Reactions to Obama’s Al Arabiya Interview
Reactions to Obama’s Al Arabiya Interview
Thursday, January 29,2009 23:43

The blogosphere is abuzz with talk of President Obama’s interview yesterday with Al Arabiya’s Hisham Melhem. Here’s a brief round up of what people are saying…

Marc Lynch discusses the fall out from the interview, highlighting both positive and negative reactions. Touching on the “wait and see” attitude of many, he points to the fact that Obama will be judged by “deeds and not just words.” Paul Schemm at Townhall.com echoes this sentiment, discussing how the interview was received at home and in the Arab world and highlighting the choice of granting the interview with Al Arabiya over Al Jazeera.

At Democracy Arsenal, Heather Hurlburt emphasizes her view that Obama should take a “show don’t tell” approach to the region (a view which she also expressed at a recent POMED event). She argues that, “a speech should follow some substantive initiatives, not precede them.” Additionally, Babylon and Beyond, Juan Cole, the L.A. Times, and the Financial Times provide an analysis of what Obama said during his discussion with Melhem.

A few posts on Arabic Media Shack examine the question of how this interview will measure up in the Arab world. They reflect on what some top Arab intellectuals are saying. And the New York Times highlights some opinions from the right and the left in the U.S.

Andrew Sullivan alerts us to Jeffrey Goldberg’s interview with Hisham Melhem in which Melhem notes that “the main message [in the Obama interview] is that a new wind is blowing.” Meanwhile, Scott Macleod at Time offers an interesting anecdote on how the Obama interview came to be.

Matthew Yglesias uses the interview to highlight America’s image problem in the Middle East. He explains the need for shifts in policy that will narrow the gap between U.S. and Arab perspectives and the need for gestures that will set a context of mutual respect in which disagreements over policy will not be seen as a deeper reflection of religio-cultural differences.

James S. Robbins at NRO compares Obama’s address on Al Arabiya to earlier ones by George W. Bush, arguing that it does not represent much of a change as there is more commonality than variance between the two.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Morocco Marc Ginsberg praises Barack Obama’s initial steps in the Middle East, claiming “a new era in U.S.-Muslim reconciliation has dawned with the election of President Obama,” but also cautioning that “tangible actions and recalibration of certain policies” are needed.

John Esposito has a good article on Huffington Post outlining how Obama’s “new way forward” in the Middle East should look. Also on Huffington Post, Shadi Hamid focuses our attention to Scott Carpenter’s earlier recommendation at a POMED event where he stated Obama should “in his first few months have an exclusive interview with Hisham on Al Arabiya.”

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