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President Obama Delivers Message to Muslim World

Aired June 4, 2009 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

President Obama on stage in Egypt today telling Muslims around the world things they never dreamed they would hear from an American president, and he told them some things they didn't want to hear as well. In a sweeping speech, he tried to undo years of Muslim hatred of America. And he's getting both praise, as well as generating new anger, for some of the provocative statements he made, including these.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.

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.


BLITZER: Conservative critics are already accusing the president of trying to blame America first.

Overseas, Iran's supreme leader is dismissing his remarks as -- quote -- "words, speech and slogan."

Opposing forces in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute suggest Mr. Obama was misleading, even lying.

Our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry, traveled with the president to 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 so far.


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 (on camera): 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.

Let's bring in CNN's Fareed Zakaria, the host of "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS." Fareed, the president using the word legitimacy now in talking about Israeli settlements, not only calling for a freeze or stopping settlements, but going back to language the Carter administration used to use about the legality if you will of these settlements. The Reagan administration, Bill Clinton, both Bushes, they tried to avoid that kind of reference.

What does that say to you?

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN WORLD AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, I think you have -- you have caught it, Wolf. I think that is the single most specific policy shift that the speech produces.

You have had a lot of -- the speech was -- was very broad, very detailed, very synoptic, you know, comprehensive. But there were a couple of these policy edges to it. And the -- the most important policy edge is I think exactly the one you pointed out.

For a long time, American presidents have quietly counseled the Israelis against settlements. About 15 years ago, as you know, the senior Bush actually withdrew some loan guarantees to Prime Minister Shamir.

But Obama is making the case unequivocally, publicly, and condemning them and calling them illegal. That's a big shift, and I think that's something that some Israelis will not like, though, I have to tell you, many Israelis feel that this kind of American pressure is the only thing that will actually force movement toward a two-state solution.

BLITZER: I have heard several administration officials, Obama administration officials, say they need some tough love on both the Israelis and the Palestinians. And certainly they got some of that today in this speech.

One other -- another point that sort of jumped out at me, and we had the clip at the top of the show, is when the president acknowledged the U.S. role, specifically the CIA's role, in overthrowing what he called a democratic elected government in Iran back in 1953.

This is what the Iranians want to hear from the United States. They make a big deal about this almost every single day. And today the president delivered for Iran.


Rather than remain trapped in the past, I have 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.


BLITZER: All right, what did you think about that reference to the coup that the U.S. was involved in back in '53 and how it might play out on the Iranian elections over the next week or so?

ZAKARIA: Well, everything that he does that is conciliatory toward Iran makes Ahmadinejad look -- President Ahmadinejad of Iran -- look more and more extreme and more of a hard-liner.

You know that Madeleine Albright also had mentioned this when she was secretary of state. And she actually had even apologized for America's role. So, here I don't think it was as new.

What I was struck by, though, about that Iran section of the speech, if you notice, Wolf, it was not really about Iran. Iran was de-emphasized as an issue. It was only brought up in the context of nonproliferation, and we must try to have, you know, a region that doesn't have nuclear weapons.

Now, this is in direct contradiction to what Prime Minister Netanyahu must have urged President Obama to do at their White House meeting. Prime Minister Netanyahu believes that the most important thing going on in the Middle East right now is the rise of Iran, the threat it poses, and the danger that we must all confront.

That was not front and center in the Obama speech. As I say, Iran comes up almost incidentally, as I think item number three or four, only in the context of a nuclear nonproliferation regime.

BLITZER: Yes, I think you're right. And I do think -- agree with you that there's little doubt that what he said today about Iran potentially could help Ahmadinejad in his bid for reelection in the coming days.

Fareed is going to have a lot more on coming up Sunday on "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS," which airs at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.

Fareed, thanks very much for joining us

ZAKARIA: Always a pleasure, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's check with Jack Cafferty right now. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: A Chicago law, Wolf, that bans handguns and automatic weapons within city limits has been upheld. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a challenge by the National Rifle Association.

And this will probably set the stage for a Supreme Court fight over whether the Second Amendment's protections for gun owners extend to city and state laws. Last year, the Supreme Court said the right to keep and bear arms protects an individual's right to have a gun for self-defense.

Before then, many judges had said the amendment only protected the right of states to have a militia. At the time, the high court's ruling struck down a handgun ban in Washington, D.C., but the justices didn't say at the time whether the same rules applied to the rest of the country. Chicago's law has been in effect since 1982. It allows ownership of rifles, but they have to be registered every year with the police department. Concealed weapons, semiautomatic and automatic weapons are not allowed at all.

There are some exceptions for members of the military and, of course, for law enforcement agencies. Gun rights advocates say the next step is the appeal to the Supreme Court, while the city of Chicago says it's prepared to defend its ordinance.

Meanwhile, the high court likely won't consider an appeal until the fall. And, by then, Sonia Sotomayor might be one of the justices considering that case. In January, she joined a three-judge panel in New York that came to the same conclusion as the appellate court did in the Chicago case.

Here's the question, then. Should cities like Chicago be allowed to ban handguns? Go to Post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good question, Jack. Thank you.

Can terrorists hoping to kill Americans buy their tools from America? The government says U.S. parts, some used to make bombs, missiles, even detonate nuclear weapons, are bought, sold, and sent who knows where.

And why would a cartoon depict the first Hispanic Supreme Court nominee strung up as a pinata, showing President Obama in a sombrero, under the title "Fiesta Time"?

And a 20-year anniversary, some are hoping to forget it. It appears China wants no part marking the violent crackdown in Tiananmen Square.


BLITZER: Parts used in deadly U.S. weapons sold and shipped to America's foes, an undercover investigation shows it's easier than you might think.

Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence. He's been investigating.

What are you finding, Chris?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, these investigators didn't even have to talk to their sellers, meet them face to face. All it took was the Internet and e-mails to buy parts for potentially deadly weapons.


LAWRENCE (voice-over): You don't need night-vision goggles to see there's a problem here, American companies selling and shipping these lenses, equipment used in smart bombs, and chips that steer guided missiles to foreign governments and potential terrorists.

GREGORY KUTZ, GAO INVESTIGATOR: These are real items. We picked them right out of indictments. They are items that were shipped to places like Pakistan, China, and Iran or Hezbollah.

LAWRENCE: The Government Accountability Office wanted to prove the lack of oversight. Investigators set up a fake company, address and e-mail and used a credit card to buy parts from American companies. Some were strictly military. Other parts had dual uses. This high-voltage switch has medical applications and can also be used to detonate nuclear weapons. The GAO got approval for 100 of them, all with fake I.D.

REP. BETTY SUTTON (D), OHIO: It's as if our own country has -- has become a terrorist bazaar.

LAWRENCE: Some distributors do ask buyers to sign an end-use agreement, which just states how you plan to use the equipment.

REP. GREG WALDEN (R), OREGON: So, if I wanted to do something bad with what I got, I would just sign this and say, I promise not to use this to create a nuclear, biological or chemical weapon, honest...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's what we...


WALDEN: ... signed, "Osama bin Laden"; it would be -- be believable and enforceable?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we signed it in all cases, and I don't believe there are any other checks done.


LAWRENCE: And the thing is, the GAO wasn't just able to buy this stuff. They exported fake, dummy versions of that smart bomb equipment and chips to a country in Southeast Asia, a country known to be a transit point for terrorists, and they did it all through the Post Office and FedEx -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So, how are they going to be held accountable, these companies that sold this stuff to the GAO?

LAWRENCE: Yes, that's the thing. These distributors didn't break the law. They follow the lack of a law.

You know, these regulations haven't been updated in decades. So, it's completely legal to buy and sell a lot of this equipment right here in the U.S. Now, you're not supposed to -- or you're not allowed to export it, but, again, the GAO proved that regulation is laughable.

BLITZER: Chris Lawrence, thanks very much for that.

A special delivery to Capitol Hill, copies of the lengthy questionnaire Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor filled out for the Senate Judiciary Committee. You're going to find a link to it over at, if you want to see it.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of Hispanics right now and a lot of other folks who are outraged at a depiction of Judge Sotomayor in a political cartoon.

CNN's Mary Snow is taking a closer look at what this story is all about.

Mary, what are you seeing?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, some critics say they were stunned when they saw the cartoon that's drawing fire. The question, does it go too far? Take a look. Judge for yourself.


SNOW (voice-over): The Oklahoma newspaper published the cartoon titled "Fiesta Time at the Confirmation Hearing." It features Judge Sonia Sotomayor strung up as a pinata, while President Obama wears a sombrero and asks elephants, or Republicans, "Now who wants to be first?" The cartoon quickly gained attention far beyond Oklahoma.

ROSSANA ROSADO, PUBLISHER, "EL DIARIO/LA PRENSA": I saw a lot of reaction. In our community, people were upset about it and somewhat stunned.

SNOW: Rossana Rosado publishes New York's largest Spanish- language newspaper. She's also friendly with Judge Sotomayor, who is Puerto Rican. Rosado questions why a Mexican sombrero and pinata were used.

ROSADO: I do know that it is offensive. And I think that it reflects a lot of the ignorance that many Americans have about Latinos, that we're kind of -- we're all Mexican or we're all this or we're all that. And in the end, it's just not that funny.

SNOW: The syndicated cartoonist who drew about Sotomayor says stereotyping was his point.

CHIP BOK, SYNDICATED CARTOONIST: Since she emphasized her Latina-ness and that played it up as a virtue, I thought, well, how about a fiesta and a pinata? This is a Mexican thing, but, again, we're dealing with stereotypes that -- that's all kind of a joke, I thought.

MARISA TREVINO, JOURNALIST: Not too many people are laughing in the Latino community.

SNOW: Marisa Trevino's Web site is dedicated to news impacting the Latina community. She actually comes to the defense of the cartoonist and says, looking at it closely, he's poking fun at Republicans, not ridiculed Sotomayor. But she still calls it insensitive.

BOK: When you tell a cartoonist he's insensitive, it's kind of like telling a basketball player he's tall. I mean, that's our job description.


SNOW: Now, the cartoonist says his aim was to poke fun at the situation Republicans are in. Calls to the editor for "The Oklahoman" for comment weren't immediately returned -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary Snow, thanks very much.

There's a push for the U.S. to punish Brazil after a father is denied a planned reunion with his son. We will have details.

Also, pieces of a nightmare -- crews find fresh clues in that plane that plunged into the Atlantic Ocean, and they are recovering other wreckage.

And President Obama will visit a scene of much pain to so many people, but of much honor and pride to the Obama family.



BLITZER: Rush Limbaugh says President Obama was not guided by his conscience today. Did he draw a moral equivalent between the slaughter of six million Jews and the suffering of the Palestinian people? The best political team on television is standing by.

Plus, hear the president's appeal to the Muslim world for yourself, his blunt statements and simple truths.


OBAMA: Too many tears have been shed. Too much blood has been shed.



BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: President Obama strongly supports Israel, but he challenges the country on the issue of settlements in the Palestinian territories -- how his speech to the Muslim world went over with his audience. Stand by.

Plus, what the president said and what he left out in his address -- we're about to wade into the words.

And the president -- president's next stop, Germany -- he's scheduled to visit a Nazi concentration camp that a relative had a hand in liberating -- liberating -- all of that, plus the best political team on television.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. In reaching out to the Muslim world today, President Obama carefully avoided using the word terrorism, but listed as his top priority the need to confront what he called violent extremism. The next item on his Middle East to-do list, finding a way to resolve the region's core conflicts.

Listen to this.


OBAMA: America's strong bonds with Israel are well-known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.

Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries. And anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented holocaust. Tomorrow I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich.

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.

Threatening Israel with destruction or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews is deeply wrong and only serves to evoke in the minds of the Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.

On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people, Muslims and Christians, have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than 60 years, they have endured the pain of dislocation.

Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations, large and small, that come with occupation.

So let there be no doubt, the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.


Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and it does not succeed.

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. Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern with institutions that serve the needs of its people.

Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have to recognize they have responsibilities, to play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, to unify the Palestinian people. Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, recognize Israel's right to exist.

At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.


OBAMA: This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.


OBAMA: And Israel must also live up to its obligation to ensure that Palestinians can live and work and develop their society. Just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel's security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be a critical part of a road to peace. And Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress.

And, finally, the Arab states must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities. The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems. Instead, it must be a cause for action, to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state, to recognize Israel's legitimacy, and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past.

America will align our policies with those who pursue peace. And we will say in public what we say in private, to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs...


OBAMA: We cannot impose peace. But privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away.

Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true. Too many tears have been shed. Too much blood has been shed.


BLITZER: Rush Limbaugh slamming President Obama, accusing him of equating the plight of the Palestinians with the Holocaust.

We're going to be taking a closer look at what the president actually said. And you'll be able to judge for yourself.

Plus, some offbeat images from the president's visit to Egypt. CNN's Jeanne Moos getting ready to take a Moost Unusual look.


BLITZER: Let's get to our political panel right now.

Joining us, our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; the former Bush White House speechwriter, David Frum; and our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.

I want to talk about our top story, obviously, an historic address today by the president of the United States in Cairo.

First of all, David, let me just pick your brain for a moment. You helped create that famous phrase, "the axis of evil" used by the former president, George W. Bush.

What did you think, in a nutshell, of this speech today?

DAVID FRUM, FORMER BUSH SPEECHWRITER: I feared in advance the speech would be a terrible mistake, but it was worse than my worst fear.


FRUM: What the president did was he set in motion a dynamic where he legitimated the most angry -- the most alienated members of the Islamic world as the most legitimate. I mean, Salman Rushdie is a member of the Muslim world. The speech wasn't for him. Those terrorized young gays in Iran are part of the Muslim world. The speech wasn't for them.

The speech was addressed to the people who are angriest. So you authen -- you legitimate them as the most authentic.

One example of this. The president took a slap at the government of France when he condemned those Western governments that ban the hijab. There's only one Western government...

BLITZER: Which is the veil.

FRUM: Which is the head covering.

BLITZER: The head covering.

FRUM: There's only one Western government does that, France, and then only in state schools. They do that in order to protect girls from violence in -- from these vigilante youth gangs that patrol some of the French suburbs.

Now, aren't those girls who are terrorized, aren't they part of the Muslim world?

What -- don't they get -- don't...


BLITZER: The president made the point, Gloria, that in the United States, the government went to the courts to make it illegal for...


BLITZER: ...for these young girls to wear a scarf.

BORGER: Right. And I think what he was trying to do -- and you obviously think he did not succeed in doing it -- was to divide the extremists in the Muslim world from the rest of the people in the Muslim world and to draw that line.

FRUM: But so the line he draws is extremist here, everybody else here.

Meanwhile, seculars, progressives, modern people, they're all lumped in exactly where they don't want to be -- with this conformist idea that to be an authentic Muslim -- BLITZER: Did you read it that way -- Candy?


FRUM: ...means that you have to belong to this aggrieved group.

CROWLEY: I actually read it, as I do many of the president's speeches and as a candidate, and that is, you can -- it sometimes tends to be a Rorschach test. I mean you can look at it and say, well, he said this. And there's a lot of on the one hand and on the other hand. That's why critics are worried about moral equivalency between the plight of the Palestinians and the plight of the Israelis.

And I think it's holds true for this. I think if you are prone to believe that the president is reaching out to moderates in the Muslim world, you could go through and find several graphs. Or you can look at it the way David does and do it the other way.

BORGER: He was an equal opportunity offender to everyone (INAUDIBLE)...


BLITZER: He can irritate a lot of people out there.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: I'm going to play a little clip for you specifically right now on the suffering of the Palestinians.

Listen to this.


(voice-over): For more than 60 years they've endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations -- large and small -- that come with occupation.

So let there be no doubt the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable.


BLITZER: It didn't take very long for Rush Limbaugh to -- and a lot of other conservatives and Republicans -- to make this point.



RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: What President Obama did today is unconscionable -- to draw a moral equivalence between the slaughter of six million Jews and a political circumstance in Palestine that's largely brought on by Palestinian leaders.


BLITZER: David, you agree with him?

FRUM: I don't think the president did do that. I don't agree with what Rush Limbaugh said.

But the president did open the way to a lot of very unfortunate things. But one of his methods is to make a rhetorical concession that he thinks means nothing -- a blank check that will be cashed later.

For example, one of the things he said in the speech was he criticized the United States for making it too difficult for American Muslims to give to Islamic charities. That's a criticism of America's terrorist financing laws that make it illegal to give to Hamas front groups.

Is he planning on altering those regulations to make it easier or not?

I think the answer is probably not. It was just a form of words. But he is going to be pressed. He often act as if his words once -- they only exist to soothe and mollify, they don't indicate policy.

BLITZER: Because the criticism coming in from -- we heard it from John Boehner, the Republican leader in the House, among others, from Jewish groups. There was a long segment talking about the suffering of Jews, the killing of six million Jews during the Holocaust. And then he used these words: "On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people, Muslims and Christians, have suffered in pursuit of a homeland." And that's what's causing the president, at least with his critics, some heartburn.

BORGER: I do not think it was moral equivalency. I believe what the president is saying is that there ought to be two sides living together -- a two-state solution. And I might point out, today, he actually used the word Palestine, which I haven't heard from an American president. And I think that if that's moral equivalency, well, it's the same solution the Bush administration...

FRUM: Islam...

BLITZER: Hold on one second...

FRUM: Islam doesn't mean Arab and Arab doesn't mean Palestine.

BLITZER: Candy, very quickly.

CROWLEY: Well, I mean, I just think, again, that this is something -- if you are on the Palestinian side, you're going to think that was moral equivalency and there you are. And if you're -- and if you're on the Israeli side, you're going to think the same thing and not like it. So you've got...


CROWLEY: know, it's an on one hand, on the other hand.

BLITZER: You know, words and a speech like this, which lasted almost an hour -- 55 minutes. And I got up really early, like a lot of you, to watch it this morning. Words are important.

Abbi Tatton is taking a very close look at the choice of the words the president used and some of the words he didn't use -- Abbi, what are you seeing on our so-called word cloud?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: All right, Wolf, this is the 55 minute speech condensed into the words that the president most emphasized today. And if it jumps out at you, that was a word that was repeated.

People obviously is big there. Muslim or Muslims, America, repeated over and over again.

Beyond that, it was the word peace that the president really emphasized.

One word that you're not going to see if you look across this word cloud here is the word terror or terrorist. Even though the president mentioned Al Qaeda, mentioned 9/11, the word choice he used was extremist there -- violent extremism the word choice instead of the word terrorism today.

BLITZER: He kept talking about that.

Abbi, thanks very much. Is it an issue at all that he doesn't say that those who killed 3,000 people on 9/11 are terrorists, rather, he describes them as violent extremists?

FRUM: Well, I think it is an issue. And one of the things that you often wonder in the speech -- one of Barack Obama's methods is to position himself equally between two points. In his great race speech in Philadelphia, explaining black America to white America and the other way around. At Notre Dame, explaining pro-choice, pro-life to each other.

It sometimes seemed to me in this speech he was explaining America to the Muslim world, the Muslim world to the United States -- kind of an odd position for the president of the United States to be in, to be positioning himself as judge in the case of these two contending parties, as if he's not the leader of this nation.

CROWLEY: I think that's exactly what he was doing and I think he was doing it purposely. I mean I think he knows that if, in policy, if this speech follows a...

FRUM: But who speaks for America?

CROWLEY: Well, you know, I mean, I think they would argue that they -- and he has said, in fact, we need to bring along America's false views of the Muslim world. So I think it was -- it was intended that way. You know, critical or not, I think that's exactly what he intended.

BORGER: You -- you're the speechwriter. You know that part of turning the page is establishing a new vocabulary. He was turning the page from the Bush administration. He wants a new vocabulary to use that is his.

FRUM: And he issued commitments that will be called upon.


BLITZER: And he certainly had a new vocabulary.

CROWLEY: Well, absolutely.

BLITZER: All right, guys...

BORGER: High risk.

CROWLEY: Very high risk.

BLITZER: This speech is going to be studied not just today or tomorrow, but for years and years to come. A really historic day today in Cairo.

Let's go to Lou Dobbs to see what's coming up at the top of the hour -- Lou.

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Wolf, thank you. At the top of the hour, we'll have much more on the president's call for a new beginning in relations with the Muslim world.

Republicans say President Obama is making the United States appear weak. Some even say President Obama sounds like an apologist.

Also, Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, making a new attempt to explain her "wise Latina" comment in 2001. It turns out that wasn't the first time that Sotomayor linked group and identity politics with the law.

And sharp divisions among liberals and pro-amnesty advocates over legislation that would make it easier for Americans to bring their same-sex partners into the United States. That's the subject of our face-off debate tonight.

And the authors of a provocative new book, "The Grand New Party," join me to tell us how Republicans can defeat Democrats.

Join us for all of that, all the day's news and more, at the top of the hour -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Lou.

See you in a few moments.

Out of Egypt and on to Germany -- President Obama is set to visit a concentration camp tomorrow with a personal tie to his own family.


BLITZER: We heard President Obama today lash out at those who deny or dismiss the Holocaust. He's now in Germany. He'll visit the site of a Nazi concentration camp tomorrow, where his family has a personal connection.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen shows us what the president will see -- Fred.

FREDERICK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it will certainly be a very emotional experience for the president when he comes here to the former concentration at Buchenwald. This, of course, was the camp that his granduncle helped liberate one of the sub camps of in 1945.

Now, the people who are now in charge of the memorial tell us for those who survived the Nazis' terror here, this will also be a very important day.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): More than 250,000 prisoners were held here at Buchenwald under appalling conditions -- used as slave workers by the Nazis, finally freed by advancing U.S. forces in 1945. Among those troops, President Obama's granduncle, Charlie Payne, an infantryman.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Ladies and gentlemen, Barack Obama's uncle is here with us tonight. Please join me in saluting this American hero, Charlie Payne.

PLEITGEN: It was the first major camp liberated by Allied forces as they swept across the remnants of Nazi Germany. In interviews, Payne said he was shocked to see inmates starved to the bone, barely clinging to life.

More than 50,000 died here -- Jews, gypsies, communists and others.

(on camera): Most of the bodies were burned in the ovens that you see here. This is the crematorium at Buchenwald. And the experts say it was usually in operation day and night.

(voice-over): The president's visit to the camp is special for the survivors, says the director of the Buchenwald memorial.

VOLKHARDT, KNIGGE, BUCHENWALD MEMORIAL: (INAUDIBLE) as a grandson, as far as his politics are concerned. And they hope that he's a chance to go on with it. For them, Buchenwald is a place where democracy has been reborn.

PLEITGEN: A special day for the president, as well, as he walks in the footsteps of his granduncle to a place that now serves both as a memorial and a warning that such persecution must never happen again.


PLEITGEN: Many see the president's visit here to Buchenwald as one of the most important stops on his trip here through Europe, of course, retracing the footsteps of his great granduncle. And, Wolf, after the trip here he will, of course, head to Normandy for the D-Day celebrations there -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It will be an emotional day all around.

Thanks very much, Fred, for that.

Let's go right back to Jack Cafferty for The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Wolf, the question this hour -- should cities like Chicago be allowed to ban handguns?

An appellate court recently upheld that city's decision to ban handguns. It's likely a case that will wind up in the Supreme Court.

Steve writes in New York: "No, they should not. In Washington, D.C. which didn't allow handguns, the murder rate from handguns was the highest in the nation. The reason was the victims couldn't protect themselves. It's always the criminals who disobey the law and get all the handguns they want, while the average citizen obeys the law and gets murdered."

Conor in Chicago: "The problem is illegal guns, not legal ones." Ashante in Chicago: "As a resident of Chicago, I ask those gun rights advocates who are standing up for the NRA what about all the kids we lost so far? Chicago leads the nation in children deaths due to violence. The NRA should be helping in this effort, not hindering. I applaud Mayor Daley continuing to fight for the residents of the city."

Christopher writes: "What a bad idea. I wonder if the gangs in Chicago are going to comply with this law?"

Dennis in Ohio says: "Not unless there's a Constitutional amendment that reverses or modifies the Second Amendment. It's not that I'm against or for banning handguns, but the law is the law. That said, I believe banning handguns anywhere, everywhere, will have a little effect on crime. If it a fact that where concealed carry of weapons is legal, crime goes down. Where guns are banned, crime increases."

B.J. in Columbus, Georgia: "No apology here. I'm an extremist, I guess. I think every city should ban handguns."

And Joe writes from Delray Beach, Florida: "Handguns and automatic rifles are absolutely needed within Chicago city limits. How else you going to shoot the deer that are tearing the city apart?"

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at and find some equally silly stuff there -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I know that. And we always do, Jack.

Thanks very much.


BLITZER: Some good serious stuff there, too, as well.

President Obama delivered a very serious speech in Egypt, as you know. But coming up, Jeanne Moos takes note of some of his visit's lighter moments for both him and the press.


BLITZER: Here's a look at some Hot Shots from today.

In China, a paramilitary soldier stands guard at the Tiananmen Gate.

In Austria, the leader of the Freedom Party works the crowd prior to the European elections.

In Ohio, Tiger Woods and his caddy led to the driving range to warm up for the Memorial Tournament.

And in Switzerland, two St. Bernards sit in the snow on the Great Bernard Pass.

Some of this hour's Hot Shots -- pictures worth a thousand words.

The focus of President Obama's visit to Egypt was his important speech to the Muslim world. But CNN's Jeanne Moos discovered some other most unusual and odd moments from the president's Egyptian adventure.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When the president goes sightseeing, the sight you see is him pointing, pointing, pointing -- pointing at the pyramids.

OBAMA: It's bigger, isn't it?

MOOS: Pointing in a mosque, where the press had to don those embarrassing booties -- a fate the president and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton avoided by going shoeless as a tour guide demonstrated the acoustics.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My voice carries.

MOOS: The president's voice carried at Cairo University, where he kept quoting the Koran for his Muslim audience.

OBAMA: The Holy Koran tells us...

The Holy Koran teaches that...

The Holy Koran tells us all mankind...

MOOS: The audience was kind to President Obama.


OBAMA: Thank you.

MOOS: Though he is no doubt jet lagged, the press secretary looked as if he was fighting off sleep during the speech.

President Obama spoke so much about his Muslim experiences that the Web site Wonkette jokingly called this his "Ich bin ein Muslim speech."

The president even rattled off a few phrases in Arabic.



Asalam Alakum.

E. Pluribus unum.

MOOS (on camera): Wait a minute, that last one wasn't Arabic, that was in Latin. It's what's inscribed on a quarter.

OBAMA: Out of many, one.

MOOS (voice-over): Many wanted to be the one to get the best spot at the photo-op with Presidents Obama and Mubarak. Of course, the visual highlight was...


MOOS: No, not him. It was the president touring the pyramids, outside and in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Purification, multiplication.

MOOS: Self-identification.

OBAMA: That looks like me. Look at those ears.

MOOS: Separated at birth from a hieroglyphic. But the president's guide saw another resemblance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You look like King Tut.

OBAMA: I've been told.


MOOS: He should know about King Tut. Dr. Sayeed Hawas (ph) oversaw scans of Tut's mummy that produced this likeness, though President Obama tends to skip the eye makeup.

The president's trip inspired Egyptians to display decorations calling Obama "the new King Tut of the world." But even the new King Tut couldn't budge a pyramid. Still, it's good practice for trying to push peace in the Mideast.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: It looks like the -- the nation's tourist-in-chief had a pretty good opportunity to see the pyramids.

That's all the time we have today.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.