Friday, October 24th, 2014

Obama's Apologies?

The following selections are quotes from President Barack Obama's speeches. Mitt Romney argued in his book No Apology: The Case for American Greatness, that the remarks constitute apologies. Our analysis, however, concluded they did not fit the formal definition of apologies; read our full report.


France

Obama took questions at a town hall meeting in Strasbourg, France, on April 9, 2009. He opened the meeting with remarks on the U.S.-Europe relationship and said that the U.S. and Europe need to work together.

"Not more than a generation ago, it would have been difficult to imagine that the inability of somebody to pay for a house in Florida could contribute to the failure of the banking system in Iceland. Today, what's difficult to imagine is that we did not act sooner to shape our future. Now, there's plenty of blame to go around for what has happened, and the United States certainly shares blame for what has happened. But every nation bears responsibility for what lies ahead, especially now, for whether it's the recession or climate change, or terrorism, or drug trafficking, poverty, or the proliferation of nuclear weapons, we have learned that without a doubt there's no quarter of the globe that can wall itself off from the threats of the 21st century."

At another point, Obama addressed transatlantic attitudes:

"In recent years we've allowed our Alliance to drift. I know that there have been honest disagreements over policy, but we also know that there's something more that has crept into our relationship. In America, there's a failure to appreciate Europe's leading role in the world. Instead of celebrating your dynamic union and seeking to partner with you to meet common challenges, there have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive. But in Europe, there is an anti-Americanism that is at once casual but can also be insidious. Instead of recognizing the good that America so often does in the world, there have been times where Europeans choose to blame America for much of what's bad. On both sides of the Atlantic, these attitudes have become all too common. They are not wise. They do not represent the truth. They threaten to widen the divide across the Atlantic and leave us both more isolated."

England

During a visit to London in April 2009, Obama answered questions at a press conference. A reporter asked Obama which country was to blame for the financial crisis:

"I would say that if you look at the sources of this crisis, the United States certainly has some accounting to do with respect to a regulatory system that was inadequate to the massive changes that had taken place in the global financial system."

At another press conference, a reporter said Obama during the campaign had spoken of the "diminished power and authority of the United States over the last decade" and asked if Obama was seeing evidence of that. 

"Well, first of all, during the campaign I did not say that some of that loss of authority was inevitable," Obama said. "I said it was traced to very specific decisions that the previous administration had made that I believed had lowered our standing in the world.  And that wasn't simply my opinion; that was, it turns out, the opinion of many people around the world. I would like to think that with my election and the early decisions that we've made, that you're starting to see some restoration of America's standing in the world.  And although, as you know, I always mistrust polls, international polls seem to indicate that you're seeing people more hopeful about America's leadership."


Turkey

Obama gave a major address to the Turkish parliament in April that seemed to be largely a diplomatic outreach to an Islamic ally and to the Islamic world at large.

"I know there have been difficulties these last few years. I know that the trust that binds the United States and Turkey has been strained, and I know that strain is shared in many places where the Muslim faith is practiced. So let me say this as clearly as I can: The United States is not, and will never be, at war with Islam."

He also said this:

"Every challenge that we face is more easily met if we tend to our own democratic foundation. This work is never over. That's why, in the United States, we recently ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. That's why we prohibited -- without exception or equivocation -- the use of torture. All of us have to change. And sometimes change is hard. Another issue that confronts all democracies as they move to the future is how we deal with the past. The United States is still working through some of our own darker periods in our history. Facing the Washington Monument that I spoke of is a memorial of Abraham Lincoln, the man who freed those who were enslaved even after Washington led our Revolution. Our country still struggles with the legacies of slavery and segregation, the past treatment of Native Americans. Human endeavor is by its nature imperfect. History is often tragic, but unresolved, it can be a heavy weight. Each country must work through its past."

Cairo

The Obama administration billed a speech in Cairo on June 4, 2009, as a major diplomatic outreach to the Islamic world.

"Nine-eleven was an enormous trauma to our country.  The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our traditions and our ideals.  We are taking concrete actions to change course.  I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year. ...

"In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government.  Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians.  This history is well known.  Rather than remain trapped in the past, I've made it clear to Iran's leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward."

CIA headquarters in Langley, Va.

On April 20, 2009, Obama visited the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency in Langley, Va. Much of his brief remarks were thanking the CIA officers for their work. But he visited them not long after his administration released records on brutal interrogation tactics. Whether those methods met the legal definition of torture is one thing; they certainly met the common usage definition, "to cause intense suffering." Obama's visit was seen as a move to reassure the agency's staff.

"Don't be discouraged that we have to acknowledge potentially we've made some mistakes. That's how we learn. But the fact that we are willing to acknowledge them and then move forward, that is precisely why I am proud to be President of the United States, and that's why you should be proud to be members of the CIA."

The National Archives in Washington, D.C.

Obama used the setting of the National Archives to discuss his thoughts on fighting terrorism, particularly about how terror suspects should be tried. During the speech, Obama said he intended to keep some prisoners in indefinite detention.

"After 9/11, we knew that we had entered a new era -- that enemies who did not abide by any law of war would present new challenges to our application of the law; that our government would need new tools to protect the American people, and that these tools would have to allow us to prevent attacks instead of simply prosecuting those who try to carry them out.

"Unfortunately, faced with an uncertain threat, our government made a series of hasty decisions. I believe that many of these decisions were motivated by a sincere desire to protect the American people. But I also believe that all too often our government made decisions based on fear rather than foresight; that all too often our government trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions. Instead of strategically applying our power and our principles, too often we set those principles aside as luxuries that we could no longer afford. And during this season of fear, too many of us -- Democrats and Republicans, politicians, journalists, and citizens -- fell silent.

"In other words, we went off course. And this is not my assessment alone. It was an assessment that was shared by the American people who nominated candidates for President from both major parties who, despite our many differences, called for a new approach -- one that rejected torture and one that recognized the imperative of closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay. ...

"There is also no question that Guantanamo set back the moral authority that is America's strongest currency in the world. Instead of building a durable framework for the struggle against al Qaeda that drew upon our deeply held values and traditions, our government was defending positions that undermined the rule of law. In fact, part of the rationale for establishing Guantanamo in the first place was the misplaced notion that a prison there would be beyond the law--a proposition that the Supreme Court soundly rejected. Meanwhile, instead of serving as a tool to counter terrorism, Guantanamo became a symbol that helped al Qaeda recruit terrorists to its cause. Indeed, the existence of Guantanamo likely created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained.

"So the record is clear: Rather than keeping us safer, the prison at Guantanamo has weakened American national security. It is a rallying cry for our enemies."

United Nations General Assembly

Obama addressed the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 23, 2009, in New York City. Obama urged countries to work together under the auspices of the UN to address issues such as terrorism, nuclear proliferation, climate change and economic development. Obama also used the speech to discuss his actions since taking office only nine months before.

"I took office at a time when many around the world had come to view America with skepticism and distrust.  Part of this was due to misperceptions and misinformation about my country.  Part of this was due to opposition to specific policies, and a belief that on certain critical issues, America has acted unilaterally, without regard for the interests of others.  And this has fed an almost reflexive anti-Americanism, which too often has served as an excuse for collective inaction. ...

" For those who question the character and cause of my nation, I ask you to look at the concrete actions we have taken in just nine months.
On my first day in office, I prohibited -- without exception or equivocation -- the use of torture by the United States of America. I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed, and we are doing the hard work of forging a framework to combat extremism within the rule of law.  Every nation must know: America will live its values, and we will lead by example. ..."

"Democracy cannot be imposed on any nation from the outside. Each society must search for its own path, and no path is perfect.  Each country will pursue a path rooted in the culture of its people and in its past traditions.  And I admit that America has too often been selective in its promotion of democracy.  But that does not weaken our commitment; it only reinforces it."