Friday, June 05, 2009
THE NEWEST PHARAOH REACHES OUT
o, I'm not making an incendiary wingnuttist joke, as can be seen by the photo here. Cairo souvenir vendors have been selling a range of 'New Tut' paraphernalia (the t-shirts are big sellers) in anticipation of the American Messiah's arrival in the Land of the Pharaohs yesterday. If his hosts are receiving him with this attitude, who am I to judge? Just go with the meme, I say. The President evidently felt the same way during a visit to Giza after his big speech at al-Azhar, pointing out a depiction of his own likeness on one of the pyramids.
His earlier arrival in Riyadh went without a gaffe — unlike his previous meeting with King Abdullah at Buckingham. It was interesting watching the raw video feed here, with several cameras offering close-ups as he appeared at the door of AF-1, and as he descended the stairway. But at the moment he approached the king, and as I watched intently to see how much of a bow would be performed this time, the view switched to a long distance shot from behind the monarch. Not a hint of a bow could be detected though, not even a slight dip. Just the customary Arab/French double kiss.
I could practically hear Press Secretary Robert Gibbs (who makes even Bush's Scott McClellan seem like a competent straight-talker by comparison) heave a sigh of relief. He won't have to come up with any more creative excuses. After the deep royal bow at Buckingham, Gibbs said it was absolutely necessary in order to shake hands, because the King is so very much shorter than The One. Yet this time, the handshake and the kisses could be accomplished without it.
"Greetings, Your Majesty. My, how much you have grown since our last meeting!"
Excuse me for saying so, but this was the wrong venue for him to be proclaiming the hope and change message to the world's Muslims who hunger for democracy and freedom. Not all of them do, of course, but for those who are hungry for those things, a much better example of the possibilities could have been selected. And some Egyptians with those very aspirations agree with me on this.
"It is a disaster," said Wael Abbas a renowned journalist and blogger. "He shouldn't be coming to Egypt. It's not a free Muslim country.The most populous Muslim majority country on earth, Indonesia, would have been a much smarter choice. It would have sent a far more powerful message to "the Muslim world" had Obama been seen embracing the democratically elected President S. B. Yudhoyono rather than the Egyptian 28-year-long autocracy of Mubarak who jails, and yes, tortures his critics. Prior to his arrival Obama hailed his Egyptian counterpart as a "stalwart ally" — not exactly the change many are hoping for.
"He should speak in a Muslim country where they respect the rule of law."
All that said, the major focus of the world's interest was the speech itself. As I watched it yesterday (conveniently timed at 5 pm here), I marvelled at his ability to appeal to everyone. Human rights defenders had parts to cheer, and the anti-Israel folks had other parts to cheer. People who believe America is a force for good could cheer at some points, and those who blame America for everything that's wrong in the world could cheer at others. It was striking to see this back-and-forth, "on the one hand... but on the other hand..." construction play out with the audience — cheering the "one hand" but sitting absolutely silent on the "other hand" in most cases. If you're wondering how to write your own Obama speech, see here. There's a definite pattern.
He seemed to be showing off his knowledge of Islam quite a bit, recalling the azan (call to prayer) he heard blaring from mosques during his youth in Indonesia, "at the break of dawn and the fall of dusk" (leaving off the mid-day one, the afternoon one, the night-time one, and the extra ones during Ramadan). He spoke of the zakat, and the hijab (but not the burqa). That last was troubling for me, and only one of the numerous instances of false moral equivalence that are easily spotted in the speech. There was implicit criticism of those who would deny women the right to wear hijab in his country, yet nothing to criticize those who would force women to wear it (or the burqa) in others. As the courageous author of "Infidel", Ayaan Hirsi Ali once said, "The veil is to show that women are responsible for the sexual self-control of men."
And, by the way, he actually said "hajib" in the speech rather than "hijab". I'll bet you won't find that in any transcript, but that's what he said.
There were many clever lines, well delivered (I especially liked, "Our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons..."), but I was left with an uneasy feeling I couldn't put my finger on. It felt too much like pandering, to everybody at once. And if he could get away from those darn teleprompters and just speak with his heart from bullet-point notes, he could avoid the dizzying ping-pong head effect. And somebody needs to tell him to avoid that constant looking down his nose, jutting out the chin pose after applause lines. Way too much like Mussolini.
The moral relativism was just too thickly planted in those 55 minutes, and new policy or initiatives were absent. I had expected at least one solid new announcement among the platitudes, but I can't find any. There were far more apologies than there were policies. The esteemed Dr. Charles Krauthammer puts this very well, far better than I will ever do (wai AllahPundit for the clip).
It would be great if at least a few of the establishment media personalities could manage to climb out of the Messiah's tank, or even poke their noses out, long enough to exercise their journalism degrees. What follows, if you have twelve minutes to spare, is a delightful instance of a very smart, well-spoken woman (Liz Cheney) figuratively pulling one of these personalities (Andrea Mitchell) up for a moment of air. Andrea was down pretty deep, and after a breath or two fights to get back down into the depths of that tank. Toward the end she pleads for time to "do my homework", so determined not to accept the truth is she. One doesn't skate around Liz Cheney that easily, as you will see.
The hardest truth here is that Liz knows her stuff, and Andrea unfortunately doesn't. They discuss yesterday's speech, then a couple of other very important subjects which most Americans still don't seem to have a clue about.
Truth Teaser: Liz' father never linked Saddam Hussein with the attacks of September 11, 2001. Strangely, most Americans apparently recollect exactly the opposite. Saddam's contacts with al Qaeda went back at least 10 years, and strangely, most Americans apparently recollect exactly the opposite. The intel services have never recanted this established fact (Liz misspeaks "recounted" rather than "recanted" I believe here). Saddam paid for terrorist attacks against Israel. I'm sure most Americans still don't get that either. Saddam could have easily given his known WMD technology to other terrorist-supporting regimes or terrorist groups.
But Barack says the overthrow of Saddam was an unnecessary "war of choice" after September 11, 2001. He really did. (Oh, but also that the Iraqis are far better off now without Saddam, so at least there's that.)
Again, wai AP at Hot Air for the clip.