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Panel on Obama's United Nations Speech

Panel on Obama's United Nations Speech

By Special Report With Bret Baier - September 23, 2009

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We know the future will be forged by deeds and not simply words. Speeches alone will not solve our problems. It will take persistent action. So for those who question the character and cause of my nation, I ask you to look at the concrete actions we have taken in just nine months.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, HOST: President Obama speaking here at the General Assembly at the United Nations today, interrupted several times for applause. But what about the speech overall and the message it sent to the world? Let's bring in our panel tonight from Washington -- Steve Hayes, senior writer for "The Weekly Standard", Juan Williams, news analyst for National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Alright Steve, let's start with you, an overview of your thoughts of the speech.

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": I thought it was a terribly embarrassing speech.

Just think about the last sentence that we heard in the introduction there, "When you question the cause or character of my country, think about the concrete actions of the last nine months." Basically what President Obama is saying there, think about me when you think about the goodness or the greatness of the United States. I think that is an unbelievably arrogant thing to say, and, sadly, it wasn't the only thing that he said in the speech that was like that. I think the whole speech was filled with that.

I think what we saw today in so many ways is representative of the way that the Obama administration wants to elevate the United Nations and make it a serious global policy-making body. And it's also emblematic of the way that the United Nations is a broken institution. You have Muammar Qaddafi, a rogue dictator, a crazy man, speaking -- supposed to speak for 15 minutes, ends up speaking for some 90 minutes, filled with untruths, half-truths, complete nonsense. The United Nations was never able to enforce its resolutions on Iraq. It is not able to enforce its resolutions on Iran. It is not even able to keep Muammar Qaddafi from talking for more than 15 minutes. I think it was a dangerous speech in many ways.

JUAN WILLIAMS, NEWS ANALYST, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, I couldn't disagree with Steve more. I thought it was a terrific speech.

And the reason I thought it was a terrific speech was President Obama laid out concrete steps that his administration has taken since coming into office to prove that they, in fact, want to work with the rest of the world.

When he talked about prohibitions on torture, when he talked about working on global warming, when he talked about working on the Middle East, even his meeting yesterday with the leaders from Palestine and Israel.

So what we see here is President Obama saying, I understand, and I think this speaks to something Steve was talking about. He says he understands that he is a symbol to much of the world.

And it's not about him personally, he said. He didn't say it in an arrogant tone. He said it was about the symbolism, the hope that the U.S. would begin to work, be less militaristic in its attitude. And so here is President Obama saying here are steps we have taken and now you guys have to step up, too, and work with us in terms of this difficult job of achieving world peace.

And he mentioned that the U.N., of course, was founded by an American president, Franklin Roosevelt, and he spoke about the need to really make the institution work. And I don't think there is anything wrong with saying that the international community has to work in terms of putting sanctions on Iran. And I think that's what it led up to. I think that would be the news that came out of the speech today.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I could see all the other nations racing to step up and do what the United States wants.

This speech hovered somewhere between embarrassing and dangerous. You had a president of the United States actually saying no nation can or should try to dominate another.

I will buy the "should try to" as kind of adolescent wishful thinking, but no nation can dominate another? What planet is he living on? It is the story of man. What does he think Russia is doing to Georgia?

But the alarming part is what he said in the same paragraph where he said that it is -- makes no sense anymore-- quote, "The alignments of nations that are rooted in the cleavages of the cold war."

Well, NATO is rooted in the cleavage of the cold war. The European Union is rooted in the cleavage of the cold war. Our alliances with Japan and Korea and the Philippines, our guarantees to Taiwan and Eastern Europe are all rooted in the cleavage of the cold war.

Interesting noun, incidentally. So he is saying that is all now irrelevant. What does he think our allies are going to think who hear this?

Obama's speech is alarming because it says the United States has no more moral right to act or to influence world history than Bangladesh or Sierra Leone.

It diminishes the United States deliberately and wants to say that we should be one nation among others, and not defend the alliance of democracies that we have in NATO, for example, or to say as every president has said before Obama that we stand for something good and unique in the world.

And it is not the equivalent, for example, of the alignment of Chavez with Ecuador and Bolivia and Nicaragua and Russia and Cuba and Iran. And that's what I think is alarming about that speech.

BAIER: Steve, one of the things here at the United Nations, obviously, every year are the bilateral meetings that happen outside this building behind me. Yesterday we saw the Israelis and Palestinians meeting with President Obama.

Today President Obama met with the Russian president. And Russian President Medvedev, said this about possible sanctions on Iran. He said "Russia's position is clear. Sanctions rarely lead to productive results. But in some cases sanctions are inevitable."

Is that seen as some kind of a breakthrough with Russia, at least, today?

HAYES: Well, I will believe it when I see it. The Russians have made clear in the past several weeks that they have very little intention of actually imposing new sanctions on Iran, and have spoken out forcefully, I think, against such sanctions. So has China.

If the president gets this as a breakthrough, I think it will be great. I think it's probably too little too late, but if he leaves the United Nations with that in his pocket and it is something that we actually see after the G-20 and after the October 1st meeting, good. I would be all for it.

BAIER: Juan, after that speech, the president's speech, can he twist arms with these countries to really step up in the Iran equation?

WILLIAMS: I don't think there's any question about it. I think that's what the headline is out of the speech. As I said earlier, I think he is leading the world community to the point of saying, listen, I have changed policy. I have taken concrete steps to open a more diplomatic approach to resolving problems, and now I need your help.

It's not in any way diminishing the United States. There is no need for chest-pounding by the United States. We are the big boys. We are the world's only superpower. You think it is to our advantage to have our president stand up there and bellow at people that we're powerful? It's not necessary. What's necessary is saying I need your help in this international community in terms of sending people to war when it's necessary, in terms of enforcing international law when a country like Iran becomes an outlaw. That's what he did.

BAIER: Charles, last word here quickly. You've said of other speeches by President Obama around the world that they are very apologetic in nature. Is that your sense in this one as well?

KRAUTHAMMER: This one was worse. When he (inaudible) about how he had reversed the course of America and how those who doubt our character aught look at our actions, among the actions he cited was our joining the U.N. Human Rights Council, which is led by the worst human rights violators on the planet.

It is an Orwellian, farcical organization. The idea that we should be on it is regrettable, but the idea that we should be boasting about it as an American achievement is a scandal.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We know the future will be forged by deeds and not simply words. Speeches alone will not solve our problems. It will take persistent action. So for those who question the character and cause of my nation, I ask you to look at the concrete actions we have taken in just nine months.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, HOST: President Obama speaking here at the General Assembly at the United Nations today, interrupted several times for applause. But what about the speech overall and the message it sent to the world? Let's bring in our panel tonight from Washington -- Steve Hayes, senior writer for "The Weekly Standard", Juan Williams, news analyst for National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Alright Steve, let's start with you, an overview of your thoughts of the speech.

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": I thought it was a terribly embarrassing speech.

Just think about the last sentence that we heard in the introduction there, "When you question the cause or character of my country, think about the concrete actions of the last nine months." Basically what President Obama is saying there, think about me when you think about the goodness or the greatness of the United States. I think that is an unbelievably arrogant thing to say, and, sadly, it wasn't the only thing that he said in the speech that was like that. I think the whole speech was filled with that.

I think what we saw today in so many ways is representative of the way that the Obama administration wants to elevate the United Nations and make it a serious global policy-making body. And it's also emblematic of the way that the United Nations is a broken institution. You have Muammar Qaddafi, a rogue dictator, a crazy man, speaking -- supposed to speak for 15 minutes, ends up speaking for some 90 minutes, filled with untruths, half-truths, complete nonsense. The United Nations was never able to enforce its resolutions on Iraq. It is not able to enforce its resolutions on Iran. It is not even able to keep Muammar Qaddafi from talking for more than 15 minutes. I think it was a dangerous speech in many ways.

JUAN WILLIAMS, NEWS ANALYST, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, I couldn't disagree with Steve more. I thought it was a terrific speech.

And the reason I thought it was a terrific speech was President Obama laid out concrete steps that his administration has taken since coming into office to prove that they, in fact, want to work with the rest of the world.

When he talked about prohibitions on torture, when he talked about working on global warming, when he talked about working on the Middle East, even his meeting yesterday with the leaders from Palestine and Israel.

So what we see here is President Obama saying, I understand, and I think this speaks to something Steve was talking about. He says he understands that he is a symbol to much of the world.

And it's not about him personally, he said. He didn't say it in an arrogant tone. He said it was about the symbolism, the hope that the U.S. would begin to work, be less militaristic in its attitude. And so here is President Obama saying here are steps we have taken and now you guys have to step up, too, and work with us in terms of this difficult job of achieving world peace.

And he mentioned that the U.N., of course, was founded by an American president, Franklin Roosevelt, and he spoke about the need to really make the institution work. And I don't think there is anything wrong with saying that the international community has to work in terms of putting sanctions on Iran. And I think that's what it led up to. I think that would be the news that came out of the speech today.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I could see all the other nations racing to step up and do what the United States wants.

This speech hovered somewhere between embarrassing and dangerous. You had a president of the United States actually saying no nation can or should try to dominate another.

I will buy the "should try to" as kind of adolescent wishful thinking, but no nation can dominate another? What planet is he living on? It is the story of man. What does he think Russia is doing to Georgia?

But the alarming part is what he said in the same paragraph where he said that it is -- makes no sense anymore-- quote, "The alignments of nations that are rooted in the cleavages of the cold war."

Well, NATO is rooted in the cleavage of the cold war. The European Union is rooted in the cleavage of the cold war. Our alliances with Japan and Korea and the Philippines, our guarantees to Taiwan and Eastern Europe are all rooted in the cleavage of the cold war.

Interesting noun, incidentally. So he is saying that is all now irrelevant. What does he think our allies are going to think who hear this?

Obama's speech is alarming because it says the United States has no more moral right to act or to influence world history than Bangladesh or Sierra Leone.

It diminishes the United States deliberately and wants to say that we should be one nation among others, and not defend the alliance of democracies that we have in NATO, for example, or to say as every president has said before Obama that we stand for something good and unique in the world.

And it is not the equivalent, for example, of the alignment of Chavez with Ecuador and Bolivia and Nicaragua and Russia and Cuba and Iran. And that's what I think is alarming about that speech.

BAIER: Steve, one of the things here at the United Nations, obviously, every year are the bilateral meetings that happen outside this building behind me. Yesterday we saw the Israelis and Palestinians meeting with President Obama.

Today President Obama met with the Russian president. And Russian President Medvedev, said this about possible sanctions on Iran. He said "Russia's position is clear. Sanctions rarely lead to productive results. But in some cases sanctions are inevitable."

Is that seen as some kind of a breakthrough with Russia, at least, today?

HAYES: Well, I will believe it when I see it. The Russians have made clear in the past several weeks that they have very little intention of actually imposing new sanctions on Iran, and have spoken out forcefully, I think, against such sanctions. So has China.

If the president gets this as a breakthrough, I think it will be great. I think it's probably too little too late, but if he leaves the United Nations with that in his pocket and it is something that we actually see after the G-20 and after the October 1st meeting, good. I would be all for it.

BAIER: Juan, after that speech, the president's speech, can he twist arms with these countries to really step up in the Iran equation?

WILLIAMS: I don't think there's any question about it. I think that's what the headline is out of the speech. As I said earlier, I think he is leading the world community to the point of saying, listen, I have changed policy. I have taken concrete steps to open a more diplomatic approach to resolving problems, and now I need your help.

It's not in any way diminishing the United States. There is no need for chest-pounding by the United States. We are the big boys. We are the world's only superpower. You think it is to our advantage to have our president stand up there and bellow at people that we're powerful? It's not necessary. What's necessary is saying I need your help in this international community in terms of sending people to war when it's necessary, in terms of enforcing international law when a country like Iran becomes an outlaw. That's what he did.

BAIER: Charles, last word here quickly. You've said of other speeches by President Obama around the world that they are very apologetic in nature. Is that your sense in this one as well?

KRAUTHAMMER: This one was worse. When he (inaudible) about how he had reversed the course of America and how those who doubt our character aught look at our actions, among the actions he cited was our joining the U.N. Human Rights Council, which is led by the worst human rights violators on the planet.

It is an Orwellian, farcical organization. The idea that we should be on it is regrettable, but the idea that we should be boasting about it as an American achievement is a scandal.

 

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