I listened to the speech on Thursday and thought that it was good overall. There was definitely some of the secular American messianic rhetoric that our leaders like to engage in sometimes. No surprise given some of Obama’s campaign rhetoric, I guess. I thought that he confronted the issue of terrorism well, addressed both the Israeli and Palestinian sides of that conflict well, and seemed generally respectful of his audience and of America as well. If I were giving the speech, I doubt I would have been as fluent and comfortable in using the Quran, but I think that Obama’s liberal/modernist theology makes him more comfortable in doing that. Of course, more important than the speech are the policies that come from it.
I wanted to link to the comments of some people far more qualified than I am:
- Marc Lynch, a professor at George Washington University, has an extended review that is largely favorable. He thought it was a good contrast with Bush’s approach and felt that it was a good exercise of “public diplomacy.”
- Jeffrey Goldberg made a favorable comment , but also felt that Obama didn’t mention that the Arabs could have avoided Palestinian suffering if they had accepted the partition in 1947.
- Goldberg also quotes David Wolpe’s observation that Obama did not link the Jewish presence in Israel to their biblical roots.
- Christopher Hitchens worries that standing up for the right of women to wear hijab allows women to be dominated, and also makes some other criticisms. He also makes a criticism of the Guantanamo facility that I had not heard in quite those terms before reading his article.
I’d be interested in other well-informed reactions that you have read, positive or negative.