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Obama’s United Nations debut
What President Obama said, and left out, of his maiden speech to the UN General Assembly

"President Obama delivered a global call to action" in his first address to the United Nations General Assembly, said Dan Balz in The Washington Post. He emphasized that his policies and style mark “a clear break with the posture of the Bush administration,” but that his “more open hand and expressions of respect” need to be met with real cooperation. So what happens if he can’t “rally the world to collective action”?

Give Obama credit for persuading the world to hear what America has to say again, said The New York Times in an editorial. Unlike Bush, he was able to ask countries to step up on a range of issues—Mideast peace, climate change, nuclear proliferation, and the economy—without any “bombast and bullying.” The “one large gap” in his speech was Afghanistan, where our allies actually want clear U.S. leadership.

The one time Obama briefly brought up cooperation in Afghanistan, he was met with “stony silence,” said Nile Gardiner in Britain’s Daily Telegraph. Otherwise, the General Assembly gave him “several rounds of heavy applause”—and that’s never a good thing for a U.S. president. After all, the “loudest cheers” during his “staggeringly naïve speech” were when he condemned Israel for its West Bank settlements.

The assembly would have cheered him anyway, said Michael Tomasky in Britain’s The Guardian, even without his “language against Israeli settlements” being “a tick stronger” than his call for Palestinians to end incitement. “Obama has reserves of global political capital” because of who he is—an African-American president in a country that once embraced slavery—and also who he isn’t: George W. Bush.

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