Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hisham Melhem on Obama: "A new wind is blowing"

No matter where you stand on the political spectrum vis-a-vis Obama, one thing is clear - he is doing things differently. It's been about a month since he has moved into the city and hardly 10 days since he's taken the oath of office, but every so often you read or see something and you do a double take.

There was that dinner at the home of conservative columnist George Will, at which other notable attendees were David Brooks (one of my addictions during the campaign), Bill Kristol (who had to go and thumb his nose at the liberal columnists after this dinner - this man is such a buzz kill); then there was the pow wow with the liberal commentators, including, among others, Maureen Dowd (NYT), E.J. Dionne and Eugene Robinson (WP) and Rachel Maddow (MSNBC); then he went off to tour the Lincoln Memorial with his family days before the inauguration (I had never heard of a President at a memorial unless it was for a formal event); then there was that line in the inaugural speech about America being a country of Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus and non-believers (don't think anyone has ever mentioned Muslims and Hindus in this way ever - what a world of difference from the Palin rallies); then he appointed George Mitchell and Richard Holbrooke* as envoys to the Mid-East and Afghanistan/Pakistan, respectively, and showed up at the State Department to announce their appointments on Hillary's first day of work as Secretary of State.

The icing on the cake - his first sit-down interview as a President goes to Hisham Melhem at al-Arabiya (in this clip he almost sounds like he's running for President of the Middle-East or something). Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic has a Q&A with Melhem up on his blog in which Melhem echoes the prevailing sentiment of hope and anticipation on this side of the pond:

There's a subtle shift here on how he looks at the war on al-Qaeda and the groups that collaborate with it. He doesn't put Hamas and Hezbollah in the same category as al-Qaeda. Is there going to be disappointment later? We're bound to have disappointments, but the main message is that a new wind is blowing. He's closing down Guantanamo, sending Mitchell, pulling out of Iraq, and maybe I'm dreaming but I hope he would show Palestinians and Israelis tough love, both of them. Do you want to tell me that Bin Laden and all these nuts are not going to be nervous about him?

Meanwhile, you'd wish some things would change, but no dice - Sarah Palin has a PAC of her own now, which commentators think is a clear indication of her desire to seek the Presidency in 2012.

*Earlier version misnamed Holbrooke.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love, love, love that Obama used the word 'unbelievers' and acknowledged that there could be people out there who do not believe in God! YAY for Obama just for that.