September 10th, 2010
01:06 PM ET

Obama: 'We are not at war against Islam'

[Updated at 12:25 p.m.] President Obama was asked about his thoughts on the Islamic center being built near ground zero in New York.

"All men and women are created equal, they have certain inalienable rights, and one of those is to practice their religion freely," Obama said. "You can build a church on a site, you can build a synagogue on a site, if you could build a Hindu temple on a site, you should be able to build a mosque."

Obama said he recognized the sensitivity in the area because of the 9/11 attacks and acknowledges that family members are continuing to experience pain and anguish over their losses.

However, he urged people to remember who our real enemies are.

"We are not at war against Islam. We are at war against terrorist organizations that have distorted Islam or falsely used the banner of Islam," Obama said. "If we're going to deal with the problems Ed Henry was talking about - reducing the terrorist threat - we need all the allies we can get."

Obama pressed that in fact, the anti-Islam sentiment and a war between the West and Islam is exactly what terrorist organizations are hoping for.

"Al Qaeda,  that's what they've been banking on," Obama said. "The overwhelming majority of Muslims are peace-loving - are interested in the same things that you and I are interested in."

Obama stressed it is important that Americans do not believe the entire religion of Islam is offensive.

iReport: Share your thoughts on controversy surrounding Islamic Center

For more on Obama's question-and-answer session and analysis check out CNN's Political Ticker.

CNN analysts weigh in

[Updated at 12:17 p.m.] CNN's Ed Henry asked President Barack Obama whether he still agrees with his statement that it is crititical to capture Osama bin Laden and if he views it a failure that he hasn't been captured, despite Obama's promise to run a smarter war on terrorism than President Bush.

"I think capturing or killing bin Laden ... would be extremely important to national security," he said. "It doesn't solve all of our problems, but it is a high priority for our administration."

Obama touted success in forcing members of al Qaeda to retreat because of ramped up pressure on its leaders.

"They have been holed up in ways that have made it harder for them to operate - and part of what's happening is bin Laden has gone deeper underground," Obama said. "We have the best minds, the best intelligence officers, the best special forces who are thinking about this day and night, and they will continue to think about it day and night as long as I'm president."

[Updated at 12:07 p.m.] Obama said that although he has missed the deadline to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, "it is not for lack of trying."

"It's because of politics," he said.

He insisted that he believes the U.S. justice system is capable of handling procedures involving terrorist suspects and that military tribunals are not necessary.

"I am absolutely convinced that the American justice system is strong enough, that we should be able to convict people who murdered innocent Americans and that carried out terrorist attacks against us," he said. "We should be able to lock them up and make sure they don't see the light of day. We can do that, and we've done it before."

[Updated at 12:00 p.m.] Obama acknowledged that the looming expiration of Israel's moratorium on settlement construction is a "major bone of contention."

The internal politic pressures for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on this issue "are very difficult," Obama said.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Netanyahu have to figure out "how to help each other succeed," he added.

[Updated at 11:58 a.m.] Obama was asked about levels of corruption within the Afghanistan government and what is being done to curtail it.

"We are in the midst of a very difficult but very important project. I just want to remind people why we're there, the day before September 11. We're there because that was the place where al Qaeda launched an attack that killed 3,000 Americans. And we want to make sure we dismantle al Qaeda and that Afghanistan is never again used as a base for attacks against Americans and the American homeland."

Obama asked people to remember that Afghanistan is the second poorest country in the world and that change won't happen overnight, but his administration is working with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Obama criticized former President George W. Bush's administration for failing to provide adequate training of Afghan military forces.

"After seven years of policies in which we weren't even effectively training security forces, we're saying we're going to work with the Afghan government so they can be responsible for their own security. We're going to promote a political settlement in the region that can help to reduce the violence. We're going to encourage an Afghan government that can deliver services for its people."

He insisted that progress has been made in terms of rooting out corruption from the government in Kabul, but "we're a long way from where we need to be on that," he said.

The White House will continue to pressure Karzai on the issue of corruption, Obama said.

[Updated at 11:52 a.m.] Obama said that a proposed settlement for black farmers - who have historically been the target of racial discrimination by the federal government - is "fair" and "just."

The White House will continue to make funding of the settlement - now blocked in the Senate - "a priority," he said.

[Updated at 11:51 a.m.] Obama insisted Friday that skyrocketing medical costs will ultimately decline as more people are covered due to his administration's health care reform initiative.

[Updated at 11:44 a.m.] Obama was asked about Pastor Terry Jones in Florida, who had plans to burn Qurans on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks, and whether he was concerned that by having the secretary of defense call him, it was actually elevating his platform.

"The idea that we would burn the sacred texts of someone else's religion is contrary to what this country stands for. It's contrary to what this nation was founded on. My hope is that this individual prays on it and refrains from doing it," Obama said. "But I'm also commander in chief, and we are seeing today riots in Kabul, riots in Afghanistan, that threaten our young men and women in uniform, and so we have an obligation to send a very clear message that this kind of behavior or threats of action put our men and women in danger."

Obama said he doesn't think his administration is what elevated this story, but "in the age of the internet, this is something that can cause us profound damage."

"It's also the best imaginable recruiting tool for al Qaeda," he said. "We don't start having a bunch of folks all across the country think this is how to get attention. This is a way of endangering our troops. You don't play games with that."

[Updated at 11:40 a.m.] Obama conceded Friday that there are "enormous hurdles" to the new Middle East peace talks. His administration understood that "it was a risk for us to promote these discussions, but it is a risk worth taking," he

It is in the interests of America, the Israelis and the Palestinians to reach a comprehensive settlement, Obama said. The issue of Middle East peace must be dealt with if, among other things, Israel is to remain both Jewish and Democratic, Obama said.  A settlement would also help the United States deal with Iran.

"If these talks break down, we're going to keep on trying," he said.

[Updated at 11:34 a.m.] Obama was asked about why he believes that nine years after the attacks on September 11, 2001, there is now a growing suspicion and resentment of Islam.

"I think that at a time when the country is anxious generally, and gone through a tough time, then you know fears can surface, suspicions, divisions can surface in a society, and so I think that plays a role," Obama said.

Obama then praised former President George W. Bush for his specific rhetoric on religion following the attacks.

"One of the things I most admired about President Bush was after 9/11, him being crystal clear about the fact that we were not at war with Islam, we were at war with terrorists and murderers who had perverted Islam ... to carry out their acts."

Obama said he was proud the country had rallied around the idea that we can't be divided because of religion or ethnicity - and hopes that is something that can continue.

"We are all Americans, we stand together," Obama said. "I think it is absolutely important now for majority of Americans to hang onto that thing that is best in us: a belief in religious tolerance. We have to make sure we don't start turning on each other."

"We are one nation under God. We may call that God different names, but we are one nation."

[Updated at 11:32 a.m.] Obama said Friday that one of the reasons he hasn't created a greater spirit of cooperation in Washington is because some GOP leaders decided when he took office that "we're going to sit on the sidelines and let the Democrats solve" the economic crisis.

Taking on tough issues with entrenched special interests creates "a lot of big fights," he said.

[Updated at 11:25 a.m.] Obama deflected a question Friday about whether his new economic plans should be referred to as another "stimulus" package. "Everything we've been trying to do is designed to stimulate growth," he said.  "I have no problem with people saying the president is trying" to do that.

He was then asked about several pending Senate nominations - including judges and Homeland Security officials.

"I'm concerned about all Senate nominations these days," he said, noting he wasn't making a joke. "I've got people who have been waiting for six months to get confirmed that nobody has an official objection to ... and I can't get a vote on them."

Obama said it was frustrating when "you've got a determined minority" that is attempting to filibuster all of his nominations.

"They're just playing games," he said.

[Updated at 11:20 a.m.] President Obama was asked about why he waited so long to introduce his latest economic policies and if they are merely being used as a political weapon for the election season.

"We have this notion that we waited until now, but just on the small business issue alone, we have cut taxes for small businesses eight times," Obama said. "So we are hardly Johnny-come-latelys on this issue."

Obama touted a variety of  policy successes as the reason the economy is better than it was when he took office.

"When you put all the things we did together, it made a difference," he said.

[Updated at 11:19 a.m.] Obama said there is room for discussion on competing tax plans.

"If the Republican leadership is prepared to get serious ... I would love to talk to them," he told reporters at the White House.

Obama insisted, however, that GOP plans to extend the Bush tax cuts for individuals earning over $250,000 are a bad idea.

[Updated at 11:13 a.m.] A reporter asked Obama about his assertion that Democrats wouldn't do well in the midterm elections in November if it would be a referendum on the economy.

"For 19 months we have steadily worked to avoid a depression, to take an economy that was contracting and making it grow again," Obama said. "But we're not there yet."

Obama acknowledged Americans' anger about the slow progress.

"And because I'm the president and the Democrats have controlled the House and the Senate, it's understandable that people are saying 'what have you done?' "

However, Obama said, the Republicans don't offer a better solution - in fact, their policies are worse.

"The Republicans' offers are exactly the ones that got us into this trouble," he said. "If you want the same kind of skewed policies that led us to these problems, the Republicans are ready to do that."

[Updated at 11:11 a.m.] Obama announced that Austan Goolsbee will be named chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

Goolsbee will replace Christina Romer, who stepped down this month as chair of the council, a panel of three White House officials who offer the president economic advice and help formulate policy.

[Updated at 11:08 a.m.] Obama on Friday once again urged the Senate to pass his small business jobs bill, arguing that it has been blocked by "a partisan (Republican) minority."

Obama praised Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, for announcing that he would not help GOP leaders block the bill.

[Updated at 11:02 a.m.] Obama said the goal of his latest proposals is to help jump-start an economy still dealing with the impact of the recession.

"Even though the economy is growing again ... the hole the recession left has been huge," Obama said.

"Millions of Americans are still looking for work."

He touted his administration's investments in infrastructure as a chance to remain competitive with other countries that are working on similar projects including high-speed rail.

[Posted at 10:50 a.m.] President Obama will hold a press conference at 11 a.m. Friday, his first full-scale question-and-answer session at the White House in nearly four months and his seventh full-scale news conference at the White House since he took office.

The last presser was back in May when the president answered questions mainly about the oil spill. This one is expected to focus on the economy.

soundoff (818 Responses)
  1. Judy Jackson

    Here is the problem with Obama – he looks at reducing taxes as reducing income – not as taking more money from citizens. Why does he get to decide how to spend our money??? Why does he think it's up to him to spend the money i spent my whole life saving.

    September 10, 2010 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
    • mike scarpelli

      A long TIME Friend! LOL give me a break, every CZAR is a a long time friend, does this EVER STOP? All these tax custs for the middle class does nothing, UNLESS you have a JOB! Another Dear FRIEND! This guy has too many friends he is giving jobs to, how about hiring some UN-EMPLOYED person! LOL

      September 10, 2010 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
    • mike scarpelli

      A long TIME Friend! LOL give me a break, every CZAR is a a long time friend, does this EVER STOP? All these tax cuts for the middle class does nothing, UNLESS you have a JOB! Another Dear FRIEND! This guy has too many friends he is giving jobs to, how about hiring some UN-EMPLOYED person! LOL

      September 10, 2010 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
    • toray99

      That's because it's academia. We should just do as these elites want us to do , without question. They know how best to raise your children, what to eat, what to read etc.

      September 10, 2010 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  2. HeartbrokenVet

    Obama said "hes been my economic advisor for many years"... How much money did he really have control over in his past. What was the last job he held for more than 4 years? Im asking because I do not know this answer myself.

    September 10, 2010 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Chris M

      Obama was a Illinois State Senator for more than 4 years...just thought you'd like to know.

      September 10, 2010 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • toray99

      Obama has been living on the public dole entire life. He knows nothing about private sector. All the administration has been on public dole also. They don't like capitalism and are destroying it. The Keynesian economics way.

      September 10, 2010 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Deregulation and Greed

    Deregulation and GREED caused this! There are plenty people to point at but going back to the same policys that got us here and expecting different results is just crazy...........All I see are complainers from both sides, bigots, hatred, hypocrisy and absolutely no patience whatsoever.........mob mentality......Direct your anger to the Ivory Towers and the Wall St. CEO's and Govt "lack of" Regulators that truly brought this economy to its knees...... Forget the wolf hunts in Alaska.....Hunt a CEO!

    September 10, 2010 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Jason Hoff

      So tell me when is the last job you got from a poor person.....or do you just live off my tax dollars?

      September 10, 2010 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Deregulation and Greed

      Paid bloggers......the new dirty job in politics.....What do they pay you in......Musolini Dollars

      September 10, 2010 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Jason Hoff

      Paid blogger???? are you kidding me.....Just like the original thought in your head

      September 10, 2010 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
    • toray99

      So this is the economic growth that by far the largest Keynesian stimulus in American history produces? President Obama’s $814 billion in stimulus, a more than $1.3 trillion annual deficit for the second year in a row, has produced what the administration has declared is the long awaited "Summer of Recovery."

      Last fall the economy grew at a reasonable 5 percent annual rate, though even that was not particularly fast for a "recovery." Yet, it has dropped since then: during January through March, the growth rate dropped to 3.7 percent and April through June, 1.6 percent.

      But Americans didn't need the new incredibly slow GDP growth numbers that came out on Friday to tell them that the economy was growing slowly or see through the Obama administration's constant cheerleading. . . .

      September 10, 2010 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Peter Live!

    Wonderful! Blaming a Republican "minority," for lack of progress on ANYTHING when the Donkeys control BOTH HOUSES is more than a bit disengenuous.

    Frankly, Mr. Obama, you are nothing more than a ward heeler in Presidential clothing, and alas, so are 95% of the staff you have surrounded yourself with.

    Get it over with, Peanut! Steal the country!

    September 10, 2010 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
    • JohnRJ08

      This whole notion of the "donkey's" controlling both Houses is preposterous. First of all, Democrats have not been voting as a solid bloc on ANY issue, while Republicans have on nearly every proposal. In fact, Republicans have voted "no" on bills which members of their own caucus had co-sponsored. While the Democrat controlled House has been very effective at passing legislation, the problem has been in the Senate, where Democrats have to get a super-majority on nearly every vote. In fact, Republicans have a done a great job of keeping many bills from even coming to a vote. And Republicans have used the filibuster an unprecedented number of times, more than in the 60's, 70's and 80's combined. This is an abuse of the system. In the various committees, they've done everything they can to stall votes on measures and have routinely attached "poison pill" amendments to important pieces of legislation knowing it would make the bill unacceptable to everyone. We're talking about a dishonest, manipulative and corrupt party that has put its political survival ahead of what is best for the country.

      September 10, 2010 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Greg

      Well said.

      September 10, 2010 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  5. CAROL


    September 10, 2010 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  6. Jason Hoff

    Here is a novel idea....he wants to stimulate the economy....quit spending money you don't have and actually balance the budget just like the taxpayers have to do.

    September 10, 2010 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
    • keith

      How would that stimulate the economy?

      September 10, 2010 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Gray Grammy

    We, the People, are so tired of hearing our President TALK! I voted for this man to DO President, not just continue to campaign. I am sick to death of his speeches ... and his flying around in Air Force One, and his vacations. I want him to go into his office, sit down at the desk, and DO what Chief Executives do, which is to run the government. Shut Up, Mr. President, and get to work!

    September 10, 2010 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      Someone clearly doesn't even know what the president's job IS.... (I'm talking about you)

      September 10, 2010 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Milwaukee

    How many more "dear friends" is this incompetent president going to hire!

    September 10, 2010 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Yo

      Because our previous presidents never did that.

      September 10, 2010 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • WoW

      The difference between past presidents doing it..and this president doing it...He ran on the promise of be bring CHANGE from the way things have always been done....

      You honestly can reply he's delievered on that message?

      September 10, 2010 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Yo

      I don't think he predicted that the Republican party getting highjacked by a strong small minority whose only goal is for him to "fail" how do you reason with people like that, almost like talking to the preacher in FLA. Change? It's not for the lack of trying. As long as it's still his goal and he won't give up trying. I'd rather an intent like his rather than intent to start a war. Republican's need to take their party back so that congress can move on with their job.

      September 10, 2010 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Courtney

    You know... I had my heart set on this guy. I supported this guy. And I could not be more disappointed, Not only is he ignoring the most important issues going on in this country right now...but he can barely hold a conversation about what he IS taking about. This guy is an idiot. A fake. A phony. A coward. I'm appalled.

    September 10, 2010 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Sheila Widner

      This is what you get when you vote based on style over substance. Democrats genuinely BELIEVE a bigger government is better – that government should have its tentacles in everything from health care to pension plans. Despite liberal denials however, the polls clearly show this nonsense will come to an end in November; the voters will reject the liberal agenda, and Democrats will lose the majority in at least the House, if not the Senate as well.

      September 10, 2010 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Dawn

      Yeah, and McCain/Palin (the horror) would be sooo much better, right? Yikes. We need VIABLE third and even fourth parties in this country to make a difference!

      September 10, 2010 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Laura

    I am a part time student at a local university where I live. One can never hve enough education, but it is supposed to bring professional success and for me , I have yet to see that. I have also been out of work for 21 months and have seen my parents lose their home. I feel as though my government has failed me. How can I not feel a personal anger over our leadership? .We give and give to other nations. We outsource. We listen to the propoganda every day....
    Honestly , I feel that if we were to listen to a closed door conversation that Obama was having with his closest of staff, we would find a President more confused than the rest of us. I have never felt so unprotected in every way in my life. Now Chuck Todd has just asked our president how is has changed Washington...I just feel the plate has gotten way too big for anyone to handle at this point...

    September 10, 2010 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      Laura, put your faith in yourself, not in your government. Only you can dictate the direction your life moves. Yes, somethings will be beyond your control, but if you have the ability to find strength in yourself and in your talents, you will be able to forge your own path and recover from any negative situation. Remember, only you is with you all the time. The government can promise to be there for you, but they are never able to provide for you as quickly, efficiently, or precisely as well as you are yourself. Self suficiency and self reliance are the key to surviving situations where a fickle and inefficient government cannot help you. Example: Katrina.

      Stick with it and find comfort in your abilities, not in the empty promises of politicians.

      September 10, 2010 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Peter Live!

    Alan Felix,

    You are, sad to say, a whitling (since I can't say IDIOT here). Frankly, it was Mr. Clinton's instruction to F/F re extending the credit envelope to the lower masses that caused the mess we are in, and the goverment, by its nature, cannot possibly interfere our way out of it.

    Has anyone noticed anytime government purports to do ANYTHING it is virtually always a massive FAILURE?

    Our government is good at two things: managing the military – the best on Earth – and collecitng taxes.

    Peanut, stick to THOSE TWO and we might, just might, let you get nominated once more (not elected – too much of a stretch).

    Oh, and Michelle: stop stealing! You aren't very good at it!

    September 10, 2010 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
    • alan felix

      You can throw in Reagan's deregulations if you really are serious about it. Otherwise your comments are simply ignorant generalizations.

      September 10, 2010 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
  12. mike scarpelli

    OH boy, another "before we arrived here in Washington" answer. HE WAS IN WASHINGTON! Can't he remember he was in congress? UN BELIEVABLE! OH, thats right, he never voted! WHAT A "WHINER" or is it wiener?!

    September 10, 2010 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
  13. mike scarpelli

    CAN't he JUST answer the QUESTION?

    September 10, 2010 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Courtney


      September 10, 2010 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Daniel Gehrmann

      I know, Right? He tries to avoid the questions pay, preatty much, changing the subject.

      September 10, 2010 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
  14. Tammy

    Go rock!!

    September 10, 2010 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
    • this

      yup, i hear the rock too – it's rattling in his head as he switches his look between the left & right teleprompters.

      September 10, 2010 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
  15. Rob in NC

    Although this has nothing to do with his speech right now. Did anyone notice he is not wearing his wedding ring? Is this just an oversight and he forgot it in his rush or does this indicated problems. When someone like me take into account a few weeks ago that the week of his B-day he spent it without his family, once again is this an oversight or indication of problems?

    September 10, 2010 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
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