It must have been a while since David Gergen dropped his resume in the hopper for Team Obama, so it’s no small surprise that it was about for him to turn on the rhetorical firehose and gush some love the White House’s way. On the June 4 “Anderson Cooper 360,” Gergen was asked by the host to give his initial reaction to President Obama’s speech in Cairo. Gergen immediately mugged for the camera:
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Anderson, there was no way he could quite reach the summit with this speech. He couldn't please everyone. We're hearing a lot of nitpicking on aspects of the speech. But, overall, it was the most powerful and the most persuasive speech any American president has ever made to the Muslim populations around the world, perhaps back of his background.
Cooper, to his credit, was immediately incredulous:
COOPER: Wait a minute. The most powerful – the most powerful and... GERGEN: And persuasive. COOPER: ... and most persuasive ever, you say, to the Muslim world? GERGEN: Ever by – by – yes, by any American president to the – to the Muslim populations around the world.
Clearly, Gergen said exactly what he meant to say – which is all the more damaging to his credibility as a political pundit. First, Islam became a major issue of foreign policy roughly at the same time Israel as a country was internationally recognized. In case you were wondering, that was May 14, 1948, during the Harry Truman presidency. That eliminates roughly three-quarters of American history. Second, how many speeches of American presidents have been dedicated solely to the Muslim populations around the world? One might guess that number to be quite small. And the hits just keep coming – Gergen continues:
And that's in part because of who he is, but it's also in part because of the thoughtfulness of the speech, the fact that he is able to walk in other people's shoes as well as he does because of his own sense of, you know, he's a melting pot all in himself.
Above, Gergen pays wonderful homage to the concept of ethno-centric empathy. He argues that, clearly, Obama is especially qualified to deliver such a speech, by reason of this empathy. If that argument sounds oddly familiar, you’re not imagining things. Gergen proceeds:
And he's able to understand other cultures. And he speaks honestly and like an adult. He's seeking – it's a bold attempt to see if he can find a middle ground, a common ground, if you would, across cultures, that, instead of a clash of civilizations, can we find a common ground among civilizations? Of course, it's going to have to be followed up by hard work, but I think he's begun to change the landscape, the emotional landscape, in which the work takes place.
He understands other cultures; speaks honestly, and like an adult? One might wonder, in contrast to what, exactly? In this, Gergen shows the Obama administration that he is quite proficient at reciting talking points. Unfortunately for him, he is observably too valuable to Obama in his current occupation.