June 2009 | Hillman Foundation

Clear It With Sidney

Notes on journalism for the common good, by Lindsay Beyerstein

June 2009

Forty Years On

Frank Kameny takes the long view on the gay-rights movement

Forty years ago, the New York City Police Department staged a late night raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in Greenwich Village lacking a liquor license. This utterly routine event produced a reaction unlike anything New York’s finest had ever witnessed from lesbian and gay bar patrons, whom they had persecuted for decades without ever encountering a particle of resistance.

In the immortal words of Storme DeLaverie, a cross-dressing lesbian and a famous night club performer, “The cop hit me, and I hit him back.” This had never happened before.

Whether or not Ms. DeLaverie was the lesbian who sparked the most famous riot in gay history remains a matter of fierce dispute. But what happened next is a matter of record: a wildly unlikely collection of drag queens, gay teenagers, and their instantly-revolutionized elders suddenly rose up against their oppressors. First they threw coins at the cops (“This is your payoff”); then rocks; then someone shouted “gay power” and someone else lifted a parking meter out of the ground to use it as a battering ram against the barricaded door of the Stonewall. “The homosexuals were usually very docile, quiet people,” remembered deputy police inspector Seymour Pine. “But this night was different…I had been in combat situations, but there was never any time that I felt more scared than that.”

In the twinkling of a mascara-shaded eye, the streets of New York gave birth to a revolution whose echoes would eventually be heard in every country in the world. The riots were given scant coverage in the daily press, but the New York Daily News did produce one brilliant headline about it, as accurate as it was concise:
                                  
    Homo Nest Raided;
    Queen Bees are Stinging Mad

Within weeks there was an explosion of organizational activity, as lesbians and gays finally followed the path of the soldiers in the Civil Rights Movement and the Women’s Movement to claim their rightful place inside America. One month after the riot, the newly created Gay Liberation Front produced one of its first pamphlets. This was its headline:

    YOU THINK HOMOSEXUALS ARE REVOLTING
    YOU BET YOUR SWEET ASS WE ARE.

One of the most important reasons why progress would come so rapidly was a man named Frank Kameny. A World War II combat veteran with a Harvard Ph.D in astronomy, Kameny started his own battle for equal rights twelve years before the Stonewall Riot, when he was fired from the U.S. Army Map Service in 1957 because he was gay. Kameny filed the first federal law suit to challenge the executive order banning gays from employment by the federal government and all of its contractors, an order that had been signed by Dwight Eisenhower in 1953. Four years later, the United States Supreme Court refused to hear Kameny’s case, but he remained unbowed. Over the next two decades, he would be responsible for most of the intellectual and strategic framework for the burgeoning gay movement.

In 1963, Kameny and five friends, including Jack Nichols, who became his essential co-conspirator, formed their own (unidentified) gay contingent to participate in Martin Luther King’s March on Washington. In 1964, Kameny convinced the Washington chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union to take the case of another federal employee who had been fired because he was gay; until then, even the ACLU had explicitly supported the constitutionality of anti-sodomy laws and Eisenhower’s executive order banning gays from the government.

Then Kameny took what would be his most important step of all. He decided to make his own scientific examination of the psychiatric literature that described homosexuality as a pathology.
 
“As we got into things it became very clear that one of the major stumbling blocks to any progress was going to be this attribution of sickness,” Kameny told me many years ago. “An attribution of mental illness in our culture is devastating, and it’s something which is virtually impossible to get beyond. So the first thing was to find out if this was factually based or not. I had no idea what I was going to find. So I looked, and I was absolutely appalled.”

Everything Kameny encountered was “sloppy, slovenly, slipshod, sleazy science–social and cultural and theological value judgments, cloaked and camouflaged in the language of science, without any of the substance of science. There was just nothing there…. All psychiatry assumed that homosexuality is psychopathological.”

“It was garbage in, garbage out.”

This discovery led Kameny to a revolutionary pronouncement in New York in 1964–nearly as shocking to gay people as it was to everyone else: “I take the stand that not only is homosexuality not immoral, but that homosexual acts engaged in by consenting adults are moral, in a positive and real sense, and are right, good and desirable, both for the individual participants and for the society in which they live.” 

A year later, the New York chapter of the Matachine society, one of the earliest gay groups, endorsed Kameny’s view with a two thirds vote–over the vociferous objections of a reactionary gay minority, who refused to believe that their orientation was not an illness.

In 1968, Kameny coined the phrase “Gay is good”–after seeing Stokely Carmichael declare on television, “Black is beautiful!”

In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association adopted the view Kameny had promoted with others that homosexuality should be removed from its list of psychiatric disorders. This was probably his single most important accomplishment.

So it was especially appropriate last week that Frank Kameny, now 82, was standing to the president’s left in the Oval Office when Barack Obama signed a memorandum modestly improving the rights of domestic partners of federal employees. And it was Kameny to whom the president handed the pen he had used to sign the memorandum.

This was not an event Kameny had anticipated when he led the first gay picket line outside the White House in 1965, demanding an end to discrimination against gay employees. “FIFTEEN MILLION U.S. HOMOSEXUALS PROTEST FEDERAL TREATMENT” read the placard carried by Jack Nichols, an artifact now part of the political history collection of the Smithsonian’s National History Museum, which accepted Kameny’s 70,000 documents and pieces of memorabilia three years ago.

“This whole thing felt like a story book,” Kameny said about last week’s event. “Everybody lived happily ever after. The president was very well briefed: he was aware that he and I–in different years–share Harvard University in our background.”

Unfortunately, although Kameny’s name was mentioned in the pool report written about the Oval Office event, neither The New York Times nor The Washington Post mentioned Kameny’s presence at the ceremony–an oversight akin to leaving Martin Luther King Jr. out of the story when Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (even though that law was vastly more significant than Obama’s modest memorandum).

Why was Kameny ignored–except in the caption of a page one photograph of the ceremony on the front page of The Washington Times? Because no ordinary political reporter in Washington knows anything about gay issues, and, therefore, none of them has any idea who Kameny is–even though Post reporter Jose Antonio Vargas finally got his paper to profile Kameny (for the first time) four years ago. 

The ignorance of the White House reporters is regrettable but understandable, and when FCP contacted Scott Wilson of The Washington Post to ask him why he had left Kameny out, he at least had the good grace to apologize for being too ignorant to have realized how important Kameny was. “I wish I could do it over,” Wilson said.

On the other hand, when New York Times reporter Jeremy Peters wrote last Sunday about “Why the gay movement has no national leader” in the Week in Review section, his omission of Kameny a few days after his appearance at the White House was unconscionable. When FCP castigated Peters in an e-mail for leaving Kameny out of his story, Peters replied, “I am very familiar with who Mr. Frank Kameny is. But the fact of the matter is that if you were to ask Americans if they recognized his name, the vast, vast majority would not be able to say yes.” 

Which, of course, is because of the incompetence of generations of reporters like Mr. Peters.

What the Washington reporters who missed Kameny’s presence in the Oval Office focused on instead was the dissatisfaction of other gay leaders with Obama’s failure so far to redeem his promises from the campaign trail, especially his repeated pledge to end the military’s idiotic policy of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

But here again the MSM has completely ignored the main reason for unhappiness within the gay movement: a widespread belief that Obama could suspend the policy all by himself, even though it was enacted by Congress in 1993.

The Palm Center, a unit of the Institute for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Research at the University of California, Santa Barbara, is the main source of most of the hard data about the disastrous effects of the current DADT policy. Its director is Aaron Belkin, who recently told an interviewer, “I think that issue after issue after issue, when it comes to gay rights, there is quite a divide between candidate Obama and President Obama.”

The Palm Center’s senior research fellow is Nathaniel Frank, author of Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America, the definitive volume on this subject, which was published last spring to great acclaim. The book proved that the current DADT policy was based entirely on prejudice, rather than on any hard data proving that allowing gay people to serve openly would damage the military.

During the Obama transition, the Palm Center put together a team of legal scholars who concluded that the president could suspend Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell through a stop-loss order–but no one reading The New York Times or The Washington Post would know that.

“At first the White House wasn’t 100 percent sure they could do this,” said veteran gay activist Ethan Geto. “But they have since concluded that the president can do this.”

“People said, ‘We don’t want to Clintonize Obama,’” Geto continued, referring to the political damage Clinton suffered from his efforts to end the ban on gays in the military in 1993. “But 2009 is tremendously different from 1993. The culture has had a massive change; the reality is, every major poll in this country shows that an overwhelming majority of American voters support immediate repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. So there is no political trap for Barack Obama here, in doing something unilaterally like a suspension of the policy.”

The other move that enraged many gay activists was the filing the government made in court in defense of the Defense of Marriage Act–even though Obama reiterated in the Oval Office last week that he favors the law’s repeal. Activists were particularly furious that the filing compared gay marriage to incest–another fact no New York Times reporter has managed to mention so far in any of their stories about DOMA.

Interestingly, the sexual orientation of an MSM reporter seems to have no effect whatsoever on his competence in discussing these issues. Jeff Zeleny is an openly gay White House correspondent for The New York Times. But when he was asked about this subject by Gwen Ifill on PBS’s Washington Week, Zeleny was unable to articulate a single sentence about the substance of any of gay issues currently facing the president–except to say that gay leaders were disappointed that Obama had failed to extend healthcare benefits to the spouses of federal employees.

As the man who has been fighting these battles longer than everyone else, Frank Kameny naturally takes the longest view on the matter. He said he is “very, very concious” of the criticism of the president–but he does not agree with it.

“That abominable brief that was filed in the DOMA case in California does have them embarrassed in the White House,” said Kameny. “And a lot of people have been blaming Obama for that. Obviously it’s self-evident that something like that was written by some two-bit, lower-level flunky. A lot of people seem to visualize it being written at a conference in the Oval Office presided over by Obama. Well, it’s nonsense.”

Kameny noted that a bill to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is moving through the Congress, and it already has more than 140 co-sponsors in the House. On the Defense of Marriage Act, the president “has indicated very clearly–and unmistakably restated on Wednesday afternoon–that he wants it to be repealed–but he can’t repeal DOMA until they put a bill on his desk from over in the capital. He can bring certain elements of pressure on Congress, but ultimately Congress is Congress, and it’s its own master.”

“Meanwhile he has a hideous economic mess to straighten out,” Kameny continued.  “And of course the whole far right and the conservatives are opposed to him tooth and nail. So he has to deal with all of that. So I’m willing to sit and wait.”
 
“I can understand why people are reacting as they are. But I’m not part of that kind of counter-reaction.”

                                                   

The Washington Post Drops Froomkin, Drops the Ball

The firing of Dan Froomkin by The Washington Post set off a firestorm in the liberal blogosphere this week for one very simple reason: Froomkin  is a superb reporter, who consistently covers stories that his own newspaper–and the rest of the national press–routinely ignore. And most of them are about inconvenient truths concerning torture and the war in Iraq–two subjects covered almost exclusively from a right-wing point of view on the Post’s increasingly neoconservative editorial page.

Here are a few examples cited by FCP over the past eighteen months:

* When the Center for Public Integrity reported that the Bush administration had made 935 false statements in the run-up to the war in Iraq (many of them repeated without challenge in the MSM), The Washington Post newspaper and all of the network evening news broadcasts ignored the story, and The New York Time covered it in 375 words. Only Froomkin gave it the attention it deserved–a full 1,238 word column.

* When ABC News’s Jan Craword Greenberg reported that, in 2002, Condoleezza Rice had chaired meetings attended by Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, John Ashcroft, Donald Rumsfeld, and George Tenet to discuss specific torture techniques, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, CBS, and NBC all ignored the story. Froomkin pointed out that The Washington Post had never reported that Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, and Ashcroft had participated in these meetings—”[a]nd the earlier article certainly didn’t contain any admission by Bush that he had given the principals the go-ahead.”

* When retired Major General Anthony Tauba declared “there is no longer any doubt the current administration has committed war crimes, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post missed the story the next day–while Froomkin wrote the single most comprehensive piece about the General’s accusation on his blog.

And finally, and most admirably of all, when a Post reader in an online chat said, “If the Post can’t or won’t call the techniques torture, the Post’s editorial position lines up exactly with the Bush Administration’s line that they didn’t torture, doesn’t it?”

Froomkin replied: “I call it torture. Over and over again.”

There is nothing–and I mean nothing–that enrages the typical reporter more than a colleague who consistently points out his shortcomings. And as the op-ed page of the Post increasingly becomes a depository for neocon pablum produced by Charles Krauthammer, Bill Kristol, Liz Cheney, and oh-so-many-more, Froomkin was increasingly out of step with the zeitgeist promoted by Fred Hiatt, the paper’s editorial page editor.

And although Froomkin did not work directly for Hiatt, the editor told FCP that he had been consulted about the decision to terminate Froomkin’s contract, and he approved of it.

Responding to messages left by FCP for Post publisher Katharine Weymouth and two of the paper’s top editors, Post spokeswoman Kris Coratti declared by e-mail, “Editors need to be able to make decisions on what they think provides the most value to our readers, and a great deal of discussion and research informed this particular decision of not extending a contract that was expiring.” 

Which means, of course, that if they didn’t see the value of Froomkin’s contributions, they really don’t have any news judgment at all.

When FCP pointed out that as recently as last December, Froomkin’s column was the third most popular feature on washingtonpost.com, Coratti first pretended that the Post had never issued such a statistic. Then, a few minutes later, she said by e-mail, “It was a feature we must have done at the end of ’07,” which is what FCP had told her in the first place.

Marcus W. Brauchli , the new executive editor of The Washington Post, is supposed to be more focused than any other newspaper editor on how to transform his product so that it will thrive in the digital age. If he and his colleagues don’t understand the value of someone like Dan Froomkin, his chances of succeeding are nil. The good news is, the blogosphere is filled with editors who do recognize the value of Froomkin’s work, so there is no danger that his contributions will disappear. In fact, he should soon be at the center of a heated bidding war.

Tilting to the Right

When the media cater to the far right, everything gets off-kilter

This morning Paul Krugman joined the chorus on the Internet reminding us of how the right wing reacted to a perfectly sensible internal report from the department of Homeland Security a couple of months ago, which warned of an upsurge of right-wing violence. Conservative commentators were outraged then, of course, so what are they saying now, in the wake of the assassination of a doctor by an anti-abortion fanatic and the killing of a guard at the Holcaust Memorial Museum by a white supremacist?

It’s all the fault of the left.

Rush Limbaugh quickly established the right-wing party-line by declaring that the white supremacist in question was really a leftist—partly because a Fox News location was supposedly one of his potential targets.

Keith Olbermann led the counter-attack to this lunacy on MSNBC. Appearing on Olbermann’s show, Countdown, last night, Mark Potok, the director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, offered this cogent summary of the facts:

The answer is—yes, it is precisely what [the Department of Homeland Security] talked about. They talked about a resurgence of the radical right. They had a great deal of evidence to support that conclusion. It very much mirrored the conclusions of the Southern Poverty Law Center earlier. And, as you well know, DHS was pilloried by political opportunists on the right [for] supposedly attacking all conservatives and all war veterans…

I think that the groups are definitely growing. They have been trying very hard to recruit around the idea of a black man being in the White House, sort of “horror of horrors.” And there has been quite a lot of criminal violence as well. In addition to the cases you‘ve mentioned, in just the last couple of months, five law enforcement officers have been murdered by right-wing extremists in two different incidents….

The day after Obama was inaugurated, a man in Brockton, Massachusetts, stormed out of his house and started murdering black people. When he was finally apprehended after murdering two and nearly killing a third, he told the police that he was going on that evening to murder as many Jews as possible in an Orthodox synagogue. His complaint was that the white race was suffering a genocide at the hands of others.

The idea, though, that, somehow, this shooting at the Holocaust Museum was in any remote way an artifact of the left or Obama‘s fault somehow—I mean, it‘s vile beyond words and just has no basis at all in fact of any kind.

 

Krugman’s column also restored some of the honor of The New York Times by counter-balancing the absurd, page-one story about Glenn Beck which appeared last March, in which Brian Stelter and Bill Carter gushed that Beck was “suddenly one of the most powerful media voices for the nation’s conservative populist anger” and that “barely two months into his job at Fox, his program is a phenomenon.”

(For the very latest example of this kind of “journalism,” see this repellently rhapsodic preview of John Stossel’s upcoming 20/20 profile of Beck.)

Krugman pointed out that, for the most part, Fox News and the RNC haven’t directly incited violence, “but they have gone out of their way to provide a platform for conspiracy theories and apocalyptic rhetoric, just as they did the last time a Democrat held the White House.”

And there’s the problem. The profitability of Fox is rooted in people like Beck and Bill O’Reilly, whose entire raison d’etre is to keep their viewers in a perpetual state of fear by harping on a largely imaginary set of demons, thereby creating the perfect breeding ground for the gun-toting extremists they supposedly abhor. And yet the Times too often treats these pariahs as amusing clowns instead of portraying them as what they really are: permanent purveyors of hatred.

This week, Rush Limbaugh—the subject of a nauseatingly affectionate portrait in The New York Times Magazine last summer—continued to pretend that the one thing Obama has in common with God is that neither of them has a birth certificate—well, “not that we’ve seen.” The fact that the Obama campaign released the candidate’s birth certificate last summer, and that you can see it in dozens of locations on the Internet has had no impact at all on this permanent campaign to raise false doubts about the president’s citizenship.

In a splendid column last week, E.J. Dionne identified another problem with the reflex attention the mainstream media gives to every utterance of Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich: “A media environment that tilts to the right is obscuring what President Obama stands for and closing off political options that should be part of the public discussion.”

Dionne was describing a problem which FCP has repeatedly pointed to on every Washington chat show, from NBC’s Meet the Press to Gwen Ifill’s Washington Week: on almost every issue, the debate rages—from the center to the extreme right. Here’s the way Dionne dissected the problem:

The power of the Limbaugh-Gingrich axis means that Obama is regularly cast as somewhere on the far left end of a truncated political spectrum. He’s the guy who nominates a “racist” to the Supreme Court (though Gingrich retreated from the word yesterday), wants to weaken America’s defenses against terrorism and is proposing a massive government takeover of the private economy. Steve Forbes, writing for his magazine, recently went so far as to compare Obama’s economic policies to those of Juan Peron’s Argentina.

Democrats are complicit in building up Gingrich and Limbaugh as the main spokesmen for the Republican Party, since Obama polls so much better than either of them. But the media play an independent role by regularly treating far-right views as mainstream positions and by largely ignoring critiques of Obama that come from elected officials on the left.

So while “the right wing’s rants get wall-to-wall airtime,” you almost never hear from progressive members of Congress like Representatives Jared Polis of Colorado, Donna Edwards of Maryland, and Raul Grijalva of Arizona—all three of whom are “passionately opposed to [the president’s] military approach to Afghanistan and want a serious debate over the implications of Obama’s strategy.”

Partly because of the gigantic right-wing investment in conservative Washington think tanks over the last forty years, right-wing pundits are much more deeply embedded within the Washington media establishment than their liberal counterparts. As a result, the utterly discredited positions of the right, on everything from terrorism to immigration, continue to attract a disproportionate amount of attention on every important television network—except, of course, for MSNBC.

Above the Fold: The Speech Heard 'Round the World

Obama’s message to Cairo focuses on our common humanity

“America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles—principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”

“Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and 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. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It’s a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered.”

“I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.”

                                                                    —Barack Hussein Obama, Cairo, June 4, 2009

 

President Obama delivered the greatest speech of his presidency in Egypt yesterday, the best one he has given since he rescued his presidential campaign last year, by dissecting the issues of race which have fractured America since its founding.

A large part of the power of both speeches lies in Obama’s willingness to articulate facts that have previously been treated as taboos, such as America’s role “in the overthrow of a democratically-elected Iranian government,” which he mentioned in Cairo yesterday.  The president also made a revolutionary pledge to obliterate the difference between America’s public stands and its private proddings:

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

What were seen as his greatest liabilities when Obama was a candidate—a Muslim father, Muslim schooling in Indonesia, and the middle name of “Hussein”—now clearly give him the chance to be the most credible leader of the free world America has ever placed in the White House.

The speech was broadcast simultaneously around the world (only Iran tried to jam satellite transmission of it), and in Pakistan it was seen live with Urdu subtitles on TV screens throughout the country. By mid-afternoon Friday, it was available on the White House Web site in Arabic, Chinese, French, Hindi, Indonesian, Pashto, Persian, Punjabi, Russian, Turkish, and Urdu. (Translations into Dari, Hebrew, and Malay are, as of this writing, still ‘in progress’; oddly, currently not included among the fourteen language options is a Spanish version.)

American journalists tended to focus on whatever there was in the speech that made right-wing Israelis unhappy, including this refreshingly forthright declaration: “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.”   But around the world the speech was recognized as an extraordinary effort to extract the humanity from three of the world’s great religions, to emphasize our common values instead of our constant conflicts.

The reaction of Hamas depended entirely on where you read about it.  In The New York Times, “Ahmed Youssef, the deputy foreign minister of the Hamas government, criticized the speech for not going far enough on Palestinian issues. ‘He points to the right of Israel to exist, but what about the refugees and their right of return?’”

But in Le Monde, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum saw “tangible change” in the president’s speech as well as “some contradictions”: “It’s a speech that plays on feelings and is filled with civility, which makes us believe he is trying to enhance America’s image in the world.”

And on the Web site of the Arab cable news network Al Jazeera, Hamas was downright cordial towards Obama: “Ahmad Yousuf, a senior Hamas official, told Al Jazeera that Obama’s speech reminded him of Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream speech.’ About Obama stressing on the legitimacy of Israel, he said the Palestinians must have a state of their own before being asked to recognize another. But the message that America is not a threat to the Muslim world is a good signal, he said.”

Yousuf’s comparison was utterly apt.  When Obama called upon the Palestinians to emulate American blacks because “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,” he was of course echoing King’s commitment to Gandhi’s nonviolence.

The single best analysis FCP saw anywhere was by Jonathan Freedland in The Guardian. Under the headline, “Barack Obama in Cairo: the speech no other president could make,” Freedland wrote that Obama had given  “a speech that demonstrated not only his trademark eloquence but also the sheer ambition of his purpose—nothing less than bridging the divide between Islam and the west…” Freedland continued: 

…the thread that ran through every paragraph was a simple but radical idea: respect for the Arab and Muslim world.  It was there in Obama’s use of the traditional Muslim greeting, met with cheering applause: assalamu alaykum. There, too, in his quotations from “the holy Qur’an”—pronouncing the word the way his Cairo audience would pronounce it.

“I know civilisation’s debt to Islam,” he declared, before listing a Muslim record of achievement that stretched from algebra to poetry.

All of this was a world away from George W Bush, who was unable to address Muslims in a tone that was not bellicose or patronizing. If Bush had said the same words, they would have sounded phoney. But Obama had the credibility of his own life story: the Muslims in his father’s family, the childhood years in Indonesia. What had threatened to be a liability for Barack Hussein Obama in the 2008 election campaign was deployed as an asset.

But it went deeper than flattery about the great Islamic past. He showed understanding, if not always acceptance, of what one might call the Arab and Muslim narrative.”

Finally, for his peroration, Obama borrowed from three of the holiest books in the world:

“The Holy Koran tells us, “O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.”

The Talmud tells us: “The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace.”

The Holy Bible tells us, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

Then, with his final sentence, he appealed to the humanity which is the most admirable part of all three religions:

“The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God’s vision. Now, that must be our work here on Earth. Thank you. And may God’s peace be upon you.”