Update below the break: Although Zakaria said he would be "surprised" if any Israelis objected to Obama's "quite even-handed" call for pre-1967 borders between Israel and Palestine, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed clear disapproval of the idea Thursday.
CNN's Fareed Zakaria appeared three times on Newsroom Thursday to preview and evaluate President Obama's speech on the Middle East – but never revealed that he has recently had face-to-face meetings with the president on foreign policy matters.
Last weekend a comment by CNN prime time host Eliot Spitzer revealed that Zakaria was advising the president on foreign policy matters, but Zakaria later dismissed that observation and said he simply had off-the-record conversations with Obama on foreign issues. However, he still did not disclose that information when he evaluated Obama's foreign policy speech Thursday on CNN.
This White House, like its predecessors, can take some comfort in the fact that the Middle East has been breaking the hearts of diplomats and foreign politicians for at least 2,000 years. Of course, some centuries have been worse than others (Pontius Pilate had a particularly difficult innings). But in modern times, the American voting public has become accustomed to seeing regular news from the Middle East feature wars, terrorism, mayhem, religious fanaticism and failed peace initiatives.
As a result, few presidents pay much of a price at election time for failing to deliver peace or other conspicuous diplomatic successes from that cradle of civilization and birthplace of the three great religions of the Book. I am certainly not prepared to predict that President Obama will lose many votes in 2012 based on his Middle East policy.
On CBS’s Sunday Morning show, during his regular commentary, right-leaning CBS contributor Ben Stein gave a pessimistic view of the "Arab Spring" movement to topple authoritarian governments in the Middle East, charged that America would regret allowing Hosni Mubarak lose power in Egypt, and predicted that the radical Muslm Brotherhood would take over there.
He also gave rare attention to the Muslim Brotherhood’s history of alliance with Nazi Germany during World War II. Stein:
The most potent political force in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, hates the U.S., loathes Israel, condemns the killing of bin Laden whom they praise as a martyr, and they've been wedded to terror for their entire existence. Oh, P.S., they were closely connected with Adolf Hitler. They'll probably take over Egypt completely sooner or later.
As NewsBusters previously documented, Nazi Germany helped build up the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1930s to spread anti-Jew hatred in the Middle East.
Obama’s "deliberate, almost scholarly" approach to foreign policy may be obtaining mixed results at best, but New York Times reporter Mark Landler trumpeted the White House line that the killing of Osama bin Laden would enable Obama to "reset" American policy in the Arab world: "Obama Seeks Reset in Arab World – Speech Likely to Put Bin Laden’s Death in Context of Uprisings." After years of falsely deriding President Bush as an incurious cowboy set on "going it alone" in foreign policy, the Times finds Obama's "immersion" in liberal journo-think (like Times columnist Tom Friedman) a welcome sign of "scholarly" pragmatism.
For President Obama, the killing of Osama bin Laden is more than a milestone in America’s decade-long battle against terrorism. It is a chance to recast his response to the upheaval in the Arab world after a frustrating stretch in which the stalemate in Libya, the murky power struggle in Yemen and the brutal crackdown in Syria have dimmed the glow of the Egyptian revolution.
It’s a “news”` outlet dedicated to coverage of the Middle East, but it ignores ongoing atrocities against Israeli civilians. Its Arab language sibling threw a lavish birthday party for a terrorist who infamously murdered a Jewish family, and its reporting during the Iraq War was called “vicious, inaccurate, and inexcusable” by the U.S. Secretary of Defense. The list of op-ed contributors to its website reads like a Who’s Who of left-wing and Muslim anti-Americanism.
It’s Al Jezeera English, and liberals and the U.S. media want to give it prestigious awards and greater access to the U.S. cable news market.
Last week, the media rightfully crowed over U.S. success in killing Osama Bin Laden, an unquestioned bad guy in the war on terror. They noted that intelligence gathered from that raid may have led to an unsuccessful U.S. Predator drone attack on Anwar Al Awlaki, leader of Al Qaeda in Yemen. Unfortunately, while Al Awlaki is very much as bad as Bin Laden, the media haven’t always known it.
The mainstream media have recently described this America-born terrorist as a “central figure” of Al Qaeda and the New York Times, ABC News, and MSNBC have all called him “radical” when reporting on the recent attempted drone attack. Al Awlaki has been linked to the 2009 Christmas Day Underwear bombing attempt in Detroit, the Fort Hood Shooting and the failed Times Square bombing.
But just 10 years ago they claimed he was a “moderate” a bridge-builder, and a “prayer leader.”
MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell on Thursday had a highly-contentious interview with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
"The Last Word" host repeatedly interrupted his guest leading her to say after one such incident, "Lawrence, you have a bad habit with your guests. You never let them answer a question" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
On Monday and Tuesday, NPR played up how Osama Bin Laden's death might translate into a political win for President Obama. Mara Liasson trumpeted the "huge victory" for the President and spotlighted a scholar who gushed how Obama now looked "strong and competent and decisive." Cokie Roberts boasted how the military operation was a "score" for the Democrat and that it was a "game changer politically."
At the beginning of her report which lead Tuesday's Morning Edition, Liasson gushed that "every president benefits from moments of national unity, but none so much as Barack Obama, who ran for office promising to bridge partisan divides." Later, the journalist noted that, with the raid against Bin Laden, "he [Obama] made good on his repeated promise to act unilaterally if he had actionable intelligence."
Update (17:38 EDT on May 4): Rush Limbaugh mentioned this post on his May 3 program. You can listen to that by clicking here.
Well, this should be interesting.
The AP is reporting (preserved here in case the report devolves, as such things very often do) that "secret prisons" and "harsh interrogation techniques" were involved in getting the "first strands of information" that ultimately led to Sunday operation which killed 9/11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden.
It's only a three-paragrapher, so it follows in full (for fair use and discussion purposes). Get a load of the final paragraph:
For the Washington Post's Petula Dvorak the sight of American college kids celebrating the death of Osama Bin Laden outside of the White House gates, on Sunday night, was "almost vulgar." In a May 2 story Dvorak described the scenes of joy as "one part Mardi Gras and two parts Bon Jovi concert" but then went on to say "It felt a little crazy, a bit much. Almost vulgar" and admitted: "my first reaction was a cringe."
Dvorak, then doubled-down on her hand-wringing, saying the U.S. students reminded her of "those al Qaeda-guys dancing on Sept. 11th," before pondering: "Are we simply creating star-spangled recruitment tapes for a new generation of terrorists killing in the name of their new martyr?"
While it was suggested during February's coverage of anti-government protests in Egypt that the radical Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood movement only had the support of a minority of Egyptians, a recent Pew Research Center poll finds that over 70 percent of the Egyptian public holds a favorable view of the Islamist organization. The same poll also notably finds that the more secular April 6 movement has a similar appeal.
The Haaretz Web site contains the AP article "Poll: More Than Half of Egyptians Want to Cancel Treaty with Israel," which notes: "The conservative Islamist Muslim Brotherhood and the largely secular April 6 movement - two groups closely involved in the uprising, had the highest approval ratings in society, with over 70 percent seeing them in a very or somewhat favorable light."
On the February 8 NBC Nightly News, correspondent Richard Engel had estimated the group's appeal to be between 20 and 40 percent.
And, as the headline alludes to, 54 percent of poll respondents expressed the view that Egypt's thirty-year treaty with Israel should be ended: "According to the poll results, only 36 percent of Egyptians are in favor of maintaining the treaty, compared with 54 percent who would like to see it scrapped."
As previously documented by NewsBusters, Helen Thomas - former columnist and White House correspondent for both UPI and Hearst Newspapers - was scheduled to speak at a left-wing anti-Israel rally next month during Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's upcoming visit to America. But the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that Thomas "withdrew her participation fearing she will become the focus of the events."
Thomas, who last year infamously was recorded declaring that Israeli Jews should "get the hell out of Palestine" and "go home" to Poland and Germany, was quoted as saying of the upcoming protest, "I am delighted that people are coming together for this gathering, and I want to make sure that the focus stays on AIPAC and U.S. policy, not me."
A statement released by the organizers of the "Move Over AIPAC" Rally reads:
A new poll finds one out of 10 Egyptians are sympathetic to Islamic "fundamentalists," 75 percent have a positive view of the Muslim Brotherhood, and 79 percent have a "very" or "somewhat unfavorable" view of the United States.
But Washington Post's Michael Birnbaum seems to portray this data as of little concern (emphasis mine):
The New York Times offered a distorted glimpse into the prison at Guantanamo Bay and the Bush administration's treatment of suspected terrorists in a series of reports published on Sunday and Monday.
Scouring hundreds of leaked military documents, Times reporters used emotionally-charged phrases and cherry-picked anecdotes to paint an unflattering picture of the facility that has jailed hundreds of enemy combatants captured in the War on Terror.
On Friday's "Inside Washington," during a discussion about American foreign policy in the Middle East and Africa, PBS's Mark Shields actually said, "The most urgent priority that we have is to find jobs somehow, not simply for Americans, which is an urgent priority, but for young Egyptians" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
On Wednesday’s NBC Nightly News, chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel informed viewers that he is "worried" that a major war between some of the Arab countries and Israel could be in the not too distant future because of the "ferociously anti-Israel" sentiment of the "Arab street" that is likely to gain power in countries like Egypt. He ended up concluding: "But I think, over time, this thing ends in Jerusalem."
After host Brian Williams and Engel had discussed the likely prosecution of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, and the disappointment of Libyan rebels at the level of assistance to their cause supplied by NATO, Williams posed the question: "You’re back here in New York for a few days. The question I’ve seen most people ask you: Where does this all end?"
Engel sounded more pessimistic than he did during the protests in Egypt from January and February. Engel:
This whole movement in the Middle East, and I'm worried about it because while people in the region deserve more rights and they want more rights and they're embracing more of the will of the Arab street, well, the will of the Arab street is also ferociously anti-Israel, against Israel.
On April 2nd, The New York Times published a piece by Ethan Bronner titled, "In Israel, Time for Peace Offer May Run Out." In the piece, Bronner discussed various aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including statehood, violence, peace talks, religion, the West Bank, Gaza, and the Muslim Brotherhood.
But while Bronner spent many paragraphs detailing the difficulties in establishing peace between Israel and Palestine, it wasn't until the 2nd page that he Donner admitted a "central obstacle to the establishment of a State of Palestine" is the political and physical divide between the Palestinian Authority-controlled West Bank and the Hamas-controlled Gaza. The more moderate PA has suggested elections for a unified government in both territories.
In 1427, a ship captain sailing for his Portuguese Prince, Henry the Navigator, discovered the Azores Islands. If the question of the significance of this event had been posed, at the time, to Sultan Murad Khan (the leader of the Ottoman Empire), or to Itzcoatl and Nezahualcoyotl (the co-leaders of the Aztecs) or to Rao Kanha (one of the princes of Jodhpur in India), it is unlikely that any of them would have responded that it is an early indication of a historic explosion of cultural energy in Europe that will lead to European exploration and conquest of most of the known world, and to a renaissance of European thought that will give rise to scientific, industrial and scholarly dominance of the planet by European culture for at least half a millennium.
Today, no European or American leaders with whom I am familiar have tied the Sept. 11, 2001 attack, the various Islamist bombing attacks around the world, the push for Sharia law in the West and the current disturbances in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Jordan, Syria and Bahrain together as symptoms of one larger phenomenon.
Only Good Morning America's Jake Tapper on Tuesday pointed out the relatively low public support for Barack Obama's military actions in Libya and the harsh criticism from both the right and the left.
On NBC's Today, Chuck Todd parroted, "[Obama] also took the opportunity to rebut critics on the left and the right about how and whether to target Qadhafi with the military. In total the President used the framework of American values to make the case."
On CBS's Early Show, Bill Plante narrated, "The President defended his decision to use military force in Libya, he said that when the interests and values of the U.S. are at stake, he has a moral obligation to act." Tapper, on the other hand, highlighted both the economic cost and the poor poll numbers.
During Monday's "Morning Joe," Time's Mark Halperin and co-host Mika Brzezinski helpfully provided some spin for the White House to borrow as President Obama finishes his prepared remarks for Monday evening's address to the nation on the events in Libya.
President Obama has received sharp criticism for his foreign policy concerning Egypt and Libya, but Halperin threw cold water on that, calling Obama's strategy "extremely deft in a very tough situation." Brzezinski agreed with his premise, adding that his "deft" handling is also in accord with promises he previously made.
"He's pro-democracy, right? He's anti-violence. He's anti-unilateral U.S. intervention," Halperin noted of Obama, trying to connect his current policy with the peacemaker he claimed to be as a presidential candidate.
(Video below the jump. Comments begin at the 12:30 mark.)
Libyan rebel commander admits his fighters have al-Qaeda links Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi, the Libyan rebel leader, has said jihadists who fought against allied troops in Iraq are on the front lines of the battle against Muammar Gaddafi's regime.
So how will the U.S. press deal with this hot potato?
On Monday, an unbylined Associated Press item briefly reported the results on results of Egypt's weekend referendum, and the U.S. reaction:
The United States has welcomed the results of Egypt's weekend referendum after it opened the way for parliamentary and presidential elections within months.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner says the approved term limits for the next Egyptian president, multiple ways for candidates to get on the ballot and judicial supervision of elections are positive trends.
Toner said "Egyptians took an important step toward realizing the aspirations" of the revolution that toppled long-time leader Hosni Mubarak from power.
On Thursday at Reuters, Andrew Quinn, with the help of Caren Bohan, cobbled together a pathetic "analysis" full of sympathy for a "struggling" Barack Obama and recognition of the need to keep oil flowing from Saudi Arabia. It also contained a false jab at George W. Bush and the War in Iraq.
First, let's look at Quinn's Bush jab:
Obama is committed to partnering with other countries rather than going it alone as did his predecessor George W. Bush, which both broadens and complicates the decision-making process.
This got the attention of Jeffrey Goldberg at the Atlantic (HT Instapundit), who linked to the identical but unbylined Reuters item at the New York Times. Goldberg's response:
Is Obama more 'hawkish' and yet more charming than his immediate predecessor?
Apparently so, claimed Time's Mark Halperin and MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski on Thursday's edition of "Morning Joe."
Halperin believes that President Obama has been more cavalier than his predecessor, and Brzezinski thinks that although Obama has extended many of Bush's unpopular policies, he brings a different "characterization" to the table.
The panel harped on the irony of Obama receiving the Nobel Peace Prize despite his inexperience in the White House at the time (less than a year) and the fact that he has continued American wars overseas and started a third one in Libya. Liberals Mike Barnicle and Mika Brzezinski both admitted to having been taken aback by the 2009 decision to bestow the prize on the president in his freshman year in office. (Interestingly enough, this recalls an episode in 2009 when co-host Joe Scarborough mocked the Nobel committee's decision on the "Morning Joe" set.)
(Video after the jump. Comments from start until 3 minutes in.)
ABC anchor Diane Sawyer on Tuesday interviewed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for World News and Nightline, but offered no questions about the Obama administration's failure to seek congressional approval for air strikes in Libya. Instead, the journalist seemed fascinated by the decision-making process, repeatedly asking about Clinton's "decisive" role in going ahead with the bombing.
Sawyer quizzed, "We have read, repeatedly, that you were decisive in this. Did you persuade President Obama? Was yours the voice that turned around the opponents?" The intrigued World News anchor followed-up by asking if Secretary of Defense Robert Gates "opposed" her.
A vague Clinton prompted Sawyer to press, "So, you're not going to characterize yourself in the hierarchy?" Two parts of the interview aired on World News. A replay aired on Nightline. In all of this, Sawyer never wondered about Obama bypassing Congress. This was a topic journalists were keenly interested when it related to George W. Bush and Iraq.
Of the three morning shows, only ABC's Good Morning America on Tuesday highlighted anger and dismay on Capitol Hill that Barack Obama did not seek congressional approval for air strikes against Libya. Reporter Jake Tapper pointed out the "real disappointment" felt by "all the Republicans I spoke to and the liberal Democrats."
An ABC graphic asserted, "Obama faces critics on Libya." Yet, although NBC's Today found time for the latest on Charlie Sheen's escapades, the program couldn't manage a full report on Barack Obama's decision bomb Libya. CBS's Early Show also failed to cover this aspect of the story.
Tapper related, "There was a conference call over the weekend in which one Democrat, one liberal Democrat, read a quote from candidate Obama about the need to seek congressional approval before taking military action and the member of Congress said, 'I agree with candidate Obama.'"
Despite our air attacks in Libya this weekend, most Middle East experts view the growing rebellion in Bahrain as being far more important to America.
Yet according to the BBC's Katty Kay, who was a guest on the syndicated "Chris Matthews Show," the Obama administration doesn't want the press reporting what's going on there (video follows with transcript and commentary):
Leading the free world is highly overrated and so last century.
Just ask Time's Joe Klein, who is giddy that our European allies and the Arab League took a leading role in setting up a no-fly zone over Libya, some 31 days after Muammar al-Qadhafi started opening fire upon ragtag rebels.
From a March 18 entry entitled "Gaddafi Duck" at the magazine's Swampland blog: