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Obama’s Cairo Speech, Sotomayor Top Week’s News

David Brooks and Ruth Marcus discuss the news of the week, including President Obama's speech on U.S.-Muslim ties, Sonia Sotomayor's Supreme Court bid and GM's bankruptcy plan.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    And to the analysis of Brooks and Marcus, New York Times columnist David Brooks, Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus. Mark Shields is away tonight.

    David, what did you think of the president's speech to the Muslims yesterday?

  • DAVID BROOKS, Columnist, New York Times:

    It says that on the headline. We all got to listen.

    I liked it on the whole. You know, if you cover the Middle East, you know that there's a lot of shouting there, a lot of people talking past each other. Famously, every group has their own historical narrative which they emphasize while ignoring everyone else's narrative.

    And I thought Obama did the right thing, which was to go there and give everybody — everybody's narratives melded into one. Now, it meant he had to squeeze history here and there, but that's fine. He melded it into one so everyone could have a common conversation.

    The second thing he did…

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Shared facts, in other words?

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    A set of shared facts. The Holocaust really did happen. The treatment of Palestinians really kind of is pretty bad some times. So a set of shared facts.

    And then gave people a chance to look at America in a new way. I think he said some very blunt things that needed to be said about how — America's commitment to Afghanistan, defense of Islam, Islam's role here, Muslim's role, or in the population here.

    And then — so that was the whole structure of the narrative, and I thought that was fantastic. Then there was the policy system. And there I — personally, I was less happy, because there I thought it was more realist, more cautious, more conservative.

    So with the idealistic facade within the core of policy, I thought he was pulling back on almost every front, pulling back on Iran, pulling back, I think very importantly, on Egypt, not demanding democratization there, in a whole series of ways, pulling back. And so what you had was this idealistic facade, but really a realist George H.W. Bush-style foreign policy inside.