- The Washington Times - Friday, June 5, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

President Obama sounded like he was channeling President George W. Bush during his Cairo speech yesterday. Much of the substance of Mr. Obama’s address, titled “A New Beginning,” sounded like the same old song. One could easily remove the biographical references, redact a few of the sentences that are clearly critical of specific Bush administration policies, and pass it off as old Republican talking points.

Check Mr. Bush’s remarks at the Islamic Center of Washington on Sept. 17, 2001, six days after the Sept. 11 attacks, in which he said, “America counts millions of Muslims amongst our citizens, and Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country.” Likewise, Mr. Obama stated, “Let there be no doubt: Islam is a part of America.” Mr. Bush believed that, “Women who cover their heads in this country must feel comfortable going outside their homes.” Mr. Obama upped the ante, noting that “the U.S. government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab,and to punish those who would deny it.”

In his June 24, 2002, Rose Garden speech on the Palestinian issue, Mr. Bush pledged his administration to pursue a two-state solution and stated, “it is untenable for Palestinians to live in squalor and occupation.” Mr. Obama echoed those sentiments when he noted that Palestinians “endure the daily humiliations - large and small - that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable.”

In his May 18, 2008, speech at the World Economic Forum in Sharm el-Sheikh, Mr. Bush made most of the same points on the value of economic development and democracy in the Middle East that Mr. Obama made yesterday. He addressed the authoritarian leaders of the region, including his Egyptian hosts, noting, “Some say any state that holds an election is a democracy. But true democracy requires vigorous political parties allowed to engage in free and lively debate.”

Mr. Obama told literally the same group of authoritarian leaders, “you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.”

These are but a few examples of message continuity between the Bush and Obama administrations. There are many more, especially dealing with democratization, women’s issues, religious freedom and the war in Afghanistan. The section in which he pledged to “confront violent extremism in all its forms” might as well have been taken from former Vice President Dick Cheney’s briefcase.

We fully expected to hear something along the lines of what Mr. Bush said on Sept. 17, 2001: “the face of terror is not the true faith of Islam … Islam is peace.” Mr. Obama surprised us by not repeating the frequent Bush mantra about the religion of peace, although he did praise the Muslim world for various (and debatable) historical accomplishments. He also noted Islam’s “proud tradition of tolerance” with a historically mangled reference to Andalusia and Cordoba during the Spanish Inquisition. Both are sites of major Muslim massacres of Jews in the 11th century. We hope the president will issue a clarification of this section of his speech lest the terrorists get the wrong message.

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