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Who said it? Bush vs. Obama on Islam

BY , , and   February 19, 2015 at 9:40 AM EST
Former President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama arrive in the East Room for the unveiling of Bush's official portrait at the White House on May 31, 2012. Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Former President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama arrive in the East Room for the unveiling of Bush’s official portrait at the White House on May 31, 2012. Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • The president defends his words on terror
  • A problem for the White House
  • Can you tell which quotes are from President Obama and which are from former President George W. Bush?

Word play: Leading up to President Obama’s Summit on Countering Violent Extremism, which continues at the White House today, critics of this president have tried to read between the lines of his speeches to say he really doesn’t get the threat posed by the Islamic State militant group. They point out the pains Mr. Obama goes through not to mention the phrase “Radical Islam.” The president took that head-on Wednesday, arguing that he does not want to grant IS, which he calls ISIL, “legitimacy” by ascribing “Islam” to them. “Leading up to this summit, there’s been a fair amount of debate in the press and among pundits about the words we use to describe and frame this challenge,” Obama said. “So I want to be very clear about how I see it. Al Qaeda and ISIL and groups like it are desperate for legitimacy. They try to portray themselves as religious leaders — holy warriors in defense of Islam. That’s why ISIL presumes to declare itself the ‘Islamic State.’”

The message problem and the irony: The problem for this White House can be that President Obama sometimes seems to be reacting to critics and winds up coming across as defensive, passive or even politically correct, irking even some Democrats. His lack of definitiveness can leave room for others to more succinctly capture a message that’s more easily translated. The irony, by the way, in President Obama’s attempt not to inflame Muslims in the United States is that many in Muslim communities are upset with the administration’s initiatives to more closely monitor and work with leaders in those communities to identify potential extremism in this country. “People believe that even talking about foreign policy puts you on some kind of watch list,” Jaylani Hussein of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on Muslim-American Relations, or CAIR, told Politico’s Michael Crowley.

Not much different from Bush on Islam? Bloomberg notes that George W. Bush also avoided the term “Radical Islam,” saying it’s a “longstanding U.S. policy.” Why? As Elliot Abrams, who served as deputy National Security Adviser to George W. Bush told Eli Lake, “We were invading two Muslim countries, and we were being accused of being at war with Islam. So the administration wanted to make it very clear that we are not at war with Islam and every Muslim in the world.”

In fact, here’s a fun game. Here are some statements from Presidents Obama and Bush. See if you can guess who said which. Answers at the bottom of the Daily Trivia:

  1. “Ours is a war not against a religion, not against the Muslim faith. But ours is a war against individuals who absolutely hate what America stands for.”
  2. “They’re terrorists. And we are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”
  3. “Our war is not against Islam, or against faith practiced by the Muslim people. Our war is a war against evil.”
  4. “Our enemy doesn’t follow the great traditions of Islam. They’ve hijacked a great religion.”
  5. “Given the…nature of the enemy — which is not a traditional army — this work takes time, and will require vigilance and resilience.”
  6. “The terrorists do not speak for over a billion Muslims who reject their hateful ideology.”
  7. “The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself.”
  8. “How do we, as people of faith, reconcile these realities — the profound good…the compassion and love that can flow from all of our faiths, operating alongside those who seek to hijack religious for their own murderous ends?”
  9. “There are thousands of Muslims who proudly call themselves Americans, and they know what I know — that the Muslim faith is based upon peace and love and compassion.”
  10. “This great religion in the hands of a few extremists has been distorted to justify violence.”

Quote of the day: “My brother’s administration, through the surge, which was one of the most heroic acts of courage politically that — that any president’s done, because there is no support for this, and it was hugely successful. And it created the stability that when the new president came in, he could’ve built on to create a fragile but more stable situation that would’ve not allowed for the void to be filled. The void has been filled, because we created the void. And so the lesson, I think, is engagement.” — Jeb Bush talking about Iraq in the Q&A following his foreign-policy address in Chicago.

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt signed an executive order giving the military the authority to relocate and intern Japanese-Americans. What event prompted the creation of these internment camps? Be the first to tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to Kenneth C. Davis ‏(@kennethcdavis) and Joni Johnson (@celeste1958) for guessing Wednesday’s trivia: Who is the only U.S. President to have served in the Confederate Congress? The answer: John Tyler. (Answers to Bush-Obama language quiz: 1-Bush, 2-Obama, 3-Bush, 4-Bush, 5-Obama, 6-Obama, 7-Bush, 8-Obama, 9-Bush, 10-Obama)

2016

  • Jeb Bush’s gubernatorial tenure, during which he pushed a conservative agenda that he called “big, hairy, audacious goals,” or “BHAGs,” may blunt primary attacks on his conservatism. His expansion of gubernatorial power, however, could turn off voters who think recent presidents have abused executive power.

  • A Washington Post review of the Clinton Global Initiative’s finances found plenty of overlap between the foundation’s donor base and the Clinton political operation. Half of Ready for Hillary’s major donors and half of the bundlers for her 2008 campaign have donated at least $10,000 to the foundation.

  • With the Clinton camp keeping decisions closely guarded, so-called Clinton “allies,” “insiders” or “loyalists” have room to spin their own stories — even if they don’t really know what’s going on.

  • Scott Walker was scheduled to attend a Wednesday night dinner at Manhattan’s 21 Club with supply-side economists like Arthur Laffer.

  • As Milwaukee County Executive, Walker backed an immigration bill denounced as “amnesty.”

  • During a trip to South Carolina Wednesday, Ohio Gov. John Kasich said he has not yet decided whether he’ll run for president. Kasich told reporters, “All options are on the table, and I’m not even close to making a decision on this.”

  • A local activist in Las Vegas confronted Sen. Marco Rubio about his opposition to deportation relief during a stop on his book tour.

  • Voters in Iowa, Colorado and Virginia disapprove — by a nine point margin — of the job President Obama is doing. They want an “un-Obama president,” according to Thursday’s Quinnipiac swing state poll.

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