New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny casually characterized President Obama's 2009 speech to the Muslim world as "quaint" and possibly "naïve," comments meant to illuminate the administration's policies toward the Middle East as protests in Libya and Egypt spread throughout the region.
But Zeleny's criticism, leveled without any supporting evidence, is undermined by the actual comments Obama made in that speech expressing the need to combat violence and extremism.
Zeleny appeared on Fox News Sunday to discuss violence that has erupted in recent days in Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia. Zeleny specifically addressed whether that violence was in response to U.S. foreign policy or in protest of an anti-Muslim film. According to Zeleny, the violence highlighted the shortcomings of a 2009 speech President Obama gave in Cairo, addressing the relationship between the United States and the broader Muslim world. Zeleny said that "some of those comments sound, I don't know if naïve, but quaint given everything that's happened with the Arab Spring and things."
Zeleny made no effort to explain what, specifically, was "quaint" about Obama's speech in relation to recent violence and extremism. That lack of any actual evidence is convenient for his position, because Obama addressed the need to confront violence and extremism in the very speech Zeleny now says seems quaint:
We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security -- because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children. And it is my first duty as President to protect the American people.
Obama went on to address concern over the U.S. war in Afghanistan, and said:
But let us be clear: Al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 people on that day. The victims were innocent men, women and children from America and many other nations who had done nothing to harm anybody. And yet al Qaeda chose to ruthlessly murder these people, claimed credit for the attack, and even now states their determination to kill on a massive scale. They have affiliates in many countries and are trying to expand their reach. These are not opinions to be debated; these are facts to be dealt with.
Now, make no mistake: We do not want to keep our troops in Afghanistan. We see no military -- we seek no military bases there. It is agonizing for America to lose our young men and women. It is costly and politically difficult to continue this conflict. We would gladly bring every single one of our troops home if we could be confident that there were not violent extremists in Afghanistan and now Pakistan determined to kill as many Americans as they possibly can. But that is not yet the case.