Wednesday, January 28, 2009

January 28

Obama's first interview as president (Al-Arabiya TV exclusive): YouTube Over 800 comments to date.


1) Positive Reactions

The fallout from Obama's interview: day one – Marc Lynch, Foreign Policy: “With a day's perspective, Obama's al-Arabiya TV interview still looks like a home run. The response from the Arab world has been mostly positive.”

Obama brings new tone to Mideast Financial Times:
“Mr Obama, more grounded in reality, has long realised one of his main tasks as president would be to restore America's reputation in the world at large, and in the Arab and Muslim worlds in particular. He has made a good start. The Al Arabiya interview was, to a remarkable degree, almost explicitly about tone. Mr Obama repeatedly used the words ‘respect’ or ‘respectful’, saying the US had to drop many of its preconceptions, learn from its mistakes, and listen. The first US president able to say ‘I have Muslim members of my family’ emphasised he wanted a measured political conversation with the region as a whole: ‘the language we use matters,’ he said.”

Re: Talking to the Muslim World - Shadi Hamid, Democracy Arsenal: “I'm of the ‘show-not-tell’ public diplomacy school of thought too, but I also think rhetoric is quite important in the Arab and Muslim world independent of what follows it. … Obama has begun telling a new story.”

Obama to Arabs: "what you'll see is someone who is listening" – Marc Lynch, Foreign Policy: “It's impossible to exaggerate the symbolic importance of Barack Obama choosing an Arabic satellite television station for his first formal interview as President -- and of taking that opportunity to talk frankly about a new relationship with the Muslim world based on mutual respect and emphasizing listening rather than dictating. His interview promises a genuinely fresh start in the way the United States interacts with the Arab world and a new dedication to public diplomacy. … Not al-Hurra. Wouldn't it be nice if the United States had its own Arabic-language satellite television station to present such exclusive, desirable interviews? Oh, wait... the U.S. has spent half a billion dollars on one which nobody watches. Forget the Broadcasting Board of Governor's endlessly optimistic presentation of fabulous increases in al-Hurra's audience and market share. Obama's choice to give his ground-breaking interview to the Saudi al-Arabiya and not to the American al-Hurra is as clear a statement as it is possible to make of al-Hurra's failure.”

Barack Obama's public diplomacy - Martin Schram, Capitol Hill Blue: “Faster than a command to ‘lock-and-load,’ President Obama this week swiftly deployed and targeted a powerful but little-used weapon that could be crucial to winning what America once called its war on terror. … And it was targeted this week at the Arab world. It is public diplomacy. The decision to deploy the weapon of public diplomacy came when Obama decided to grant the first television network interview of his new presidency. He bypassed the usual alphabet soup of suspects (ABC, CBS, CNN, FNC, NBC, MSNBC) and selected al-Arabiya.”

The Al-Arabiya Move – Andrew Sullivan, Daily Dish, Atlantic: “Part of the rationale for Obama's presidency from a foreign policy perspective was always his unique capacity to rebrand America in the eyes of the Muslim world. Since even the hardest core neocons agree that wooing the Muslim center is critical to winning the long war against Jihadism, Obama's outreach is unremarkable and should be utterly uncontroversial. Bush tried for a while to do the same. But Karen Hughes is not exactly Barack Obama. And the simple gesture of choosing an Arab media outlet for his first televised interview as president is extremely powerful. It has the elegance of a minimalist move with maximalist aims. It is about the same thing as inviting Rick Warren or supping with George Will: it's about R-E-S-P-E-C-T.”

Obama Speaks to the Muslim WorldThe Liberal Journal: “Obama is came through on his promise to engage in public diplomacy. … While Obama acknowledged that he will ultimately judged by his actions, not his words, the symbolism of making his first major interview a direct appeal to the Muslim world is a significant action in and of itself.”

Al-Arabiya's Game Changing Interview with Barack Obama: A New Punctuation Point in US Foreign Policy – Steve Clemons, The Washington Note: “This interview is the initial punctuation point in Obama's global public diplomacy. By most accounts, Obama's decision -- shocking to some, refreshing to others -- to talk to the Muslim world in his first formal, sit down press interview hit the ball out of the park."

"Abu" Obama's Muslim Stimulus Package - Marc Ginsberg, Huffington Post: “In an unprecedented unveiling of the new Democratic ‘soft power’ public diplomacy, the immensely popular Obama wasted no time following directly upon his Inaugural Address outreach to the Muslim world by granting his first presidential television interview to the region's highly respected 'Walter Cronkite' -- Hesham Melham, to reach out directly to an audience of hundreds of millions. It is just a matter of time before some journalists in the Arab world attach the affectionate moniker "Abu" (father) to their newly minted American friend.”

The Public Diplomat -- Foreign Policy Association: Public Diplomacy and the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election – “By initial indications, the ten-minute interview was a big success. … [Obama] certainly was a consumate public diplomat. … It’s worth noting that, having decided to reach out to the Arab public, the Obama White House had choices. They could have used a U.S.-government owned broadcaster such as Alhurra, with scant audience and limited credibility, or the freight-laden Al Jazeera, tainted in Western eyes by its popularity as a medium used by al Qaeda. They chose wisely Al Arabiya, whose satellite signal made it available throughout the Arab world.”

Obama's Charm Offensive In The Arab World dday: “President Obama's tendency to dialogue with those not disposed to him may be a hindrance when dealing with Republicans, but in the arena of public diplomacy it's going to be a great help. Obama sat down with Al-Arabiya television yesterday, not a US front but a real Arab network, and made a call for dialogue and peace. … The interview with Al Arabiya, an Arabic-language news channel based in Dubai, signaled a shift — in style and manner at least — from the Bush administration, offering what he depicted as a new readiness to listen rather than dictate.”

Public Diplomacy In Action - Bravo! - KSH, Communication Artistry: "Another wonderful step in the right direction [Obama interview].”

Obama on al-Arabiya – Matthew Yglesias, American Prospect: “I think there’s a need for gestures that set a context of mutual respect in which disagreements about policy are seen as disagreements about policy rather than reflecting a deeper religio-cultural chasm. … I think you see [this] succeeding to an extent in the tone of al-Arabiya’s writeup of what Obama said about [in his interview] Israel—it’s critical, but it doesn’t dominate the discussion and disagreement isn’t taken as vitiating everything else he says. That’s important.”

Israel a strong ally of the US: Obama - The Hindu: “Even as he reached out to the Muslim world presenting a new face of his public diplomacy, US President Barack Obama has asserted that Israel will remain a strong ally of America. ‘Israel is a strong ally of the United States. They will not stop being a strong ally of the United States,’ Obama told the Al Arabiya television in an interview.”

Short on Substance but Obama Tone to Muslim World Was Striking – Ian Black, Maylasian Inside: “[The interview] certainly bears repeating as a high-profile exercise in public diplomacy.”

Obama speaks of his Muslim roots in TV interview: America is not an enemy of the Arab world, network told - Lee-Anne Goodman, The Canadian Press: Quotes Professor Marc Lynch on public-diplomacy significance of the interview.

Obama's quick start raises hopes - Jim Lobe, Asia Times: Quotes Lynch on interview.

How to Talk With Muslims (If You Must) – steve, Alexandria
Crossroads of Civilization
: Quotes Lynch.

Obama Reaches Out To Muslims... - Tim Fernholz, American Prospect: Quotes Lynch.

Obama on Al Arabiya - Laura Rozen, Foreign Policy. Quotes Lynch.

Obama Greets Muslims & Arabs -- New President Chooses Arab TV for First Interview - Reach Out & Touch Someone: Covers reactions to the interview.

Obama's first formal interview to Al Arabiya - John Aravosis, AMERICAblog News: Quotes Politico on the interview.

2) Neutral Reactions

Will Obama's Middle Eastern public diplomacy work? – James Forsyth, “One of the big questions of the Obama presidency is can he actually use his popularity to go over rulers’ heads and straight to their people. Obama’s interview with Al Arbiya, a 24 hour Middle Eastern news channel, was an attempt to do just that. Obama emphasised his willingness to listen and repeatedly talked about ensuring about a better future for the children. He struck a far more doveish tone than he did either in his inaugural address or on the campaign trail; it was clear quite his comments were not aimed at a domestic audience. We’ll have to wait and see if this approach works. My concern is that it muddles his message and the soft-pedalling on issues such as Iran’s nuclear programme will encourage the Iranians to test his resolve. But maybe I'm under-estimating how effective Obama's direct pitch will be.”

Not a bad first step for Obama's public diplomacy - Daniel W. Drezner, Foreign Policy: “I have no idea whether this [Obama interview] will have any effect on the region.“

Obama Interview Underscores State of Mideast TV – Alvin Snyder, Middle East Times: “It should come as no surprise that U.S. President Barack Obama granted his first formal TV interview to the Middle East Arabic channel Al-Arabiya. In the Middle East, the moderate news channel Al-Arabiya drubs other Arabic news channels in popularity, including the controversial Al-Jazeera and the U.S. government's Al-Hurra - the latter of which is getting better numbers than before, but nothing to match Al-Arabiya's.”

Does Obama Snub of Alhurra Signal a Shift? - Dafna Linzer, ProPublica: “President Obama chose a Saudi-funded television network today for his first interview aimed at an Arab audience, passing over the U.S. government’s own heavily-funded Alhurra station. Obama’s predecessor pumped more than $500 million into Alhurra, which has been plagued by serious staff problems, financial mismanagement and long-standing concerns inside the U.S. government and Congress regarding its content. The president’s decision to go with Al Arabiya led several media watchers to wonder whether Alhurra would continue to receive the same kind of cash flow from the Obama administration as it enjoyed under former president Bush."

What May be a Big Deal or Nothing Much - Just Above Sunset: Quotes several blogs on Obama interview.

3) Negative Reactions

Obama’s Public diplomacy – mregypt, Arabic Media Shack: “I cannot find any other reason for the fuss that’s made for Obama’s speech except one: that he came after Bush. I hardly noticed any attention to the interview in the Arab street, as for the Arab media I only noticed a passing reference here. If anyone attempted to talk with one of the top Arab commentators about this interview I am confident that you will hear answers like ‘the US has fixed interest that are not made up only by the president’. … Furthermore, choosing Al-Arabiya is puzzling. If you want to approach the Arab world, do you choose a channel known to be friendly to the US and a voice of the Saudi royal family?”

Obama Talks to the Arabs - Eric Etheridge, Opinionator, New York Times: Summary of blog reactions to the Obama interview among them negative ones from Commentary, National Review, and Weekly Standard.

Tough, Principled And Direct Diplomacy - Page One - Bart DePalma, Citizen Pamphleteer: “On Monday, Mr. Obama granted his first television interview as President to the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya Network as what was billed as public diplomacy to the Muslim world. While this interview could be viewed as diplomacy, Mr. Obama was neither tough, principled or direct.” Quotes Politico.

Obamaganda Alert: “Watch Obama reach out to Muslims” - RBO: Criticizes comments praising Obama’s interview.

Obama stresses his own strong Muslim ties in Interview with Arabic News Network out of DubaiLibertarian Republican: “Operatives, spokesman and supporters, strenuously denied Obama's ties to Islam during the 2008 presidential campaign. Now as president, obama is fully embracing it. In an interview with Al-Arabiya Network, a radical Anti-Jew, and Anti-American Television News service, obama pledged that under his rule, America will change, and become more accom[mo]dating to Muslim values and culture.”

Obamas first ever post presidential interview goes to.... - Project Reality: “Arabic cable TV network Al-Arabiya (full transcript)!!!!!!!!!! So now we truly see that he was in fact a secret Muslim!!”


Gallup survey: Iraq matters most (if you don't include Israel) – Marc Lynch, Foreign Policy: “It's no surprise to anyone that the Bush administration has left a tattered American image in the broader Middle East. … The Bush administration's last Under-Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy, Jim Glassman, used to say that Global Strategic Engagement should focus on delegitimating the enemy (al-Qaeda) rather than improving America's favorable ratings in these surveys. I guess that worked out as planned, then.”

Dear President Obama: in Talking to China, Remember its People - Rebecca MacKinnon, Huffington Post: “One-way monologues through the Voice of America and Radio Free Asia don't have much street cred with China's Internet generation, to be honest. It's time to upgrade your public diplomacy strategy for the 21st Century. Just as you have used new technology to engage with the American electorate, your China policy can be greatly strengthened if you conduct a real conversation with the Chinese people. Listen as much as you talk; provide a much-needed platform for open discussion. The U.S. embassy in Beijing should build a Chinese-language website modeled after, focused not just on U.S.-China relations, but on the range of concerns and interests.”

Korea-U.S. relations under Obama (4)]Balance: Obama's keyword for East AsiaKorea Herald: “Skilled public diplomacy strategy is in need on both ends of the Pacific.”

Adding Visa Waiver Restrictions: The Wrong Course for Congress - Jena Baker McNeill, James Jay Carafano, and James Dean, WebMemo #2248, Heritage Foundation: “A new bill, S. 203, sponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and John Kyl (R-AZ) would impose severe restrictions on membership in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Adding more restrictions to the VWP would be a huge mistake, hindering efforts to enhance a program that provides significant security, economic, and public diplomacy benefits through cooperation with our closest allies around the world. Rather than adding new restrictions, Congress should work to further expand this program.”

Obama, Congress Enlist 'Direct to Constituent' Communications - Mark Hannah, Media Shift: “Professional communicators are paying close attention to the rise of "direct to consumer" (DTC) communications. This is a phenomenon largely enabled by the rapid proliferation and adoption of online technologies, whereby organizations can communicate directly to the public without filters or mediation from the press. … It will be interesting to see who among our elected representatives will embrace this new platform. … It also remains to be seen whether and how direct-to-constituent communications programs will fall under the jurisdiction of the Smith-Mundt Act, the post-WWII law that authorized several public diplomacy and strategic information initiatives abroad, but which prohibits the Executive Branch from distributing ‘propaganda’ to Americans. This law is the subject of considerable debate in the world of public diplomacy, based mostly on the ambiguity of the term ‘propaganda’ (Indeed, the famous Rosie the Riveter and 'Uncle Sam -- I Want You for the US Army' posters could be reasonably construed as propaganda under a wide-ranging definition).“

Understanding Islam through Virtual Worlds Launch is Fully Booked - DIP's Dispatches from the Imagination Age: “Response to the January 29 release event for the Understanding Islam through Virtual Worlds reports has been overwhelming and has exceeded the space limitations at the Carnegie Council.”

India’s Smart Card - Dhruva Jaishankar blog: “India’s greatest weakness is its inability to harness its soft power effectively in recent years, a failure less of policy than of public diplomacy. India has received scant praise for the enormous restraint it has shown in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.”

Pakistani visit of the secretary of state for public diplomacy - ACTmedia, Romania: “Secretary of state Valentin Naumescu made a working visit to Pakistan, where he had talks at the Federal federal foreign ministry, at the Ministry of Culture and signed an application program for the cultural cooperation accord between the government of Romania and of Pakistan between 2007-2010.”

America's Disgraced NeoCons: Glorifying Death in the Name of Peace - Alex Constantine's Blacklist: “USIA was the fed's overseas Cold War ‘public diplomacy’ front. In this period, under Reagan, [Norman]Podhoretz escalated covert operations of the USIA, then directed by Walter Raymond, a former senior CIA official.”


Left: Alhurra anchors on air Dec. 23, 2008, before the conflict in Gaza. Right: Anchors wore black after the fighting broke out on Dec. 27, 2008. FROM

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