The President’s Charm Offensive



An elderly man reads the Koran on the second day of Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, at the Grand Mosque in Sanaa September 2, 2008.
REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

The President said:

It is untenable for Israeli citizens to live in terror. It is untenable for Palestinians to live in squalor and occupation. And the current situation offers no prospect that life will improve. Israeli citizens will continue to be victimized by terrorists, and so Israel will continue to defend herself.

In the situation the Palestinian people will grow more and more miserable. My vision is two states, living side by side in peace and security. There is simply no way to achieve that peace until all parties fight terror. Yet, at this critical moment, if all parties will break with the past and set out on a new path, we can overcome the darkness with the light of hope.


I can understand the deep anger and despair of the Palestinian people. For decades you’ve been treated as pawns in the Middle East conflict. Your interests have been held hostage to a comprehensive peace agreement that never seems to come, as your lives get worse year by year. You deserve democracy and the rule of law. You deserve an open society and a thriving economy. You deserve a life of hope for your children. An end to occupation and a peaceful democratic Palestinian state may seem distant, but America and our partners throughout the world stand ready to help, help you make them possible as soon as possible.


I have a hope for the people of Muslim countries. Your commitments to morality, and learning, and tolerance led to great historical achievements. And those values are alive in the Islamic world today. You have a rich culture, and you share the aspirations of men and women in every culture. Prosperity and freedom and dignity are not just American hopes, or Western hopes. They are universal, human hopes. And even in the violence and turmoil of the Middle East, America believes those hopes have the power to transform lives and nations.

This moment is both an opportunity and a test for all parties in the Middle East: an opportunity to lay the foundations for future peace; a test to show who is serious about peace and who is not. The choice here is stark and simple. The Bible says, “I have set before you life and death; therefore, choose life.” The time has arrived for everyone in this conflict to choose peace, and hope, and life.

True, it was said in the Rose Garden and not in Cairo; and it was delivered by President #43 and not #44.

Scott posted on this after Obama’s “New Beginning” speech, noting the similarities. Others have also noted the “more of the sameness”:

Michelle Malkin

Ed Morrissey

Washington Times Editorial

Wall Street Journal

Ali Abunimah of The Electric Intifada

Osama bin Laden…

So other than locale, how is it that the press and many in the moderate corner of the Middle East can gush “Ga-ga over Obama” and not give President Bush the same amount of coverage dispersal, when #43’s words should reach as far and wide as Obama’s words for the same cause of promoting freedom and peace? Is the press doing its job?

Perhaps President Bush should have taken his speech into the heart of the Middle East (imagine the protests!). How much difference would it have made? It’s not as if the 2002 Rose Garden speech were the only one of its kind, delivered by President Bush. Perhaps he should have taken lessons on telepromptering speeches?

President Obama, whether because of his transracial features and multicultural background, has the cult of personality and charm offensive going for him. He is a fresh slate.

Muqtedar Khan, Director of Islamic Studies, University of Delaware, writes in a WaPo piece entitled Obama’s Charisma Ignites Hope in Muslim Hearts,

Never has an American President spoken with such eloquence, compassion, understanding and empathy to the Muslim World.

There is no doubt that Obama gets the Muslim World. It is also obvious from the responses from around the world that except for some Israelis and its supporters and Al Qaeda [and- yoo-hoo!- don’t forget the Rushbots and us right wingnuts], President Obama’s words resonated profoundly with Muslim and non-Muslim audiences everywhere.


President Obama’s intellectual posture was very sophisticated and subtle. He went far beyond any American President in making concessions to Muslims without ever abandoning traditional American foreign policy values.


One element of the discourse was Obama’s portrayal of himself as a man comfortable with faith. He quoted from the Qur’an, the Torah and the Bible, and this will go far in undoing the widely held Muslim perception of America as a God-less materialist society.

Bush isn’t “a man comfortable with faith”?

Bush didn’t quote from the Quran, the Torah and Bible in speeches?

“The Holy Koran teaches that whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind; and whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind.”

President Obama wasn’t the first American president to selectively cite this passage.

November 16, 2001:

The President’s message includes brief quotes from the Koran, and refers to Islam as a religion that values charity, mercy and peace.

Mr. Bush notes the Muslim population of the United States is growing rapidly, with millions of American believers. He says they are a diverse group that serves in every walk of life, including the U.S. armed forces.

Sound familiar?

President Bush visited a mosque days after the events of 9/11.

In his socks, as is Muslim practice, Bush padded through the ornate mosque on Washington”s Embassy Row and heard stories from his hosts about Muslim-American women afraid to leave their homes for fear of prejudiced backlash after last week”s terrorist strikes.

“Those who feel like they can intimidate our fellow citizens to take out their anger don”t represent the best of America, they represent the worst of humankind and they should be ashamed of that kind of behavior,” Bush said, his back to the brilliantly tiled prayer alcove facing Mecca.

He quoted from the Quran and fervently defended the Islam faith: “Islam is peace. These terrorists don”t represent peace, they represent evil and war.”

President Bush embraces religious expression in all faiths. He is religiously tolerant, unlike many militantly secular extremists.

Not only has he visited mosques and temples, but held dinners and visits to the White House, celebrating Ramadan and lighting menorrahs.

But I guess if it’s Bush doing it, these things just don’t count because they defy the BDS stereotype. Even when he said this on September 20, 2001

The terrorists practice a fringe form of Islamic extremism that has been rejected by Muslim scholars and the vast majority of Muslim clerics; a fringe movement that perverts the peaceful teachings of Islam … [Islam’s] teachings are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah …The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself.

…somehow President Bush is still a hate-monger, warring against Muslims and conquering their lands.

November 1, 2001:

Thanksgiving is not the only holiday this week at the White House. On Monday night, Bush became the first president to host a traditional Ramadan dinner, or iftar.

The event was attended by representatives of 53 Muslim countries and senior U.S. officials. The Pentagon and State Department plan Ramadan meals for next week.

Continuing the interfaith message that Bush has repeated since the start of the war on terrorism, Bush told attendees that Ramadan, Christmas, and Hanukkah are opportunities for nations to celebrate together and understand one another better.

“America respects people of all faiths and America seeks peace with people of all faiths,” the president said at Monday’s dinner. “I thank you for your friendship and I wish you a blessed Ramadan.”

Also found in WaPo’s On Faith, Feisal Abdul Rauf, Chairman of the Cordoba Initiative, writes:

The historic significance of President Obama’s speech to the Muslim world in Cairo cannot be overstated. Never before has an American president spoken to the global Muslim community. His speech marked a major shift in American foreign policy. Obama directly enlisted a religion to build global peace and to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, end nuclear proliferation and stop terrorism.

In just a few sentences he demolished the phony theory of the “Clash of Civilizations,” which insists that Islam and the West must always be in conflict. Instead, he declared the United States is not at war with Islam and outlined a plan for how the conflict can be resolved.

Perhaps most important, he put religion at the core of the peacemaking process. For too long, Americans had come to fear Islam as an intolerant, violent religion. Obama cited examples from the Quran that belied those stereotypes. He emphasized the core similarities among Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

“Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism,” he said. “It is an important part of promoting peace.”

To Muslims, that was a powerful statement. “Islam is the solution” is the mantra of many Muslims. They believe their religion can and does solve problems.

The position of the American government as non-hostile to the religion of Islam itself even as we collide with the mullahs in Iran, Saddam’s Iraq, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, is nothing new:

While the intensity of the current debate is new, the substance of current U.S. government statements on Islam is not. The latest statements develop the themes and arguments of a policy articulated over the past decade. That policy has four main elements, each of which has become a policy mantra: There is no clash of civilizations. Terrorism is not Islamic. Islam is compatible with American ideals and adds to American life. Americans must learn to appreciate Islam.


President Bush’s speech to a Muslim audience during his visit to the Islamic Center in Washington: “These acts of violence against innocents violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith. … The face of terror is not the true face of Islam. That’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace.”28 White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer went further, calling the attacks “a perversion of Islam.”29 Secretary of State Colin Powell made the same point even more emphatically, casting the hijackers not only out of Islam but even out of Arabdom; their acts, he argued, “should not be seen as something done by Arabs or Islamics; it is something that was done by terrorists.”30

This distinction between Islam and terrorism, however it is made, has a profound implication for the post-September 11 concept of the enemy: the United States is fighting a war “on terror,” not on militant Islam or any type of Muslims. President Bush told Congressional leaders “we don’t view this as a war of religion, in any way, shape or form.”31 According to Powell, “this is not a conflict against Arabs or Muslims or those who believe in one particular religion.”32 Terrorism “is a threat not only to our civilization but to theirs as well,” explained Department of State spokesman Richard Boucher. “We don’t see this as an effort against Arabs; we don’t see this as an effort against Muslims.”33 More succinctly, Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz declared that “our enemy is terrorism, not Islam.”34

Even the judicial branch now has views about terrorism not being Islamic. At the sentencing of Ramzi Yusuf, the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Judge Kevin Duffy berated the defendant: “Ramzi Yusuf, you are not fit to uphold Islam. Your God is death. Your God is not Allah. … What you do, you do not for Allah; you do it only to satisfy your own twisted sense of ego.”35

Rather than coddling and pandering, infantilizing and talking down to his audience, here’s a more sober speech Muslims need to hear, delivered by the American president who liberated 50 million Muslims from tyranny and repression:

June 28, 2007

WASHINGTON – President Bush visited a mosque yesterday, removed his shoes in respect, and challenged Muslim clerics to more aggressively denounce terrorism.

“We must encourage more Muslim leaders to . . . speak out against radical extremists who infiltrate mosques, to denounce organizations that use the veneer of Islamic belief to support and fund acts of violence,” Bush said at the rededication of the Islamic Center of Washington.

Bush also urged leaders to do more to thwart the notion held by many “young Muslims – even in our country and elsewhere in the free world – who believe suicide bombing may some day be justified.”

That call to sanity comes after a nationwide poll released last month showed that one in four young Muslims in the United States believe suicide bombings that kill innocents in the name of Islam are OK in some cases.

The Islamic radicals are “Islam’s true enemy,” Bush said, and ticked off some of the atrocities they have committed against fellow Muslims and even their own holy sites.

“In Iraq, they killed a young boy and then booby-trapped his body so it would explode when his family came to retrieve him,” Bush said.

“They put children in the back seat of a car so they could pass a security checkpoint and then blew up the car with the children still inside.”

The terrorists have beaten and killed teachers in Afghanistan, bombed a wedding reception in Jordan and blew up a hotel in Jakarta, the president said.

“Men and women of conscience have a duty to speak out and condemn this murderous movement before it finds its path to power,” the president said.

“We must help millions of Muslims as they rescue a proud and historic religion from murderers and beheaders who seek to soil the name of Islam.”

Moderate Muslim leaders, he said, “have the most powerful and influential voice.”

Bush thanked those who have already aggressively condemned radicalism and noted the outpouring of American goodwill that has been spent on Muslims around the globe “in times of war and natural disaster.”

Specifically, he cited the 2004 tsunami that devastated Indonesia, the U.S. intervention in Bosnia and Kosovo and efforts to stop genocide in Sudan.

Yesterday’s speech, marking the 50th anniversary of the Washington Islamic Center, is part of a White House move to recast the war on terror as an effort to “rescue” the Muslim faith from extremists who use religion as “a path to power and a means for domination.”

Bush also sought to improve America’s image among Muslims worldwide and said their real enemy is not America but Islamic radicals.

“I have invested the heart of my presidency in helping Muslims fight terrorism and claim their liberty and find their own unique paths to prosperity and peace,” he said.

If Muslims around the world want to understand what America’s about, Bush suggested they look no father than the mosque where he was speaking – it’s located down the road from a synagogue, Lutheran church, Catholic parish, Greek Orthodox chapel and Buddhist temple.

Each, he said, has “followers who practice their deeply held beliefs and live side by side in peace.”

Bush’s visit to the Muslim center on Embassy Row was the third of his presidency. His first visit came six days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when he visited the mosque to denounce prejudice against Muslim Americans.

Of course if President Obama can make successful inroads by his methods, by his tone, by his charisma, by his background, by his cult of personality, by his charm offensive, then more power to him.

But it’s a lie to believe President Bush hasn’t reached out to the Muslim world and sought to make them partners in the war on terror to marginalize the “violent extremist” takfiri terrorists murdering in their midst, in the name of Islam.

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“Occupation?” Just exactly who is the “occupying” force here? Interesting choice of words for our Muslim-in-Chief, ain’t it?

Excellent reporting. Our media should be ashamed of itself.

“I have a hope for the people of Muslim countries. Your commitments to morality, and learning, and tolerance (except for women, Jews, Christians, and atheists) led to great historical achievements (none of which anyone can recall).”

Just thought I would help His “O”lliness out.

Muslim and Chief??? Really?? OldPUPPYMAX You have taken in to much right wing BS!!!

Just Al,

Somebody (Michelle Malkin?) recalled one great achievement: Calligraphy. Those Muslims achieved great penmanship. The world (not to mention yesteryear’s teachers) is grateful.