Bush Was Friendly to Muslims, Too: the Obama Team's Response

The Obama administration says Bush's actions undercut friendly rhetoric toward the Muslim world.

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By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country

Over at Hot Air, Ed Morrissey accuses the news media of giving President Obama much too much credit for reinventing the U.S. posture toward the Muslim world on his trip to Turkey. Morrissey inventories Bush's many Muslim-friendly statements and argues that "Bush emphasized friendship with Muslims from the very start of the war [on terror]."

I just hung up with a senior Obama administration official who argued that Bush projects like Iraq and Guantánamo—and missteps like Abu Ghraib—undermined his stated warmth for the Islamic world. Obama's initial opposition to the Iraq war and his early executive orders banning torture and closing Gitmo, this official says, make Obama's public diplomacy in Turkey a lot more credible.

"It's the concrete actions that signal to the world a very different approach," the official says. "It's not a question of how many statements you can find the Bush administration making that it was not at war with Muslims. The perception was there, and a number of its actions seemed to reinforce that."

I also spoke this morning with Dailia Mogahed, chief of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies. Mogahed is one of the new members of Obama's Advisory Council on Neighborhood and Faith-Based Partnerships. She says that Bush's positive talk about Muslims was undercut by his use of terms like "Islamic fascism." "There was such a double message from the Bush administration," she says. "Because the Obama team has been managing the message much more coherently, it's easier to believe it. There are not contradictory messages."

The Obama official also says that the president is still planning to deliver a separate "Muslim speech" in Muslim majority country sometime in his first 100 days. Egypt, Jordan, Indonesia, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia were mentioned as possible venues.

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