US & Canada

Obama address: How the media responded

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Media captionPresident Obama: "We cannot turn against one another"

Barack Obama delivered an Oval Office address - only the third of his presidency - on Sunday to urge Americans to not turn against one another in the wake of last week's attack in San Bernardino.

Unsurprisingly, his remarks divided opinion on every front: their length; setting; and substantive content - or lack thereof. Here are some of the most prominent media responses.

The New York Times

In a mostly supportive editorial, the New York Times said Mr Obama had "issued a strong and timely challenge" to the US congress to approve new legal authorisation for the ongoing military campaign against IS.

The paper also commended the president for warning Americans against turning on one another: "Mr Obama is right to caution against the risk of further alienating Muslims in the United States and around the world," it said.

It did, however, criticise the president for saying "nothing during his remarks about improving the administration's efforts to counter the Islamic State's highly prodigious propaganda operation, which has found a receptive audience among disaffected Muslims around the world".

Fox News

Christian Whiton, a former State Department senior advisor to George W Bush during his presidency and regular Fox News contributor, devoted a large portion of his response to the issue of gun control.

He said Mr Obama, in once again criticising the nation's gun laws, was "attempting one of his trademark shifts in blame.

"Even if his proposed ban and other gun control measures were in place, they would not have stopped the attack in San Bernardino. Recent attacks like those in Paris show that jihadists have little problem overcoming gun laws, which serve mainly to disarm the law-abiding."

Despite Mr Obama's entreaty for people to not foster division between the US and Islam, Mr Whiton wrote that the US needed to "fight back in the cultural and ideological war radical Islam is waging against us, and defend rather than blame the American people".

Breitbart News

Charlie Spiering, writing for the right-wing news site Breitbart News, was critical of what he saw as a focus on domestic issues over defeating IS.

He wrote: "Obama's speech... did not include any new steps to defeat radical Islamic extremism, but focused on what Americans should not do in response to the unavoidable resurgent fear of terrorism under his leadership."

The Atlantic

James Fallows, writing in the liberal Atlantic Monthly, praised Mr Obama for his apparent understanding that the US cannot eliminate terrorism, nor wholly protect its citizens from it. But Mr Fallows said he recognised why a temperate approach had provoked accusations of weakness.

"Obama's lucidity about confronting an evil, and working strategically against it without taking its bait, is something I greatly respect in him. But this same bloodless-seeming logic is the trait that led to the post-speech complaints about his coldness, his dispassion, his inability to offer something new."


Edward-Isaac Dovere, writing for Politico, said Mr Obama's intended pep talk had been "not-so-peppy".

"Obama's cool, calm 'I got this' air helped get him elected in 2008. Seven years later, it's clear that many Americans don't want reassurance, but want him to convey the sense of urgency that they're feeling. Aides were hoping that he'd be able to."

The Guardian

Echoing Mr Fallows' comments, the Guardian's South Asia correspondent and expert on jihadism Jason Burke said the Obama administration privately recognised that degrading IS is "significantly more likely than destroying" it, but also knew that the fact "cannot be publicly admitted in the face of vituperative Republican criticism".

Mr Burke said the president's comments "signalled a shift" in the administration's stance on extremism and the wider faith of Islam.

"He did not say that Isis [another term for the Islamic State group] has nothing to do with Islam. Not only did he say 'denying that an extremist ideology has spread within some Muslim communities' would be a mistake, but added that 'it's a real problem that Muslims must confront without excuse'."

On the setting

From the Wall Street Journal: "The Oval Office address, which is the most sobering communications tool a president has, underscores how serious the issue has become for both the White House and the increasingly unsettled country."

Michael D Shear in the New York Times: "Some of Mr. Obama's media advisers have long believed that sitting behind the desk in the Oval Office, as presidents like Ronald Reagan usually did, is no longer an effective image in a fast-paced, YouTube world... But there is also history to think about, and there is no doubt that the Oval Office backdrop conveys the historic nature of a moment."

Edward-Isaac Dovere in Politico: "Giving the speech from the Oval Office "conveys the seriousness with which we are taking the issue," a senior administration official said Sunday afternoon, ahead of Obama's remarks. Americans would see Obama in "a familiar and appropriate venue," the official said, "from the place where he makes his decisions."

And finally...

The New York Daily News has been running an in-your-face campaign in favour of stricter gun controls. The day after the San Bernardino shooting it used the entire front page to criticise Republican politicians who offered prayers for the victims while obstructing gun control measures.

The day after Obama's address, it struck a lighter, if slightly more sarcastic, tone:

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