The first speech in June 2009 was at the famed Al-Azhar University in Cairo. This Thursday's speech will be delivered at the rather less spectacular State Department office building on C Street NW here in Washington.
Surprisingly, according to The Wall Street Journal, this week's speech will mention the killing of bin Laden. As the WSJ reported: "(The president) will ask those in the Middle East and beyond to reject Islamic militancy in the wake of Osama bin Laden's death and embrace a new era of relations with the U.S. ..."
What makes all this awkward (at the minimum) is that the administration has always argued that the Arab/Israeli lack of peace has been at the center of Middle East chaos -- and that a peace accord is the first, necessary step to broader resolution of Middle East problems.
But the Mitchell resignation is seen -- across the spectrum -- as convincing evidence that the president's Middle East peace process is utterly dead, which makes this week's high-level talks with the president, the king and the prime minster an exercise in embarrassing irrelevancy.
Usually, cabinet-level staff attempt to insulate a president from direct responsibility for failed policies. But, curiously, in light of this meltdown of administration Middle East policy, Thomas E. Donilon, the White House's national security adviser, told The New York Times: "(The president) has really been the central intellectual force in these decisions, in many cases, designing the approaches."
The same article reported that they were told by White House staff that the president "often surfs the blogs of experts on Arab affairs or regional news sites to get a local flavor for events (and) has sounded out prominent journalists like Fareed Zakaria of Time magazine and CNN and Thomas L. Friedman ... (and) ordered staff members to study transitions in 50 to 60 countries."
Washington staff are famous for trying to take credit for their boss' successes. But one rarely has the treat of seeing a top staffer go on the record in The New York Times to give his boss full personal credit for a failed policy.
The more disturbing possible conclusion from the Donilon quote is that both the president and his staff actually believe they currently are carrying out a successful Middle East policy.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.