New York Times Gives Obama Front Page for Tough Talk on Egypt, Skips Yemen Attacks

Friday's New York Times front page featured the deadly attacks on embassies in Libya and Egypt, with reporters David Kirkpatrick, Helene Cooper, and Mark Landler portraying Obama as an aggressive international leader making demands on Egypt: "Egypt, Hearing From Obama, Moves to Heal Rift From Protests."

But the Times made no mention on Friday's front page of the light security at the Libyan consulate in Bengazi where Ambassador Chris Stevens was murdered on September 11, or the spreading violence in the Arab world, including in Yemen, where the U.S. embassy was overrun (the Times dealt with Yemen with a few stray sentences and a large photograph in a page 11 story).

In contrast, the Washington Post's front page was dominated by the headline "More protests erupt in Muslim World." Would bigger play of those breaking stories fail to burnish Obama's reputation for strong American leadership?

From Friday's piece:

Following a blunt phone call from President Obama, Egyptian leaders scrambled Thursday to try to repair the country’s alliance with Washington, tacitly acknowledging that they erred in their response to the attack on the United States Embassy by seeking to first appease anti-American domestic opinion without offering a robust condemnation of the violence.

Set off by anger at an American-made video ridiculing the Prophet Muhammad, the attacks on the embassy put President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in a squeeze between the need to stand with Washington against the attackers and the demands of many Egyptians to defy Washington and defend Islam, a senior Brotherhood official acknowledged.

During a late-night, 20-minute phone call, Mr. Obama warned Mr. Morsi that relations would be jeopardized if Egyptian authorities failed to protect American diplomats and stand more firmly against anti-American attacks.

The Times let a "senior administration official" whisper into their ear about Obama's tough talk with Morsi.

On Wednesday, Mr. Obama, who is campaigning, called staff members at the White House from Air Force One to arrange a telephone call to Mr. Morsi, a senior administration official said.

The president was not happy; Egypt, unlike Libya, is crucial to American security interests, given its peace treaty with Israel. At 11 p.m., from his hotel suite in Stapleton, Colo., Mr. Obama got on the phone with Mr. Morsi, who began by offering condolences on the American deaths in Libya.

But that was not what Mr. Obama was calling about.

“The president made his point that we’ve been committed to the process of change in Egypt, and we want to continue to build a relationship with the Egyptian government,” said a senior administration official. “But he made it clear how important it is that the Egyptian government work with us to lower the tension both in terms of the practical cooperation they give us and the statements they make.


The pressure from Mr. Obama put Mr. Morsi in a vise grip of competing values and world views. Scholars say the furor here reflects different traditions when it comes to religious rights and freedoms. Where Americans prize individual choice, Egyptians put a greater emphasis on the rights of communities, families and religious groups. On the third day of increasingly violent protests outside the American Embassy, many demonstrators said their main demands were directed at Mr. Morsi, insisting that he needed to be firmer with the United States if it failed to punish the filmmakers.

Also: Jim Rutenberg and Ashley Parker were following Obama and Romney, respectively, on the trail and potrayed Obama as "almost welcoming the fight" on foreign policy.

President Obama and Mitt Romney entered new political terrain on Thursday as their campaign debate moved more solidly onto issues of foreign policy, a subject that had largely been absent as a major general election issue until this week.

With the killings of four United States diplomats in Libya thrusting foreign policy to the forefront of the race, Mr. Romney sought to broaden his indictment of Mr. Obama’s approach to the world a day after he was roundly criticized for his initial reaction to the president’s handling of the crisis in Libya and Egypt. But officials in the Obama campaign were almost welcoming the fight, saying they were glad to be challenged on what they now consider the comfortable territory of foreign policy.