Lots of people writing about Obama’s interview with al-Arabiya. Some are angry that he gave his first presidential interview to a news agency outside of the US. I don’t care much about that – the man’s entitled to speak to whomever he wants – but some of Obama’s answers seem to me just a bit disoriented or perhaps I should say purposely disorienting.
Obama does not come out and say it, he merely agrees with the dishonest framing by his interviewer – video and partial transcript here:
AL ARABIYA: And in the last – since 9/11 and because of Iraq, that alienation is wider between the Americans and — and in generations past, the United States was held high. It was the only Western power with no colonial legacy.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Right. (emphasis mine)
Not right, sir. Not right. If I may be permitted to refresh your memory, there is a rather large body of evidence suggesting that this is no recent “alienation”.
Or maybe the 1990′s really were a “vacation from history” – and parts of the 80′s and 70′s too.
So, the American President went on Arab television and told the Arab world and the rest of the world that, “right,” it was the Iraq war that started all the problems.
Yes, it’s disorienting. Also patently untrue.
Ultimately the whole interview is troubling. Obama seems to assert that “as recently as 20 or 30 years ago” relations between the US and the Arab world were good, and to conveniently forget the hostage-taking of 1975 or the bombings of the ’80′s – including the killing of US Marines.
And, yes, the attacks that averaged one every 18 months or so from 1992 through 2000, and focused on American interests and embassies and ummm…US Naval Vessels…they don’t seem to have happened in President Obama’s world. In his world, things were just fine until his predecessor invaded Iraq for no good reason, but because he just happened to be in the mood to invade Iraq after the Clinton Administration and every credible intelligence agency in the world, members of our own Senate Intelligence Committee and our own former Secretary of State and Former First Lady all agreed that Iraq was holding WMD, and 3,000 Americans had just died in a multi-targeted attack carried out on her soil.
And now, during this be-sotted global honeymoon, Obama is the insecure bridegroom all-too-willing to agree, in this interview, that he’s making love to a virgin.
Americans have forgotten a great deal. They have forgotten that in addition to hitting the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, there were people actively trying to fly a plane either into the Capitol Building or the White House, until they were taken down. They forget that on that particular day, September 11, 2001, Laura Bush, Ted Kennedy and numerous other education-focused lawmakers were gathering in the Capital for hearings on Early Childhood Education and that had the terrorists succeeded, an impressive portion of our leadership would have perished in a truly bi-partisan manner.
They have forgotten the eerie silence of the post-9/11 skies, or what it was like to wonder “when we’ll be hit again.” They have forgotten because they were kept thoroughly safe, so safe that they were able to boo the man who’d protected them (as he turned the office over to another) without any sort of fear, whatsoever – without fear that they would be silenced by a strong arm, or that they’d be blown to bits by a strong bomb.
And now Obama – readily acknowledging the fact that he is the blank screen ready-made for projection – wants to make sure that what has been forgotten stays forgotten, and past loves are remembered no more.
President Obama was not especially “wrong” to give his first interview to al-Arabiya. Having been raised in Indonesia, and educated at least partly in madrassa’s while there, he may well have a sense of what the Muslim mind needs to feel, in terms of “listening” and “respect” that our Western presidents have missed. I can readily concede that. But it seems to me that as The American President he owed it to the world and his own nation to keep the history clean and straight, and to not allow himself to accept a dishonestly-framed question. He did not do that.
Obama was perfectly right to tell the Arab world that “America is not your enemy.” Bush said it too – many times, making the distinction that our enemies were terrorist regimes and those that harbored terrorists (another thing people forget – although Ann Althouse remembers it well). But Obama missed an opportunity to simultaneously “extend a hand” to Islam, while reassuring his own people that he has not just unleashed the old weak horse.
We’ll have to wait and watch, and see how it all plays out. Meanwhile, Taranto has a problem with the “Obama’s finally saying what Bush never said” fantasy, too.
Ed Morrissey calls Obama naive in this interview, and faults him for his inability to remind his interviewer of some inconvenient facts which – as John Adams told us “are stubborn things.”
Powerline dislikes Obama’s “cheap points” in suggesting that President Bush did not “listen” to Muslims. President Bush famously went and visited a mosque after 9/11, proclaimed Islam a “Religion of Peace” and made a mention of those Americans who helped “women of cover” in the weeks after the attacks, when some worried that we terrible Americans might act out on our neighbors. Yes, Obama’s shot was a cheap one. In his first week in office he has fired off a few.
Jawa Report: appreciates Obama’s diplomatic attempt, as do I.
Alfonzo has his own thoughts expressed in his own inimitable way:
Full Interview Transcript: here
Lots of links here
Glenn Reynolds: I thought we weren’t going to have to think about this!
…we’re going to have a tax cheat in charge of the IRS, a man instrumental in the pardoning of terrorists as top terrorism watchdog, and a woman whose husband gets tens of millions from foreign governments in charge of implementing foreign policy. Press reaction: Move along . . . nothing to see here.
Marc Ambinder: Why al-Arabiya got the interview and not al-Jazeera
Soccer Dad looks at the dubious company al-Arabiya keeps
Obama and the Mullahs
Jules Crittenden: gets satirical
The hits just keep on coming
In other news:
Obama: will not compromise on tax cuts. He doesn’t need to. He doesn’t NEED the GOP to do anything he wants to do, and I think the GOP is insane and stupid if they give him cover. Let him win or lose with his own party to credit or blame. Roll the dice.
Free speech: There are issues.
Indonesian Muslims under Fatwa: not allowed to practice Yoga. Well, we Catholics are not supposed to do the chanting stuff, either. What our lips put on the air matters.
Do you feel like a chump?
Tax-cheating: It’s a partisan allowance
The Short Term Stimulus: is a long-term renovation of our economic system, and umm…guess what…the workplace might get nationalized, next. Why do I expect May Day’s to celebrate the free American Worker, with pageants, parades, goose-stepping and giant portraits of the president unfurled alongside our buildings in our near future? Yes, GOP vote against this thing! Don’t give them the “bi-partisan” cover they need. Let history be clear, at least, if the present age is disoriented.