President Trump’s anti-terrorism speech in Saudi Arabia has been praised by outlets that are typically quick to criticize him. Two New York Times opinion writers, Wajahat Ali and Mustafa Akyol, reflected on the speech in a new editorial, debating its merits, but both offering tempered praise for the president as he embarks on his first overseas trip as president.
Okay, Ali did sigh over Trump’s tendency to sympathize with authoritarians...and his failure to properly address human rights...and he did say that the speech may as well have been written by "a Saudi public relations firm." But, he did note an “improvement” in Trump’s rhetoric regarding Islam.
The more apparent compliments came from Akyol.
“To his credit, Trump put this realpolitik in an acceptable format: “We are not here to lecture,” Akyol wrote. “That sounds good to a lot of people in the Middle East. Sometimes Western preaching of human rights, when it’s wrapped up in self-righteousness, can backfire.”
He later pointed out specific items he liked in Trump’s remarks, especially the fact that it was not a speech on Islam, but terrorism.
“I will say, though, that there were things I liked in Trump’s speech. I appreciated that he pointed out that Muslims have borne the brunt of the pain and death and murder. And that 90 percent of terrorism’s victims are Muslim. It’s a point that Obama also made, but it’s a good one, and Trump’s base might not have been aware of it. He also mentioned the suffering of Christians, which is a very serious and important issue in the region.”
Elsewhere on the NYT, reporters Michael D. Shear and Peter Baker gave the president props for staying "rigorously on script" and "restraining himself on Twitter."
Former CBS anchor Bob Schieffer was also pleasantly surprised by the president's behavior.
“He actually sounded presidential,” Schieffer said on CNN this weekend. You may agree or disagree with what he said, but he sounded like a president.”