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. all of america

    All of what he is saying is political retoric ! He has done nothing to help the economy grow.He wants to push foreword his socialistic agenda at all costs,even if the public disagrees . The majority of the people have had of obama, enough of the Bush blaming,enough of the, I know what's good for you,you don't,he has no clue how to lead a country, it is getting old ,he needs to start taking the blame for his own 18 months of failure ,If he repealed obamacare,financial reform ,and the bailouts to the unions,(stimulus) , he might not be so unpopular with the public. Face it, he is an arrogant LOOSER,but he's to ignorant to admit that! They people have already have made up their minds come november and all of the campaigning the dems will do until then won't save them in november.

    September 10, 2010 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Alex


    September 10, 2010 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bikerchick

    All of them are liars! I don't trust any of them! Just can't listen to any more lies from Washington!

    September 10, 2010 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Independent Thinker

    Anyone ashamed of that Obama '08 bumper sticker yet?

    September 10, 2010 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • GaBlueFox

      LOL...LOVE IT~ The sticker and the fact some ppl can't get it off and are ashamed!

      September 10, 2010 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • HolySmoke

      Time to start printing the "Don't blame me, I voted for McCain" bumper stickers!

      September 10, 2010 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Independent Thinker

    Hey how many of the terrorists have not been Islam anyway?

    September 10, 2010 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • sam

      was timmothy McVeigh islamic?

      September 10, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
  6. john

    Mr president, you are the smartest idiot I have ever heard.

    September 10, 2010 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • all of america

      He's always wrong ,that's is what's wright about him !

      September 10, 2010 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Kevin

    I agree with the President's statement on freedom of religion. There is no reason to hate a religion, to burn their religious texts, to deny them to build Mosques. We are not against the religion of Islam. In fact, there are some Muslims who live better lives than many Christians. I'm a Christian, and I am appalled by so many who have so much hate toward a religion that teaches wonderful values, and produces many wonderful people. It was RADICALISTS who take things the wrong way, and then used the banner of Islam to do something horrible. Their religion is not offensive! It is derainged people who have alterior motives to forward their cause by wrongly using the banner of Islam.

    September 10, 2010 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Obama-mama-bo-bama

    It's not that he doesn't know anything, it's just that so much of what he knows is wrong

    September 10, 2010 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Alex


    September 10, 2010 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      Alex, please explain how the Tea Party a terrorist organization (disorganization). I do not believe in what they are saying, but here in the good old USA, they have 1st Amendment rights, just like you.

      September 10, 2010 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Sonja

    PPl act like Obama created this mess. He is just trying to clean it up.

    September 10, 2010 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Obama-mama-bo-bama

      Seems like he is prolonging the mess and making it worse with a poorly prioritized agenda aimed at creating bigger government at the expense of the taxpayer. Can we get someone else to clean the mess? This guy isn't capable getting the job done.

      September 10, 2010 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sensible Person

      You are correct Sonya, Obama didn't create this mess. And I do blame Bush for some of it...Like never veto-ing a bill! The Dems have been in charge of the Congress for 4 years. Congress creates the budget, decides where to spend it. It's Congress' fault for the most part. As someone said above, throw them all out. I know some good people will be lost in the progress, but we need a fresh start. We need TERM LIMITS in Congress! Fresh faces and new ideas...and an end to politic-ing and more problem solving.

      The problem I have with Obama is that his socialist, keynesian economic, policies are doing more harm than good. History shows us that in the past. We're repeating the failed policies of the past!

      September 10, 2010 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Mike Arce

    Obama keeps talking about the failed Bush Policies of the past, except he's talking about make the Bush Tax Cuts for those $250,000 and under, permanent. I guess that wasn't one of those failed policies that got us in this mess, huh.

    September 10, 2010 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Obama-mama-bo-bama

      Right, he actually has never referenced which policy(ies) were bad and that he is changing

      September 10, 2010 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan


      Not sure you've been listening on this one. He's actually been saying roll back the tax cuts for the people making more than $250k and give tax cuts to the people making under the $250k line. The republicans have been fighting him tooth and nail on that very point becasue they want the wealthy to have the tax cuts rather than the rest of the working class.

      September 10, 2010 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |

    The Republican party and their right wing nut groups, ie Bill Oreilly, Shawn Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck, Sister Sara Palin, Mitch Mcconnell, John Bohner, David Vitter, BRET HUME, LIZ CHENEY, FOX NEWS, Sharon Angle, Ron Paul, the KOCH BROTHERS (KOCH BROTHERS OWN AMONG OTHER COMPANIES, CHEMICAL PLANTS, BRAWNEY PAPER TOWELS, ETC; AND THEY FUND ALL THESE PHONY RALLIES AND PROTEST, SUCH AS TEA PARTY EVENTS) et.; al; are hard at work making our economy fail. These people got DA CRAZY, and they got it real bad. ALL OF THESE PEOPLE HAVE ONE THING IN COMMON-THEY ARE RICH AND GETTING RICHER ON SINKING THIS COUNTRY.


    We’ve got a President who is trying to fix the mess that the BUSH/CHENEY crew created. Let’s all pull together and help Obama pass the tax cuts for people making 250k and below. Also, the small business loans that Obama is trying to pass should be a no brainer.

    I urge all Americans to go to the polls in November and vote for Democrats, Independents, as well as Republicans who want to help our President fix this broken country of ours.

    If you vote for these wing nut candidates you are voting for, among other things, an end to SOCIAL SECURITY, MEDICARE, GREEN INDUSTRY, MEDICAL INSURANCE, MIDDLE CLASS TAX CUT, etc.

    Your country needs you now, so do let it down by voting for these crazy MILLIONAIRES and their SELFSERVING AGENDAS.


    If we start electing the right wing crazies like the people mentioned above, think what that does to our credibility with world leaders. Remember, your children have to grow up in this world. These countries are going to look at us as a nation of crazy people.

    President Obama is an intellectual (finally, a thinking man leading our country) who is fit to deal effectively with our challenges as well as deal with other world leaders.

    September 10, 2010 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |

      I AGREE WITH sensible politics

      September 10, 2010 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sensible Person

      WOW...where to begin? Nope, won't do it. Too much CRAP in here, and not worth the effort.

      September 10, 2010 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • mike scarpelli

      SO, is the answer, "tax the rich, give the money to the poor"? Who are the rich? OBAMA, BIDEN, PELOSI, RIED? Its ALL of them, open your eyes, it does not matter if its your LEFT WING nuts, or the RIGHT wing nuts, they are ALL concerned with "LINING their own" POCKETS and their "long time good friends". OPEN YOUR EYES!

      September 10, 2010 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • $15K Plan

      The economic turmoil did not start with Bush, it didn't start with Clinton, it is a symptom of politics. If there is a surplus that money will always be spent on party favors.

      Parack Obama may be an intelligent individual but the Presidency of the United States was never meant to be filled by anyone with just that trait or someone who blindly follows a policy because he thought God told him to like GW. It is a position that is suppose to reflect the spirit of the American citizen.

      I have yet found any president that did not get assassinated who reflective who Americans are, and what we want the world to know about us.

      I think it is indeed un-American and not patriotic to want a president to fail. If the president fails the results have repercussions that reverberate worldwide and last decades.

      I pray that President Obama will succeed in healing this divided nation, because as a great man once said a house divided can not stand. No matter who the president is I will always say that I am an American and hold my hand over my heart proud that it pumps red white and blue.

      September 10, 2010 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      How can people like you be so gullible and blindly follow a party? You put all the blame on Bush, wow you either suffer from ignorance or stupidity, for your sake I hope it is ignorance because ignorance can be cured. People blame the housing crash on de-regulation, which a republican congress passed, BUT it was Bill Clinton who worked with them and signed it into law. It was Sen Frank and Dodd that pushed through the Fair Housing Act that forced loans to the poor, which turned into the biggest mortgage default in history – oh Bush signed that into law after the democrats passed it in both houses.

      People like you and this administration try hard to incite class warfare, but you neglect to admit the democrats have some pretty wealthy people too. Did we already forget that Sen Kerry moved his multi-million dollar yaht to avoid paying taxes in Boston?

      If you are going to slam somebody, be fair. Stop acting like one party is perfect, negelcting to mention any damage they caused and focus entirely on the other side while neglecting to mention your parties involvement. Oh, by the way the democrats have controlled congress for the past 4 years which means they passed the last 4 budgets all of which doubled the budget of the previous one.

      Would you care to know that only congress can spend money? The president can ask, but it is congress who actually does it. Hold the right people accountable.

      September 10, 2010 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Moggieman

      THEY ARE RICH AND GETTING RICHER ON SINKING THIS's called a's what happens when you work hard instead of sitting around waiting for someone else to pay your way.

      We’ve got a President who is trying to fix the mess that the BUSH/CHENEY crew created....he's been at it for nearly two years and things have only gotten long will it take him? Sure don't remember any concerns about how long it would take during his campaign...all hope and change.

      President Obama is an intellectual (finally, a thinking man leading our country) who is fit to deal effectively with our challenges as well as deal with other world leaders
      Really? Economy is a wreck....unemployment is soaring...lavish spending directed only at supporters & unions
      Lets discuss his dealings with North Korea (zero accomplished), Iran (on their way to nukes), Isreal (totally allienated)....yeah he's a regular diplomatic Superman

      September 10, 2010 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
  13. K.



    September 10, 2010 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      Wrong, seperation between church and state. Burning our flag or demonstrating at a soldiers funeral are hateful acts.

      September 10, 2010 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  14. FloridaPat

    Obama: We're still working to capture bin Laden, and O.J. Simpson is still trying to find Nicole's killer.

    September 10, 2010 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jeffrey

    President Obama said.... ""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."

    Yet the US Military in 2009 burned Christian Bibles in Afghanistan so they wouldn't be distributed and the world and the USA said "So what?"

    September 10, 2010 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
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