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June 03, 2009

Your roots are showing

N_mj_obamaarrives_090603.standard On the eve of President Obama's speech in Cairo, ABC News' Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller examine the difference between White House rhetoric and campaign rhetoric on the topic of Islam:

The other day we heard a comment from a White House aide that never would have been uttered during the primaries or general election campaign.

During a conference call in preparation for President Obama's trip to Cairo, Egypt, where he will address the Muslim world, deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Denis McDonough said "the President himself experienced Islam on three continents before he was able to -- or before he's been able to visit, really, the heart of the Islamic world -- you know, growing up in Indonesia, having a Muslim father -- obviously Muslim Americans (are) a key part of Illinois and Chicago."

Given widespread unease and prejudice against Muslims among Americans, especially in the wake of 9/11, the Obama campaign was perhaps understandably very sensitive during the primaries and general election to downplay the candidate's Muslim roots.

The candidate was even offended when referred to by his initials "BHO," because he considered the use of his middle name, "Hussein," an attempt to frighten voters.

With insane rumors suggesting he was some sort of Muslim Manchurian candidate, then-Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and his campaign did everything they could to emphasize his Christianity and de-emphasize the fact that his father, Barack Obama Sr., was born Muslim.

The candidate's comment at a Boca Raton, Florida, town hall meeting on May 22, 2008, was typical: "My father was basically agnostic, as far as I can tell, and I didn't know him," he said.

The fact that a politician might say -- or downplay -- almost anything to get elected is hardly a revelation. It's even understandable, as Tapper and Miller put it, why Obama would have felt the need to "de-emphasize" his heritage. But it's a little disorienting to have White House staff now publicly saying things that, just a few months ago, would have gotten the president's opponents raked over the coals.

(Image courtesy of MSNBC)

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