Osama's new message

June 3, 2009 1:42:10 PM PDT
The timing was hardly coincidental - as President Obama landed in Saudi Arabia, one of that country's least-favorite sons is heard from. Again. Remember when Osama bin Laden was better known than Barack Obama, and when more people than would like to admit it would call the then-Senator from Illinois "Barack Osama"?

There has never been a tape purportedly from Osama bin Laden that turned out to be a fake, so it's safe to assume (although it's always dangerous to assume) that this time, again, it's for real.

Bin Laden blasts the new president for the conflicts in Pakistan - battle with Taliban forces that bin Laden says has resulted in the displacement of "one million Muslims." (Interestingly, the U.N. and Pakistani officials put the figure at three times that number.)

Yesterday, bin Laden's top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, also released a tape critical of the president.

Meanwhile, Mr. Obama leaves Saudi Arabia tonight and arrives in Cairo, where he'll deliver what's being called a keynote speech on relations between the U.S. and Muslim world.

The president, apparently trying to take a candid approach to the situation in the Middle East, has had harsh words for all parties involved. He blames Palestinians for continuing to preach hate towards Israel. He blames Israel for not accepting the notion of a two-state solution in the region. He blames other Arab countries for not helping the Palestinians financially and with humanitarian aid. And he blames everyone involved for not fessing up to their fears about Iraq's nuclear capabilities. He laid it all out in a revealing interview with The New York Times' columnist Tom Friedman.

We'll have the latest on the president's Mideast trip -- unlike any other president's to be sure -- and the Al Qaeda leader's new audiotape, tonight at 11.

It's fascinating how the rhetoric of hate is so abundant by extremists. I'm not talking just about bin Laden, but also about the floundering political right in this country.

It's hardly news that Republicans are adrift; they have cannibalized each other and the only ones still standing are on the outer limits - the Limbaughs, the Gingrichs, the Cheneys.

But sometimes even the extremists try to soften themselves.

Newt Gingrich did today. After calling Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor a "racist" last week, the disgraced former House Speaker pulled back. He now concedes he should not have used the word.

Of course, his original rant made headlines. His "retraction" was published in the latest newsletter for the organization "Human Events." The Washington Post it ain't, and it won't get much coverage.

And now the cannibalizing continues. On his radio show today, Rush Limbaugh let Gingrich have it for apologizing.

"I didn't know why he retracted it. And I still don't," Limbaugh said.

Also at 11, we'll have the latest on the search for answers about what brought down the Air France plane that crashed en route from Brazil to Paris. More debris and a large oil slick have been found; but the black boxes might never be. The boxes onboard flight 447 were made by Honeywell Aerospace. Company officials told ABC News' Lisa Stark that the cockpit voice recorder would have had a two-hour loop, meaning that the last two hours of conversation would have been recorded. The boxes can work in depths of 20,000 feet, with the "pinger" certified for 30 days, although it would probably last longer than that.

But finding that ping in the Atlantic near the Equator is no easy task. Without finding those black boxes - data and voice recordings - it increases the odds of never knowing for sure what brought this plane down.

Two more deaths in New York City from swine flu - the outbreak is still not over. We'll have the latest.

And we'll have reaction to the guilty verdicts - on all counts - against the former bar bouncer Darryl Littlejohn for the murder of grad student Imette St. Guillen.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER


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