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.
Under the header "Deficits Reshape the Debate as Republicans Jockey for 2012," The New York Times' Jeff Zeleny devotes 1,300 words to the purported "opportunity" Republicans have to "cast President Obama as a weak leader" due to the deficit:
The growing profile of the issue has given Republicans an opportunity to cast President Obama as a weak leader, unwilling or unable to confront the tough issues, and has added fuel to the conservative drive for smaller government.
Those themes were at the heart of appearances over the last week by a number of leading Republicans, all of whom pushed the idea, to varying degrees, that the nation needed to have a serious fiscal debate. And with fiscal issues playing out in high-profile ways in Congress and in statehouses, they will be called on to take more specific positions.
And in those 1,300 words, Zeleny never gets around to mentioning that the most high-profile Republican initiative this year -- the attempt to repeal last year's health care reform legislation -- would actually increase the deficit.
Bizarre, isn't it? The New York Times spends 1,300 words on Republicans accusing President Obama of being a weak leader unwilling to confront tough issues and saying the nation must have "a serious fiscal debate" -- but can't bring itself to mention that the GOP's top priority would increase the deficit. It's reporting like this, not "the growing profile of the issue," that "has given Republicans an opportunity."
The New York Times quoted McCain spokesman Jeff Sadosky saying: "Barack Obama's plans to raise taxes on small businesses and his attacks on Midwestern family farmers have turned off rural voters." But the Times did not point out that less than 2 percent of taxpayers declaring small business income would see a tax increase in 2009 under Obama's plan, according to estimates by the Tax Policy Center.
Several print media outlets reported that during a July 21 campaign event, Sen. John McCain, in the words of the Associated Press, "disparaged [Sen. Barack] Obama as 'someone who has no military experience whatsoever.' " But none of the articles noted that McCain has previously said he does not "accept the notion" that military experience is necessary to be an effective commander in chief.
In covering Sen. Barack Obama's comments, "When I go to Iraq and have a chance to talk to some of the commanders on the ground, I'm sure I'll have more information and will continue to refine my policies," the media have reported Republican claims that Obama reversed himself. In fact, Obama has said for months that he would set Iraq war policy in consultation with military commanders.
July 1 reports by The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Reuters noting that John McCain's campaign organized a "conference call" of supporters to respond to Gen. Wesley Clark's recent comments about McCain did not mention that among those supporters was Bud Day, a member of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, whose smears against Sen. John Kerry were criticized by McCain himself.
Numerous media outlets have reported all or part of Sen. John McCain's statement rebuking Sen. Barack Obama for his decision to forgo public financing in the general election without mentioning that during the primary, McCain signed a loan that could have forced him to remain in the race -- even if he had no chance of winning -- in order to be eligible for public matching funds to repay the loan.
In online articles discussing Sen. Barack Obama's decision to opt out of public financing for the general election, both The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times reported that Sen. John McCain "has been a champion of public financing." But neither article noted that McCain claims to have opted out of public financing -- and has exceeded spending limits under the public financing system -- during the primary season or that the FEC chairman has taken the position that McCain cannot legally opt out without FEC approval.
The New York Times' political blog, The Caucus, reported that Sen. John McCain's campaign "believes" Sen. Barack Obama "reneged on his pledge to accept public financing," and that McCain's campaign "circulated an editorial ... that questioned Mr. Obama's commitment to the public financing system." However, The Caucus did not report that McCain may have violated campaign finance laws by surpassing spending limits under the public financing system for the primary campaign.