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THE SITUATION ROOM
Making Muslim Outreach Personal; President Obama Never Says 'Terrorists'; 30 Rounds of Applause for Obama
Aired June 4, 2009 - 15:59 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, one single powerful word left out of President Obama's speech to the Muslim world. What he couldn't or wouldn't say and why.
This hour, extensive coverage of a possible turning point in the Obama presidency and for global opinion of the United States.
Plus, Middle East snapshots. From Egypt to Israel to Iran, how President Obama's words and actions are playing into a region where age-old battles still are being fought and could explode at any minute.
And a brand new window into the president's Supreme Court nominee and her confirmation hearing. The very first look at an important document now in senators' hands.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in CNN's command center for breaking news, politics and extraordinary reports from around the world.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
President Obama stood alone before the world today and he said things many people never thought they would hear from an American president. In a sweeping speech in Egypt, he tried to undo years of mistrust and U.S. hatred among Muslims. He's getting a lot of praise for taking some historic steps toward peace and reconciliation, but he's also generating some new anger with provocative statements like these...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.
The United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Some conservatives in this country already are accusing the president of trying to blame America first. Iran's supreme leader dismisses Mr. Obama's remarks as "words, speech and slogan." Opposing forces in the Israeli/Palestinian dispute suggest the president was misleading, even lying.
We're covering the president's words and the reaction in depth, as only CNN can, with our global reach and resources.
On this day and in this particular speech, it hit President Obama very close to home even though he was more than 5,000 miles away.
Our Senior White House Correspondent Ed Henry is traveling with the president in Cairo -- Ed.
ED HENRY, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, back in the presidential campaign, he downplayed his family's Muslim ties. Not anymore. Now the president sees an opportunity.
OBAMA: I think this is the best OTR (ph) so far.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes sir.
HENRY (voice-over): The president's tour of Egypt's fabled pyramids got personal when he spotted a hieroglyphic with big ears and joked he saw a resemblance.
OBAMA: That looks like me. Look at those ears.
HENRY: His personal story was also the underpinning of his speech to the Muslim world.
OBAMA: I'm a Christian, but my father came from a Kenyan family that includes generations of Muslims.
HENRY: Different from how then-Senator Obama framed his family's roots last year during a campaign appearance at a Florida synagogue.
OBAMA: And so people say, you know, he's got sort of a Muslim- sounding name and we don't know what's going on here. So let me just clear up anything that's going on. My father was basically agnostic as far as I can tell.
HENRY: Back then, he was a candidate trying to shoot down politically explosive and false rumors. Now, he's a president trying to connect.
OBAMA: Now, much has been made that an African-American with the name "Barack Hussein Obama" could be elected president.
OBAMA: But my personal story is not so unique. Its promise exists for all who come to our shores, and that includes nearly seven million American-Muslims.
HENRY: He also invoked the civil rights movement to illustrate how he believes this region needs to end its own cycle of violence.
OBAMA: For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America's founding.
HENRY: The president's point was that he believes Palestinians need to abandon violence. But he also urged Israelis to give ground on a Palestinian state, reminders that for all the impact of the president's speech, it's going to take concrete action by many others for peace to actually move forward -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ed Henry reporting for us from Cairo.
Here's another example of how the president tried to personalize his appeal. The largest words you see here, "people," "Muslims," "America," were said most often by the president, but you may notice something is missing from this computer-generated word cloud, as it's called, of the president's remarks, and from the speech itself. That would be the word "terrorist." Never mentioned. Instead, he relied often the term "violent extremists."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The first issue that we have to confront is violent extremism...
... relentlessly confront violent extremists....
... combating violent extremism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And joining us now, our chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, and our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger.
Christiane, why didn't the president even once use the word "terror" or "terrorist" or "terrorism?"
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I assume it was conscious. As you know, they haven't used the words "war on terrorism." And I think that what he did was separate the moderate Muslims from the extremists.
He did say that we will continue to go after extremists sand those who threaten the United States, or our allies, but he also talked much more to those who want peace, those who want dialogue, and he was very clear to shift the tone. A lot of the words were similar to what President Bush had said, separating extremists from moderates, but nonetheless, the tone, the respect that Obama paid to the Koran by reciting the verses was very deliberate.
BLITZER: Because it sounded so much different in tone than what we heard from President Bush when it came to 9/11 for example, Gloria, that this was the work of violent extremists who killed 3,000 people, as opposed to terrorists.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, it was a different tone. I mean, this speech was not written, Wolf, for domestic political consumption. This was written for 1.5 billion Muslims, and he wanted to establish a different basis for our relationship with the Muslim world.
So, in this speech, everybody will probably find something that they don't like, but on the other hand, in terms of the tone and paying homage to the culture, people will also find something that they do like. He had a very fine line to walk. I think he walked it.
BLITZER: Did he achieve in the Muslim world, do you think, Christiane, what he wanted to achieve?
AMANPOUR: Well, yes and no. Basically yes, because the results that are coming in terms of reaction from the Muslim world are showing a quite uniform praise for this speech. Many people are saying this is a completely different way than we've ever been addressed by the president of the United States, the president of the world's only superpower.
He used the word "respect," "mutual respect," "mutual interest." He quoted the Koran. Something that Muslims have picked up on in their reaction is the fact he respected Islamic tradition, for instance, regarding women and their ability to wear whatever they want, as long as they're not forced to wear whatever the authorities think they should.
He talked about democracy and young people's aspirations. He talked in fairly strong terms about the Israel-Palestine issue, saying that what was on tap right now was "intolerable" for the Palestinians and saying that Israeli settlements were something the U.S. opposed. On the other hand, saying that U.S. bonds with Israel is unshakable and Israel has a right to live in peace.
So there were many praises, but what people want is actions and not just words. And that is coming through loud and clear as well.
BLITZER: And Gloria, how will this play here at home politically?
BORGER: Well, I think here at home, people will say that it was a good speech, that he laid out the issues. And I think at home politically, you're going to have perhaps some in the Jewish community saying, well, he took a strong stand on settlements, maybe he should not have done that.
So, I think we have to wait and see how it does play out. But again, Wolf, his audience was not so much domestic as it was the Muslim world, but he did make it very clear that he is going to be a player in peace in the Middle East, and that's a high-risk strategy.
BLITZER: Gloria and Christiane, stand by. We have much more to discuss.
But first, let's go to Jack Cafferty right now. He's got "The Cafferty File."
Pretty historic day for this speech in the Middle East, Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: This is one that will probably be in the history books long after you and I are no longer in THE SITUATION ROOM. It was momentous.
In the process of reaching out to the world's 1.5 billion Muslims with today's speech, it's unclear if President Obama, in the process, was also pushing away America's longtime ally, Israel.
Speaking in Cairo, the president recognized the U.S.' "unbreakable bond" with the Jewish state and the horror of the Holocaust, but he also talked about the suffering of the Palestinian people. He described their situation as intolerable, and he stressed the need for a two-state solution.
President Obama called on Palestinians to abandon violence, pointing to America's own civil rights history and saying that it was a peaceful and determined insistence that brought about equal rights for African-Americans. And he once again called upon Israel to stop building the settlements and to allow Palestinians to live and work and develop their own society.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already rejected President Obama's call for a freeze on those settlements, but experts suggest that this demand from Mr. Obama will make the Arab world listen. They say although the U.S. has been opposed to Israeli settlements for decades, past American presidents have looked the other way and allowed Israel to just keep building them. And some believe that if "no" really means "no" this time around, well, it may be easier to form a regional coalition against Iran.
And speaking of Iran, Mr. Obama repeated his belief today the Islamic republic has the right to develop nuclear power for peaceful purposes. That's another statement that's probably not going to sit real well with the Israelis.
And finally, for the first time in a long time, a visit to the Middle East by a sitting U.S. president did not include a stop in Israel.
So here's the question: Is President Obama reaching out to Muslims at the expense of America's relationship with Israel?
Go to cnn.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog.
Pretty big stuff.
BLITZER: Yes, huge. It's going to be momentous. And you're absolutely right -- they'll be reading and talking about this speech long after both of us are gone from THE SITUATION ROOM.
CAFFERTY: That could be as early as next fall.
BLITZER: That will be THE SITUATION ROOM In some retirement homes somewhere. We'll sit there and I'll say, "What's in 'The Cafferty File,' Jack?"
CAFFERTY: I don't know even know where it is anymore. I lost it.
BLITZER: Yes. All right. Me too. Stand by.
It's one of President Obama's biggest and bluntest speeches ever. In it, he warns that Iran's nuclear pursuits could put the world on a dangerous path.
We'll have much more on the speech coming up.
Also, inside these boxes could be virtually everything there is to know about President Obama's Supreme Court nominee. Do they contain just basic information or any bombshells?
And regarding the suspect accused of killing an abortion provider, a friend tells CNN the suspect was obsessed with the doctor.
BLITZER: President Obama spoke to a crowd of a few thousand in Cairo, at the university there, but his message was meant for the entire world.
Let's get some more now on our top story.
The president gave one of the biggest and blunt speeches ever since becoming president. He hopes to repair strained ties between the U.S. and the Muslim world, ties stretched by differences over how to confront extremism and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. But also by other areas of disagreement.
OBAMA: The third source of tension is our shared interest in the rights and responsibilities of nations on nuclear weapons. This issue has been a source of tension between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. For many years, Iran has defined itself, in part, by its opposition to my country. And there is, in fact, a tumultuous history between us.
In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government. Since the Islamic revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians. This history is well known.
Rather than remain trapped in the past, I've made it clear to Iran's leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward. The question now is not what Iran is against but, rather, what future it wants to build.
I recognize it will be hard to overcome decades of mistrust, but we will proceed with courage, rectitude, and resolve. There will be many issues to discussion between our two countries, and we are willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect.
But it is clear to all concerned that when it comes to nuclear weapons, we have reached a decisive point. This is not simply about America's interests. It's about preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that could lead this region and the world down a hugely dangerous path.
Now, I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nations should pick and choose which nation holds nuclear weapons. And that's why I strongly reaffirmed America's commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons.
And any nation, including Iran, should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That commitment is at the core of the treaty. And it must be kept for all who fully abide by it. And I am hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal.
The sixth issue that I want to address is women's rights.
I know, and you can tell from this audience, that there is a healthy debate about this issue. I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal. But I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality.
And it is no coincidence that countries where women are well- educated are far more likely to be prosperous.
Now let me be clear, issues of women's equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam. In Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, we've seen Muslim-majority countries elect a woman to lead.
Meanwhile, the struggle for women's equality continues in many aspects of American life and in countries around the world. I am convinced that our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons.
Our common prosperity will be advanced by allowing all humanity, men and women, to reach their full potential. I do not believe that women must make the same choices as men in order to be equal. And I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles. But it should be their choice.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: It was clear that President Obama was also taking a direct swipe at Iran's president when he said denying the Holocaust is ignorant and hateful.
Christiane Amanpour and Gloria Borger, they'll be back to discuss that and more.
Also, a push for the U.S. to punish Brazil after a father was denied a planned reunion with his son.
And the first daughters are getting ready for an exciting trip overseas.
BLITZER: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, President Obama's historic speech in Egypt. He tells his audience he's seeking a new beginning between the United States and the Muslim world.
We're going to go to a coffee shop in Cairo for reaction.
In Iran, a rare event, a highly-charged televised debate between Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahminedjad, and his main rival just days before the country's presidential election.
And growing questions about the powerful House Democratic Congressman John Murtha and his ties to a defense contractor accused of fraud.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
President Obama acknowledges that one speech can't wipe out years of Muslim mistrust of America, but he did make some strides. After he spoke for almost an hour, some members of the audience leapt to their feet.
CNN Senior Arab Affairs Editor Octavia Nasr takes a closer look at reaction in the region.
OBAMA: ... that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
OCTAVIA NASR, CNN SR. ARAB AFFAIRS EDITOR (voice-over): An audience of 3,000 in Cairo interrupted President Obama 30 times with applause.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING ARABIC)
OBAMA: Thank you.
NASR: One man even shouted out, "We love you!" in Arabic.
Most of the big Arab networks carried President Obama's address live with simultaneous translation. The Dubai-based Al-Arabiya also showed people in several Arab capitals watching the speech.
An anchor on Egyptian TV praised the speech as well crafted and genuine. One of the Mideast's best known commentators who was in the audience called into the show to say, "President Obama's charisma is unquestionable, but it's the substance and depth of his speech that made the hall roar."
Across the Arab world and beyond, people plugged into social media networks also had plenty to say. Mina Al-Oraibi is an Iraqi columnist with the London-based "Asharq Alawsat." She says -- quote -- "Obama mentioned the word peace 29 times and never mentioned terrorism." She calls his choices smart and concludes that peace is clearly his priority. This makes him "the radicals' worst nightmare," she says.
On Twitter, Ali (ph) from Iran sent a few dozen tweets with updates like -- quote -- "Iranians are following Obama's speech on Voice of America, which is illegal."
He also submitted comments from other Iranians who weren't very impressed by Mr. Obama's presentation. One of them said -- quote -- "We must be defiant until USA makes some practical change, not only words."
But most reaction was positive, with people saying they had been energized by President Obama's positive attitude and what Ali Dahmash from Jordan describe as -- quote -- "understanding of what it means to be Muslim and appreciating that." Dahmash added he had -- quote -- "never seen such applause and respect to an American president among an Arab audience."
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
NASR: Octavia Nasr, CNN, Atlanta.
BLITZER: And we're joined once again by our chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, and our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger.
Christiane, the president seemed to have a very blunt and direct message to the president of Iran. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Around, the world the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries. And anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented holocaust. Six million Jews were killed, more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless. It is ignorant, and it is hateful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Now, we all know that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had denied that fact.
What was the point he was trying to make there?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think several.
One, I think it was a shot across at President Ahmadinejad, who has really caused a lot of distress around the world and in his own country with this repeated Holocaust denial. It was also an attempt to try to tell the Islamic world, you also have a responsibility to stop hate the incitement of hatred, to stop questioning Israel's right to exist, and all of the other things that -- that he said were necessary to move forward.
And, interestingly, in last night's televised debate between Ahmadinejad and his main rival in the president election, the rival said: By your Holocaust denial, you have damaged Iran's image and its standing abroad.
BLITZER: And it's interesting, Gloria. It comes on the eve of the president's decision to go to Buchenwald, the concentration camp, in Germany tomorrow to commemorate the loss of those six million Jews.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it -- it is.
I mean, I think what the president was trying to do was divide the extremists from the rest of the Muslim world, and, in doing this, he painted Ahmadinejad as an extremist. And that does, of course, play into the election that Christiane was just talking about.
BLITZER: Christiane, listen to this other clip about the women in the -- in the Muslim world. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I do not believe that women must make the same choices as men in order to be equal. And I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles. But it should be their choice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Now, here's what struck me. The president said, you know, I want to say publicly what I say privately.
And we don't know what he said privately yesterday to the Saudi king, King Abdullah. Did he say women should -- should be able to drive cars in Saudi Arabia, should be able to vote? But if he doesn't back up those kinds of words with specific actions, his words will be seen by, including in the Muslim world, as being hollow.
AMANPOUR: You know, so many people around the Islamic world, particularly, let's say, the women, including the Nobel Peace Prize winner in Iran, say that one of the things that United States really should do is stand up for things like women's right and human rights and the other.
That is one way to put pressure on the authoritarian and, in some cases, dictatorships that run those countries. Be on the side of the people, whether it's women or ordinary people, who yearn for democracy and -- and -- and pluralism.
But I think what's also really interesting and what I'm picking up in terms of reaction is that there is, in many parts of the Islamic world, an increasingly religious and conservative tide. That means that many women are choosing, partly as a political statement and nationalism, to wear the hijab, to wear various conservative clothes.
And he's saying, women's rights should be allowed to go forth, no matter what people wear. And I think people did appreciate that, many women who I have listened to in their response to this speech, as long as they're not forced into what they wear, what they can or can't do, whether it's driving or working or voting, or in terms of their rights under the law in Islamic countries.
BORGER: You know, Wolf, I think this administration has made a decision, though. And that is that, while it cares about human rights, and it will raise the human rights issues, that it has bigger fish to fry right now.
It's got wars to contend with. It's got nuclear proliferation. And I think what you're seeing from this administration is, we're going to talk about it, but perhaps we have other things we need to push right now that -- that are in the forefront.
AMANPOUR: The problem with that...
BORGER: And I think this isn't Jimmy Carter.
AMANPOUR: The problem...
BORGER: You know, this is a different administration.
AMANPOUR: The problem with that, it is a different Middle East as well, with an entirely young and youthful population. And they want -- and they keep saying it over and again -- we want democracy, and we would like to see the United States be on the side of the people, and not on the side, necessarily, exclusively, of the authoritarian government...
BORGER: And -- but...
AMANPOUR: ... no matter that they may be the allies.
And that is the one thing...
AMANPOUR: ... many, many of the people in the Islamic world said before this speech. They wanted to know whether the United States, the president of the United States, would talk about the people's legitimate aspirations.
BORGER: Well, what is -- what is interesting about -- about what Obama did today was, he said, this is what we believe in the United States. We believe in democracy, but we will not impose democracy on you. We believe in human rights, we believe in women's rights, he said, but this is what I believe.
And then he personalized it. So, it -- it seemed to me that he -- he was sending a very, very subtle signal here, which is, we would like you to be like us in these ways, but we're not going to force this upon you, because we have got other things we need to get things right now.
BLITZER: All right.
We have got to leave it there, guys. Thanks very much, Gloria Borger, Christiane Amanpour.
And James Carville and Alex Castellanos, they are standing by live. We're going to continue this discussion on the political fallout from this historic speech in Cairo today.
Also, a man who's friends with a suspected killer is now speaking to CNN. He previously lived with a man accused of killing an abortion provider. He tells CNN the suspect was obsessed with the doctor.
And Sarah Palin letting loose on the Obama administration -- wait until your hear her critique, one thing that the president -- about the president that Palin says flies in the face of principles.
BLITZER: Let's get back to our top story, the president speaking in Cairo to the Muslim world.
Let's talk about it in our "Strategy Session."
Joining us now, our CNN political contributors, the Democratic strategist James Carville, and the Republican strategist Alex Castellanos.
James, it didn't take long for the Republican leadership to slam the president, specifically saying he was going too far in equating the Israelis and the Palestinians, their respective suffering.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: He seems to play -- place equal blame on the Israelis and the Palestinians.
I -- I -- I have concerns about this, that the Israelis have a right to defend themselves. And how he can allow -- put in the same sentence that -- put them in the same box, I'm a bit concerned about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Did -- did you have a problem, James, with the way the president framed the suffering of the Jews during the Holocaust, and then he went on to say, on the other hand, the Palestinians have suffered as well under the hands of the Israelis?
JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, if you want to have any chance of getting an Israel-Palestinian peace agreement, which I think this president does -- and I certainly do, too -- I think you have to try to bring the parties together.
And I think that, look -- I think, if I'm -- if I'm going a cowboy diplomat, if I like the Bush foreign policy, the go-it-alone stuff, this was not a good day. This was a -- this was a very -- this is a very significant day in the history of American foreign policy.
Look, the people who liked the Bush foreign policy are not going to like today. This is engagement. This is going -- but the fact that it even happened is breathtakingly historical. That a United States president was there in Cairo at the university giving this speech was -- was -- was enormous.
And I think the -- this president, unlike the last president, is making this -- to try to get some resolution to this conflict a priority. And I think he's trying to push forward here.
BLITZER: We're going to speak, in our next hour, with Liz Cheney, the daughter of the former vice president -- we will get into that category -- who probably didn't like this speech very much today.
BLITZER: ... Alex -- Alex, what do you think of the way the president framed his arguments today, specifically on one of the most sensitive issues out there, as we all know, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think, on some things today, the president did exceptionally well. And, frankly, this was the kind of speech that presidents win Nobel Peace Prizes for, because they don't give those out for results and accomplishment. They -- they tend to give them out for intent and effort.
And, in that sense, he went into the heart of the Muslim world today and said that denying the Holocaust was imbecilic. And he went into the heart of the Muslim world today and said terrorism basically cost you power and moral authority. Those are things that should be lauded. And, if he can reengage in the Muslim world, that should be lauded.
However, I think the thing that concerns at least many Republicans, and I think many Americans, is moral equivalence, the idea that, on the one hand, and on the other hand. The president does that so often here at home, you know, we can have more health care, but it's going to cost us less, and the idea, spending the irresponsible, but we're going to do a lot more of it.
He did -- just did the same thing in foreign policy. He just went over there and said that, you know, American exceptionalism is over. We're not -- liberty-loving nations are not better than any other nations. But we must still lead the world.
He just said, basically, today, something for everyone. It's like a man who -- who proposes to five different women at once. And...
BLITZER: He may have done that. But -- but...
CASTELLANOS: And he did that with Israel.
BLITZER: ... but, James, you know, he managed in the process probably to anger -- you know, he pleased a lot of people, but he probably angered a lot of folks on both sides.
CARVILLE: But -- but -- probably so. And, of course, we're being lectured by a party that paid for three wars with three tax cuts. And that didn't work out very well, did it?
CASTELLANOS: ... economy...
CARVILLE: Look, I think he went in -- he went into the heart of the -- the -- he went into the heart of the Muslim world. He made a case for the United States.
This -- this -- this government is going to be active in diplomacy. It's going to be active in pursuing terrorism. It's going to be active in pursuing some type of a resolution to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict.
And, again, you're right. The people who didn't think we should be active in this and trying to resolve this or the people who didn't want to use diplomacy, are contemptuous of it, are not going to like this speech.
And I suspect that -- that allies of the vice -- the former vice president won't like it. And -- and we can understand that. But...
CARVILLE: ... this -- this is pretty much what this president ran on, and he went there and did it. BLITZER: You know, you say he -- he -- this is a speech that could get him a Nobel Prize, Alex. We do know that former President Jimmy Carter got a -- a Nobel Prize, not for anything he did while he was president, but stuff he did after he was president of the United States.
Compare this speech today, this president of the United States, perhaps with earlier presidents and what they have done. Would it be a -- a JFK speech, a Ronald Reagan speech, a Jimmy Carter speech?
CASTELLANOS: Good -- good question.
I think this was much more of a Carter-like speech, in the sense that it was not so much of a JFK/Reagan speech. It wasn't about -- there are presidents and leaders who think that history is a -- the study, the development of -- of debate of ideas, and that kind of -- litigating that debate.
And then there are presidents who think that history's about the exercising of power. Today, we saw a man who said, this is about ideas.
John F. Kennedy, in his inaugural address, said, you know, America, let the world -- word go forth that America will pay any price, bear any burden to assure the success and survival of liberty.
Obama didn't say that today. As a matter of fact, that was what was missing in his speech.
BLITZER: All right.
CASTELLANOS: That kind of strength that we saw from Reagan and JFK was missing today. It's, why can't we all get along?
One thing, too.
BLITZER: All right.
CASTELLANOS: The premise of his argument today is that -- is that...
CASTELLANOS: Say, two drivers want to occupy the same space in the road, that that's not a problem, because they agree on other things.
BLITZER: Hold your thought, James.
CASTELLANOS: Well, that's a real problem.
BLITZER: James, hold your thought.
BLITZER: Hold your thought. (CROSSTALK)
CARVILLE: The Camp David accords.
CARVILLE: OK. The Camp David accords...
BLITZER: Hold your thought, because I want to come back. We're going to come back to this discussion. I just want to take a quick break.
Much more with James Carville and Alex Castellanos -- they will be looking ahead to what's going to be happening next.
Also, what's inside could contain some critical clues about the Supreme Court justice nominee Sonia Sotomayor. Could these pages contain any bombshells?
And Dick Cheney's daughter, Liz Cheney, she's going to be here in THE SITUATION ROOM, live. What does she think about what the president said today, his refusal to use the word terrorists in his speech today?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's get back to James Carville and Alex Castellanos.
We just heard, James, Alex suggest this was a Jimmy Carter-like speech. What do you think?
Well, first of all, history -- if we can include history here, I think we ought to include the Camp David accords, which were something that was actually real. And if we're including history here, I don't think that President Reagan's operation in Lebanon was all that great a success.
But, having said that, I understand that people who like the foreign policy of the previous administration are not going to like this speech. And I think this is a very legitimate discussion to have is, is, which policy makes us safer, a policy of leadership and engagement, which we -- which we saw today, where -- where we actually had an American president at Cairo University, which could have never -- we couldn't imagine this happening two years ago? So, this is a -- a remarkable thing. And -- and -- and this debate will continue, but I think that this president's gotten us off to a really good start. And, you know, we -- we -- we're going to reengage in lots of parts of the Middle East here. And I think it's going -- I think it's going to make us a better and a safer country. And I think it can do a lot of real good.
BLITZER: And, Alex, James makes a good point. It was under Jimmy Carter, when he was president of the United States, that the Israelis and the Egyptians negotiated their historic peace treaty at Camp David, which still exists to this very day.
CASTELLANOS: And let's hope that President Obama can do the same.
Maybe he has opened the door. You know, John F. Kennedy, in that same inaugural speech, said that we should never fear to negotiate. But sincerity requires proof. And I think President Obama now has -- has laid down a challenge, and he should be credited for that.
Now, we -- can the Muslim world stand up and meet that challenge? Will they say -- after this speech, will they say that, yes, Israel has a right to exist, yes, we will work with you to starve Iran of nuclear weapons and economic support to develop them? So, yes, the door is open now. Let's wait and see if it produces.
Is history just about ideas or is it also about the exercise of power? Today, Obama said it's primarily just about ideas. This is a -- you know, it's a dangerous time.
BLITZER: All right, we're going to have a lot more on this coming up. But I want to switch gears quickly, James, and talk about Sonia Sotomayor, the Supreme Court justice nominee.
She met with Susan Collins, a moderate Republican senator from the state of Maine. Listen to what Susan Collins said afterwards.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: That was a comment that had troubled me. So, I questioned her at length about it. The judge explained to me that she had intended it to be an inspirational comment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, she was referring to the Latina woman perhaps having a better sense than a white man.
But she seems to be doing really well up there so far on the Hill in these meets-and-greets.
CARVILLE: Yes, this is one of these things -- and -- and the same thing happened, to be fair, to the other side, when you had Judge -- then judge -- Judge Roberts. When they appear before -- or Judge Alito -- when they appear before the committee and everything, these people are pretty learned, pretty schooled.
She was like second in her class in Princeton and Yale law journal and everything. And, so, yes, she's going to make a good impression. And I think what the Republicans are finding out, that it's one thing to talk about this stuff on talk radio. It's another thing when you are actually having to deal with it.
So, I don't see anything that has -- that has happened today that dissuades me from the idea that -- that there will be some opposition to her, but she -- her confirm -- she will be confirmed relatively easy.
BLITZER: Alex, I think, will agree with you on that.
CASTELLANOS: I think so. I think so. She seems to be making a good impression.
There are some questions she's going to have to answer. I think a lot of these Republican senators are going to say, look, if you were in our shoes, and someone sat here in front of you to be confirmed, and said that they would reach better judicial decisions because they were white and male, would you vote for them?
But Republicans have learned a lesson here from Barack Obama. I think Republicans have learned that he's elevated the tone and tenor of the political debate in Washington? It's more mature.
And they have learned that, you know, name-calling and all of that, if they have good arguments to make, they are going to have to make them on -- on more solid grounds and less conflicted grounds, still tough and political. But I think Obama has taught Republicans a lesson here.
BLITZER: All right.
CASTELLANOS: And it's for their own good.
BLITZER: We have no name-calling here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We have serious, substantive discussions.
BLITZER: Guys, thanks very much to both of you.
CARVILLE: Thank you.
BLITZER: It's a first for the first daughters. Sasha and Malia Obama are getting ready to do something they have never done as daughters of an American president. Stand by.
And the leader of the free world as a tourist -- you are going to find out some of the awesome sights the president is taking in on his trip.
And Jack Cafferty is asking if the president reaching out to the Muslims, at the expense of America's -- is he doing so at the expense of America's relationship with Israel? Jack is back with your thoughts in a moment.
BLITZER: On our "Political Ticker": The first daughters are about to become Americans in Paris. Malia and Sasha Obama are joining their mother when she flies to Paris tomorrow to join the president. There's speculation that the entire family may cap their visit by having dinner atop the Eiffel Tower.
We will watch and we will see.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty right now. He's got "The Cafferty File." He's going to have dinner at home tonight.
Is that right, Jack?
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: If I'm lucky, yes.
CAFFERTY: You know, the -- the -- the French are pretty blase about a lot of things. I will bet that Michelle Obama and those two kids showing up to meet the president of the United States will turn the City of Lights upside down.
BLITZER: I think...
CAFFERTY: What do you think?
BLITZER: Yes, I think you're absolutely right.
CAFFERTY: Oh, yes.
The question this hour: Is President Obama reaching out to Muslims, at the expense of America's relationship with Israel?
Scott writes: "If President Obama did anger Israel, so what? Where are they going to turn? We can support the nation of Israel without rubber-stamping everything they do. Their treatment of Palestinians enrages the Arab world. We can't advocate the rights of only some. I agree with our president. Israel must improve its treatment of Palestinians, and I'm glad the pressure of the U.S. is being brought to bear on this human rights issue."
Susan in Oregon says: "The president is not pushing the Israelis away. He is demanding that they stop illegal settlements in the land that will become Palestine. If the Israelis are ever to get peace, they must give up the West Bank, and they know it. They, too, are stuck with a very vocal group of right-wing nutcases who would rather tear down the country than engage in honest negotiations." Kelly says: "To some extent, yes. The reaching-out will be at the expense of Israel. But for far too long, this country has acted like Israel was the pillar around which everything Middle East had to be built. Israel has taken that position and our unwavering support for granted, and gone too far in many instances over the last several years. Balance needs to be restored, and Israel's standing needs to come down a peg or two to have any chance of bringing peace and balance to the region."
Mark in Pennsylvania says: "He will reach out to Muslims today, but, when his reelection nears, he will certainly reach out to Israel. He will need the Jewish vote. He is your run-of-the-mill politician: He says whatever will get him votes from whoever is voting. It's the same sad, sorry tune we always hear from our political leaders. He's nothing special."
And Jill says: "The U.S. has been reaching out to Israel at the expense of U.S.-Muslim relations since 1967. It's time to reverse that trend."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile. Look for yours there. There are hundreds posted Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack, thank you.
And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: President Obama reaching out to the world's Muslims, sometimes with kid gloves. In a stunning speech delivered in an Arab capital, the president offers respect and understanding and a closer look at his own links to Islam. The president's words may leave some Israelis uncomfortable.
Plus, why does he use the word "torture" and completely omit the word "terror"?
And, long before he was Bill in the "Kill Bill" films, he brought kung fu to television -- the actor David Carradine dead, under mysterious circumstances.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.