President Barack Obama adopted a conciliatory tone toward the Islamic world in an interview with Dubai-based satellite TV network Al Arabiya (video via YouTube) on Monday, saying “the Americans are not your enemies.” (The New York Times) In his first formal TV interview as president, Obama said the time was right for a fresh push for Middle East peace. (The Washington Post)
What the commentators said
"You can just hear the outrage machines revving up to make a big issue out of this one," said Joe Gandelman in The Moderate Voice, "but it is in fact a good and symbolic gesture if Obama is reaching out to Muslim countries and parts of their populations that had written the U.S. off." It can't hurt to show he's open to talking to both Israel and the Palestinians as envoy George Mitchell heads to the Middle East.
Obama is just "scoring cheap political points," said Scott Johnson in Power Line, by suggesting that George Bush didn't respect Islam. He did. And it's naive to think that Obama is doing any good by pulling punches against Iran, whose threats against Israel and quest to build a nuclear bomb he shrugged off as not "helpful."
Talking directly to Muslim nations on an Arab station was bound to unnerve Obama's critics, said Stan Simpson in The Hartford Courant. But it's clearly part of an effort to "build a better bridge" where one is needed. Maybe a respectful conversation with mainstream Islam will drown out the extremists, who have been getting all the attention for too long.