Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Blogging, Government, History, Politics, The Rick Moran Show — Rick Moran @ 10:06 am

I am writing an in-depth piece for Pajamas Media on the speech but I wanted to get some thoughts down while some of them were fresh in my mind.

I saw the speech this morning and just finished reading the transcript. My initial impression from watching it was, I believe, correct; it was a very good speech with some eye popping assumptions that were just plain false, a glossing over of some points that needed to be hit harder, and a troubling lack of candor about the Muslim world regarding extremism that he either believes or deliberately failed to address.

Positive parts of the speech were that he did indeed tell the Muslim world some things they needed to hear: Denial that al-Qaeda carried out the attacks of 9/11 and the reality of the Holocaust are two subjects that are absolutely essential for the Muslim world to accept before any progress can be made. I think he also said some things that we in the west needed to hear about Islam although that part of his speech will fall on deaf ears in this country. Those predisposed to believe the worst about Islam and Muslims will not change (and that goes double for the other side).

I also thought Obama gave a good defense of our invasion of Afghanistan - something we should be reminding Pakistan of every day. And while I wish he would have hit the Iranian nuclear problem much harder, he laid out the consequences of an Iranian bomb realistically and without bombast. What he can do about it is another story.

He said some nice things about religious freedom and the democratic aspirations of all people on the planet. But Bush had been saying basically the same thing for years. And as far as religious freedom, his dubious claim of tolerance for other religions by Islam either proves his naivete or he has been misinformed about Christian persecution in Islamic lands.

His suggestive rhetoric that we are “imposing” democracy on Iraq or Afghanistan was pretty strange. While the Iraqi constitution borrowed some western concepts, it is much more beholden to Arab and Islamic practices than western-style government. I don’t recall anywhere in the US Constitution where it says the Koran inspires the law as it does in the Iraqi document.

Besides, should we have “imposed” another dictatorship on the Iraqis instead? I see no evidence that we were seeking to impose our values or culture on the Iraqis either. Just where this “imposing democracy” line came from would be a mystery except that is standard leftist tripe going back to Viet Nam.

He said almost nothing about government corruption (”stealing from the people”) when most citizens in the Middle East view the issue as one of the major problems in their countries. And he was virtually silent about separation of church from state. This was understandable but a truly brave speech would have addressed the issue head on. Islam is not incompatible with modernity but when governments use its traditions and teachings to control the people, impede economic development, stifle free speech, and maintain power, it becomes a dead weight on realizing progress toward a free, open, and prosperous society.

Stylistically, I thought the speech was near brilliant. It was extremely well organized, and the segues from topic to topic were rhetorically smooth and logical. It was both easy to follow if you were watching and easy to read.

The rhetoric was flowery without being obnoxious. Obama’s speeches have a tendency to take rhetorical flight and have trouble coming in for a landing sometimes. He avoided that pitfall by carefully crafting imagery that was substantive and somewhat subdued. The tone was at times hectoring - almost like a teacher scolding a class. But there was much beauty in the language and he mostly succeeded in walking the line between preaching and conversation.

There were many specific passages that will be taken out of context to attack the speech - many of them justified in my opinion. His belief that no one country should dominate in this brave new world is nonsense - unless he intends to deliberately subsume American interests to please other countries and the United Nations. You can bet the Russians and the Chinese were laughing at that passage. They have no intention of not acting in their vital interests - even if the world condemns them for it - as they seek to match or supplant America as the dominant power on the planet.

Was it a great speech? I subscribe to Theodore H. White’s view of what makes a great speech where three elements have to be present for a political speech to achieve immortality. First, the moment in time must amplify the words spoken. Since Obama’s Cairo address had no dramatic event or backdrop, that alone would disqualify it from being considered with even the top 100 American speeches much less being analogous to several of Churchill’s ringing addresses.

But the other factors that White believed made a great speech - the place the address is given and the words themselves, which should be great both spoken and read - came close to being fulfilled with Obama’s address. Martin Luther King speaking when he did and where he did acted as a gigantic megaphone for his words. Certainly Obama’s address will receive wide play around the world and the fact that he delivered it in a Muslim country will amplify the message . And the words in the speech itself will be seen in a context that guarantees the address will live beyond the daily news cycle.

In short, a good speech that could have been braver.


There’s a lot of good commentary both right and left. Ignore the politically motivated on both sides and concentrate on independent analysis.

On the right, Ed Morrissey and Christopher Preble of Cato have reasoned analysis. On the left, Peter Daou has an interesting critique. But the reality is, most on the right are trashing it and most on the left either believe it the second coming of the Sermon on the Mount or take great delight in linking to righties trashing the speech.


  1. Several ironies about the speech: first, any apology for reputed torture probably shouldn’t have been delivered in Egypt for obvious reasons. For years, that nation’s police have taken torture to new heights. It is the reason rendition to Egypt is so popular.

    Next, can anyone imagine Obama going to Vatican City or Jerusalem or name it and mentioning the reality that the United States basically is a Christian country in fact if not in law? I can’t. Also, given the on again, off again persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt, who comprise about 10 percent of the population there, there should have been more encouragement of tolerance on that front. There really wasn’t despite the platitudes.

    As an aside, am I the only one who finds it creepy that the president of a secular nation gives a speech about goddamned religion? Bush did this as well, and I never saw it as anything but pathetic.

    Finally, why in the fuck does Iran need nuclear power? An explanation would have been in order. For a president who apparently doesn’t believe the United States deserves nuclear power, I would like to know the answer.

    All in all a fine rhetorical speech light on logic and short on courage, as you pointed out. In other words, a typical Obama speech, bright and shiny and ultimately vapid as hell. It will change nothing, and the looming hell with Iran remains the unspoken horror.

    Comment by jackson1234 — 6/4/2009 @ 10:40 am

  2. In other words, you felt Obama ought to have been more defensive about America’s actions and more offensive about Islam.

    And so it goes…

    Comment by Buddy Saleeby — 6/4/2009 @ 12:02 pm

  3. So Who was Obama Talking to in Cairo?…

    President Obama’s speech in Cairo today was excellent (full text here). He gave historical context to grievances, lauded achievements, and affirmed commitments. He addressed primary concerns held closely by people on the various sides of many issues…..

    Trackback by Polimom, Too — 6/4/2009 @ 12:49 pm

  4. It’s going to be a tough day in Wingnuttia. It was a good speech and I’m not seeing the right get much of a handle on it.

    But I’m sure given time and the tireless efforts of Fox News the right will come up with some incontrovertible evidence that Obama hates America, loves terrorists and is suspiciously fond of Europeans to boot.

    Comment by michael reynolds — 6/4/2009 @ 12:50 pm

  5. Michael, I used to enjoy reading your commentary. But of late (the last few months) you say the same goddamn thing every post. Fox News bad, righties are wingnuts, Obama is great, blah blah blah.

    Get some new material. Or not… I really don’t care. I just thought you should know how boring you have become.

    Comment by lionheart — 6/4/2009 @ 1:44 pm

  6. Michael - you give Fox News way too much credit. Yes, it is by far the most clear minded and utterly evenhanded news channel on cable (and wildly successful, a fact that drives the left utterly insane) but I make up my own mind - I don’t even watch Fox News. Cannot stand O’Reilly and I’m in bed and asleep before the other crews come on.

    Did you actually listen to the President’s quisling speech in Egypt? Or are you just kneejerk reacting to any criticisms of your beloved?

    They were fine words from a fairly good orator (I’ve heard better in my time) but ultimately they meant next to nothing.

    Do you agree with your dear leader that Iran should have nuclear power? Why? Do you not agree with most of the world who considers Mahmoud Amahdinejad to be clinically insane? I don’t know about you, but I don’t believe in handing Roman candles and matches to small children or nuclear power to nutjobs who driven by their paranoia find themselves impelled to turn this entire world into a charcoal briquet!

    Comment by Gayle Miller — 6/4/2009 @ 1:46 pm

  7. Lionheart:

    Oddly enough I don’t come here to entertain you. Those who expect to be entertained by me, pay me. My current rates are between $500 and $875 a page. Write me a check and I’ll do my best.

    Comment by michael reynolds — 6/4/2009 @ 1:50 pm

  8. Gayle:

    Let’s parse, shall we?

    Do you agree with your dear leader that Iran should have nuclear power? Why?

    I think they have a right to peaceful and monitored civilian nuclear power. That’s a matter of law. Civilian reactors are not synonymous with bombs or even with bomb-making. In any event, as you may have noticed, we seem unable to stop them. Mr. Bush didn’t. So I think it’s smart to acknowledge the obvious — that they can have it if they want it — and try to focus instead on convincing them to abjure weapons.

    Do you have an alternative? Because I haven’t heard one. If you want to go military you’ll need to explain how you expect to keep the Persian Gulf open and protect US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Buy yourself a map.

    Do you not agree with most of the world who considers Mahmoud Amahdinejad to be clinically insane?

    No, I don’t think he’s insane. But it doesn’t matter because Ahmadinejad is just a pimp. Khamenei is running the show. And he’s shown no evidence of being insane. A pain in the ass yes, not crazy.

    I don’t know about you, but I don’t believe in handing Roman candles and matches to small children or nuclear power to nutjobs who driven by their paranoia find themselves impelled to turn this entire world into a charcoal briquet!

    What are we “handing” them? Seems to me they’re doing it without our help. Although they no doubt have some nuclear expertise left over from the days when we were actively encouraging the Shah to develop nuclear power plants.

    As far as I know the last thing we “handed them” was when Ronald Reagan sent them a Bible, a cake and some spare parts for missiles.

    Comment by michael reynolds — 6/4/2009 @ 2:25 pm

  9. Michael, like I said, I don’t care. I truly thought I was helping you- borefests are rarely aware of their projection.

    As far as your rate for writing goes, it’s out of my price range for the toilet paper I would use it for. But I’ll consider your attention to my free advice a rare gift of your self-proclaimed talents. I’ll be counting your words (so far, 40). Have you got a few more for me? Maybe just two more? Come on, I know you want to say it.

    Comment by lionheart — 6/4/2009 @ 2:54 pm

  10. Just a couple points to toss out there …

    1) Obama: “And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality”. Funny thing though, Al-Azhar University which Obama stated was a co-host of his speech and which he describes as “a beacon of Islamic learning” is a completely racist and discriminatory institution. If you are a Christian Copt in Egypt your tax dollars will be used to fund Al-Azhar, but don’t both applying for admission because it is for Muslims only. Yep, gotta love that tolerance and equality.

    2) Obama: “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”. What Obama conveniently leaves out is the remainder of that verse from the Koran which apparently mandates the killing of all those who fight against Allah and Muhammed. So again, this only applies to Muslims (the only true ‘innocents’), otherwise for all us dhimmis all bets are off.

    Of course then too there was his mention of the ‘7 million’ Muslims in the US which apparently grossly overstates reality. 7 million is the number that everyone likes to throw around, but it is a number that can’t be substantiated. Reality is probably more on the level of 3 million (www.adherents.com/largecom/com_islam_usa.html).

    Comment by Michael S. — 6/4/2009 @ 2:55 pm

  11. Bottom line … he mailed this one in

    Comment by Neo — 6/4/2009 @ 5:35 pm

  12. [...] Right Wing Nut House I saw the speech this morning and just finished reading the transcript. My initial impression from watching it was, I believe, correct; it was a very good speech with some eye popping assumptions that were just plain false, a glossing over of some points that needed to be hit harder, and a troubling lack of candor about the Muslim world regarding extremism that he either believes or deliberately failed to address. [...]

    Pingback by Obama’s Speech in Cairo: 6,000 Words and What Some are Already Saying - Updated w/ Even More Stuff Other People Are Saying | All American Blogger — 6/4/2009 @ 6:17 pm

  13. The neocons hate Obama Michael, you can’t have a rational discussion with them. They attack Obama whenever he does, or says, anything. Rick, to his credit doesn’t. I’m sure the invasion of Iraq by Bush and his cowboy rhetoric set relations back with moderate Muslims about 100 years.The neocons ignore this fact,Obama has to repair relations with the Muslim world.The neocons would rather bomb them into submission, they have no time for diplomacy. And they love the cutesy phrases like “dear leader” and messiah and “the one”. Basically they wish they had a charismatic and intelligent leader like Obama. Instead they have retreads like Newt, and Rove, and Dick Moriss.The only thing that neocons fear is losing power, they are angry because they have been crushed in the last 2 elections. As their numbers shrink, they grow more shrill, which only pushes away the moderates and independents that are needed to win elections. A death spiral. good riddance.

    Comment by Joe — 6/4/2009 @ 7:27 pm

  14. Joe, interesting analysis. As I read your post I realized how I could easily switch the names and party affiliation with Democrats and liberals and much of what you said would be equally true of the unhinged liberal left. You are in power for now. But nothing lasts forever in politics. You all were equally unfair and rabid for the past 8 years specifically and for the last 50 years in general. Its a sad commentary on American politics that so many on both sides are so demeaning towards those who they don’t agree with and show an intolerable lack of ability to interact on a civilized and intelligent level (and yes, I did say both sides).

    Having said that, this was a fine speach that people on both sides can find things to agree with and to disagree with. I appreciate sane voices on both sides that discuss the issue. Have you thought of joining them in civil discourse?

    Comment by Scott — 6/4/2009 @ 9:41 pm

  15. thanks for the even-handed take, ed.!

    Comment by brooks — 6/4/2009 @ 11:39 pm

  16. Joe, tu quo que.

    I’m not using the tu quo que argument to justify irrational criticism of Obama, I am just pointing out how richly ironic it is that you accuse Obama critics of the exact same thing you did (and still do) to Bush. For evidence, I note your 4th sentence.

    Comment by lionheart — 6/5/2009 @ 4:45 am

  17. Michael Reynolds,

    I’m sorry to beat a dead horse, but I wanted you to know that I discovered with a little research, that I have actually read one of your books (Gone). However, it cost me only $4.98, for 576 pages. That’s a bit less than a penny a page, so I think you are inflating your rate by a few million percent (just joking- your book was excellent, and I would recommend it to anyone).

    And I didn’t use it for T.P.

    Comment by lionheart — 6/5/2009 @ 5:04 am

  18. Lionheart:

    That would be some brilliant math. Except that I get paid by my publisher to write the book. Your purchase of same repays them incrementally for what they’ve paid me. (Until we get to a certain point.)

    But I’m glad you liked the book.

    And I have a suggestion: why don’t we both stop being bitches, shake hands and have a virtual drink?

    Comment by michael reynolds — 6/5/2009 @ 8:06 am

  19. “you accuse Obama critics of the exact same thing you did (and still do) to Bush”

    It’s the old “everyone else is doing it” defense.

    Thanks for the even-handed analysis, Rick.

    Comment by ignatov — 6/5/2009 @ 10:34 am

  20. ignatov,
    Tu quo que is famous for being a fallacious logical argument. Which is why I prefaced the passage you quoted with a disclaimer that I was using it not for argument or justification, but to point out the irony of being accused of something that the accuser is doing himself.

    Michael Reynolds,
    Fair enough. Hands shaken, and virtual drinks consumed (I like single malt scotch too).

    Comment by lionheart — 6/5/2009 @ 12:27 pm

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