Commentary crowd: Awful, not bad, bad — but not as bad as it could have been


President Obama’s speech in Cairo is getting neutral to negative reviews on the Commentary blog — which is better than he usually does over there.

New York Sun veteran Ira Stoll kicked things off with the harshest review, with a post titled "awful."

He starts off by taking aim at an Obama assertion that will probably trigger plenty of side debate in the next few days — that there are 7 million Muslims living in the United States. And then moves on to the section on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

Even when Obama was trying to be nice to Israel, he was tone deaf: “America’s strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied,” he said. The missing words were those usually present in such passages about shared democratic values and strategic interests.

The sections about the Palestinian Arabs were even weaker….

Next, former McCain adviser Max Boot weighed in, declaring the president’s speech "not bad" — as in, "Not bad. It could have been better. But it also could have been a lot worse." To be sure, he offered some criticisms, but in the end he offered this conclusion:

I realize that the Obama speech isn’t going to satisfy those (like me) who once thrilled to Bush’s unapologetic pro-democracy rhetoric but, for all of Obama’s rhetorical sleight of hands and elisions, I thought he did an effective job of making America’s case to the Muslim world. No question: He is a more effective salesman than his predecessor was. Which doesn’t mean that his audience will buy the message.

Finally, Jennifer Rubin jumped in, essentially starting from the same spot as Boot — "The president’s speech … was not as horrific as some might have expected after the run of Israel bashing leading up to it and his prior apology tour in Europe." But instead of starting off with some criticisms before ending on a fairly positive note, she starts with a few nods before lashing into the remarks. Her conclusion:

Will this speech accomplish anything? The American elites will swoon. But it won’t do much of anything — other than encourage Iran. The president operates from a false premise and paints a distorted picture of the region. It’s all everyone’s fault, and no one’s fault. And it’s about forgetting how we got to where we are. The Palestinians don’t lack a state because of Jewish settlements. They lack a state because they rejected one — again and again. So long as Obama is being anything but “honest” I suspect we won’t see much progress, let alone peace.

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