech is not one of them.

  • In a June 4 post on the blog Hot Air titled “Obama's Cairo speech: Surprisingly good,” Ed Morrissey stated that the speech was “a much better effort than I'd feared.” He also praised Obama for “a not-so-subtle jab at the practice of various Arab and Muslim states to use the Palestinian issue to whip up anti-Israel sentiment for their own domestic purposes,” which he called “a little surprising - and refreshing.”
  • In a June 4 column, Max Boot wrote:

Having just read Obama's Cairo speech, my reaction is: Not bad. It could have been better. But it also could have been a lot worse


I realize that the Obama speech isn't going to satisfy those (like me) who once thrilled to Bush's unapologetic pro-democracy rhetoric but, for all of Obama's rhetorical sleight of hands and elisions, I thought he did an effective job of making America's case to the Muslim world. No question: He is a more effective salesman than his predecessor was. Which doesn't mean that his audience will buy the message.

Boot also cited several passages that he “particularly liked.”

  • In a June 4 post on the National Review Online blog The Corner, National Review editor and syndicated columnist Rich Lowry wrote of the speech:

I have to go back and read it carefully, so I reserve the right to extend and revise my remarks. But on the whole I thought it was pretty good and I basically agree with Max Boot's take here. Yes, there were many things about which to cavil, there were missed opportunities, and he betrayed the disturbing weakness of his policy in certain key areas, Iran foremost among them. But the speech was an act of diplomacy and as such, it inevitably was going to skate over some inconvenient truths and tilt its presentation in a way to try to make it more persuasive to its target audience. Fundamentally, Obama's goal was to tell the Muslim world, “We respect and value you, your religion and your civilization, and only ask that you don't hate us and murder us in return.” Bush tried to deliver the same message over and over again. The difference with Obama is that people might actually be willing to listen.

In a second post later that day, Lowry wrote:

I don't want to make exalted claims for the speech. It was a mixed bag and there are limits to the effect any one speech can have. But I think some in the conservative blogosphere are pronouncing it a scandal because they leave out all the good things. Consider: He extolled America as “one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever known”; pledged we will “relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our country”; condemned Holocaust denial as “baseless, ignorant, and hateful”; said “it is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus”; insisted that “the Arab-Israel conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems”; and called for more democracy, religious freedom, and women's rights in the Muslim world. And he got a standing ovation.

That should count for something. My standard is not whether Obama gave a speech I'd totally agree with (not going to happen), or whether it was strictly accurate as a matter of history of Koranic exegesis (irrelevant), but whether the speech will, on balance, help isolate Islamic extremists intellectually and politically, or not. Since I think it will, I consider it a success.

  • In a June 4 post on the blog RedState, conservative blogger Dan Spencer wrote, “This was one of President Obama's more important speeches and he rose to the occasion and delivered a fine speech.”
  • In a June 4 column, chief Washington correspondent Ronald Kessler wrote, “There is a right way to diminish recruitment of terrorists, and there is a wrong way ... The right way is for the president to give an honest and thoughtful speech such as Barack Obama did in Cairo.” Kessler also stated, “Obama sounded like an American president who we want to succeed.”

From the June 4 edition of Fox News' Hannity:

HANNITY: While much of America was asleep this morning, President Barack Obama delivered a major address in Egypt that was billed as a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world. But in the end, the president decided to use his time on foreign soil to point the finger directly at America for many of the world's problems. And he faulted the U.S. for the tension that exists between Americans and Muslims. And that is our headline tonight: “Blaming America First.”

Now, in his remarks, Mr. Obama refused to use these words: “terror,” “terrorism,” “terrorists,” or even that term “manmade disasters.” But he repeatedly quoted the Quran and even accused Americans of overreacting to the 9-11 terror attacks.