This guy is going to be a disaster.
Obama gave his first one-on-one to al Aribiya. Check out some of his answers (hat tip to Hot Air) - most of what he says is typical Obama, the no-answer answer Obama, that is. Long on rhetoric, short of specifics. Some of his answers, though, are quite illuminating:
Q: You've been saying essentially that we should not look at these issues -- like the Palestinian-Israeli track and separation from the border region -- you've been talking about a kind of holistic approach to the region. Are we expecting a different paradigm in the sense that in the past one of the critiques -- at least from the Arab side, the Muslim side -- is that everything the Americans always tested with the Israelis, if it works. Now there is an Arab peace plan, there is a regional aspect to it. And you've indicated that. Would there be any shift, a paradigm shift?
Obama - Now, Israel is a strong ally of the United States. They will not stop being a strong ally of the United States. And I will continue to believe that Israel's security is paramount. But I also believe that there are Israelis who recognize that it is important to achieve peace. They will be willing to make sacrifices if the time is appropriate and if there is serious partnership on the other side.
And so what we want to do is to listen, set aside some of the preconceptions that have existed and have built up over the last several years. And I think if we do that, then there's a possibility at least of achieving some breakthroughs.
Let's start with this one. For starters, he's got a great chance to give a balanced answer here and ask that that the Arab side come to the table with some sacrifices of their own. Instead, it's all on Israel to make the sacrifices so long as there's a 'serious partnership' on the other side.
How naive is this? The 'serious partners' on the other side run guns and ammo into Gaza and the WB and openly teach violence against Jews.
Q: I want to ask you about the broader Muslim world, but let me – one final thing about the Palestinian-Israeli theater. There are many
Palestinians and Israelis who are very frustrated now with the current conditions and they are losing hope, they are disillusioned, and they believe that time is running out on the two-state solution because – mainly because of the settlement activities in Palestinian-occupied territories.
Will it still be possible to see a Palestinian state -- and you know the contours of it -- within the first Obama administration?
THE PRESIDENT: I think it is possible for us to see a Palestinian state -- I'm not going to put a time frame on it -- that is contiguous, that allows freedom of movement for its people, that allows for trade with other countries, that allows the creation of businesses and commerce so that people have a better life.
And, look, I think anybody who has studied the region recognizes that the situation for the ordinary Palestinian in many cases has not improved. And the bottom line in all these talks and all these conversations is, is a child in the Palestinian Territories going to be better off? Do they have a future for themselves? And is the child in Israel going to feel confident about his or her safety and security? And if we can keep our focus on making their lives better and look forward, and not simply think about all the conflicts and tragedies of the past, then I think that we have an opportunity to make real progress.
But it is not going to be easy, and that's why we've got George Mitchell going there. This is somebody with extraordinary patience as well as extraordinary skill, and that's what's going to be necessary.
Another example of Obama not being able to handle himself (kudos to Captain Ed for pointing this one out). Note the bolded part. Obama lets the guy bait him into answering a question that basically blames the Israelis - Palestinians are frustrated due to 'settlement issues'. Hogwash. The settlements are in the West Bank. There are no more settlements in the Gaza strip. Yet where was the latest round of fighting? In the Gaza strip.
Israel may want to watch Obama carefully. Fortunately, Mitchell is a seasoned vet who won't let Obama do anything overtly bad, but it's pretty clear the Prez needs some better interview prep.
Here's an exchange where he does slightly better: (referring to Bin Laden and Al Zawahiri):
Q: They seem very nervous, exactly. Now, tell me why they should be more nervous?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think that when you look at the rhetoric that they've been using against me before I even took office --
Q: I know, I know.
THE PRESIDENT: -- what that tells me is that their ideas are bankrupt. There's no actions that they've taken that say a child in the Muslim world is getting a better education because of them, or has better health care because of them.
In my inauguration speech, I spoke about: You will be judged on what you've built, not what you've destroyed. And what they've been doing is destroying things. And over time, I think the Muslim world has recognized that that path is leading no place, except more death and destruction.
Now, my job is to communicate the fact that the United States has a stake in the well-being of the Muslim world that the language we use has to be a language of respect. I have Muslim members of my family. I have lived in Muslim countries.
Obama's trying to marginalize OBL here...that's not a bad strategy, but he's mostly talking to the Muslim regimes when he says they'll be judged on what they've built. It's also a careful row to hoe when you considered Sen. Patty Murray's remarks from a few years ago about how many day care centers Osama built...and also when you throw in the fact that Hamas has a services wing that provides some infrastructure.
The whole interview has subtle Bush bashing in it, but this part stood out:
Q: President Bush framed the war on terror conceptually in a way that was very broad, "war on terror," and used sometimes certain terminology that the many people -- Islamic fascism. You've always framed it in a different way, specifically against one group called al Qaeda and their collaborators. And is this one way of --
THE PRESIDENT: I think that you're making a very important point. And that is that the language we use matters. And what we need to understand is, is that there are extremist organizations -- whether Muslim or any other faith in the past -- that will use faith as a justification for violence. <b>We cannot paint with a broad brush a faith as a consequence of the violence that is done in that faith's name.</b>
And so you will I think see our administration be very clear in
distinguishing between organizations like al Qaeda -- that espouse violence, espouse terror and act on it -- and people who may disagree with my administration and certain actions, or may have a particular viewpoint in terms of how their countries should develop. We can have legitimate disagreements but still be respectful. I cannot respect terrorist organizations that would kill innocent civilians and we will hunt them down.
But to the broader Muslim world what we are going to be offering is a hand of friendship.
Bush went out of his way to stress that Islam is a peaceful religion, but people hear what they want to hear. Now you have Obama here saying that all that was just rhetoric from the cowboy Bush. Obama's forgetting something - al Qaeda remains somewhat popular in the Arab and Muslim worlds and has been for sometime, and this predates Bush.
To me the whole interview was Obama signaling that he's going to take a completely different tact in dealing with the middle east, at least in his words...but what's he going to do when he starts listening to them tell him that Israel should be abolished and that millions of Palestinians should be allowed to return?
He's treading very dangerous waters here. I think he's going to find that his star wattage doesn't apply in that part of the world (or won't for long) and will get a lesson in reality very shortly.