Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Camille Paglia Damns Obama's Cairo Speech With Faint Praise
She liked his speech more than I did. But she is not excited. The remainder of the post is quotes Ms. Paglia's Salon piece.
"Obama's speech (which I read rather than heard) seemed to my teacher's eye like a strong first draft rather than a polished final product. This could and should have been one of the most important documents in American political history. But any president, given the crushing onus of his daily agenda, needs help from a team of speechwriters and advisors who will flesh out his thoughts and argument with example and detail. Despite his Ivy League background, Obama evidently still lacks a reliable circle of erudite, cosmopolitan analysts like those John F. Kennedy drafted via his Harvard network.
"The Cairo speech is well-organized, ticking off central thorny issues region by region. But there is an unsettling slackness and even sentimentality in its view of history. Yes, Obama's principal targeted audience was moderate Muslims, whom he attempted to woo away from extremism. But the president missed a huge opportunity to speak with equal force to doubters in his own nation, where suspicion of Muslims has sometimes turned ruthless and paranoid." . . . . .
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"Hence, given the lingering climate of fear and suspicion, I wish that the Cairo speech had been more specific and instructional about Muslim beliefs and culture. Obama's quick and late citations of Andalusia and Córdoba, for instance, could only prove baffling to the majority of Americans, who know virtually nothing about Moorish Spain. Obama's cursory two-sentence summary of the past relationship between Islam and the West -- jumping from "conflict and religious wars" to "colonialism" -- seemed vague and timid. While there was a mini-list of Muslim ideas and inventions (including the questionable assertion that we owe our "mastery of pens and printing" to the Arabs), no comparable credit was given to the enormous Western contributions to science, medicine and technology. But the gravest omission was that Obama failed to fully articulate the most basic Western concepts of legal process and civil liberties, which have inspired reformers around the world. The president of the U.S. should be an eloquent ambassador of those ideals wherever he goes."
[I suspect that Obama's inability to be a good ambassador of Western ideals stems from those ideas being of absolutely no importance to him. Ms. Paglia is very intelligent and I think she will, one of these days, come to see through Obama's meaningless and misleading veneer of liberal values.]