The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.


Is is just me, or is it still surprising to see an American president that is articulate and can handle a press conference with grace and intelligence? Maybe I don't watch TV news often enough, but I am still taken aback every time I see Obama by how well he wears his title. Unlike his predecessor, and in many respects better than Clinton.

I like this:

Meanwhile, Mr. Obama continues to face fallout from the outrage over bonuses paid to executives at AIG, which is 80% owned by the government and has received billions in federal bailout money. Asked why he did not go public with his outrage as soon as he learned of the retention bonuses at AIG, the president snapped, "I like to know what I'm talking about before I speak."

The president hit on a new theme for his administration: Persistence. He said the election of a conservative government in Israel, with a prime minister skeptical of a Palestinian state made the prospects for peace "not easier than it was."

But, he said, as with his domestic efforts, he will soldier on.

"That whole philosophy of persistence, by the way, is one that I'm going to be emphasizing again and again in the months and years to come, as long as I am in this office," he concluded. "I'm a big believer in persistence."

(That's probably how he got Michelle to date him.)

And I say this as I disagree with some of the stuff he's done (on the economy) and wish he would get his act together and set up a Middle East foreign policy team and plan already! It would be particularly interesting to get confirmation that Hosni Mubarak will be making his first trip stateside in five years in May, as much of the Egyptian press has assumed with the recent Gamal Mubarak and Omar Suleiman visits to DC. Will Obama make Mubarak persona non grata? Will he force issues on the agenda that will make Mubarak not want to come (his original problem with Bush). Will there be any new policy departure on the question of democracy promotion in Egypt, which in 2004-2005 was arguably the flagship for the policy in the Arab world?

Update: Muhammad Salah discusses this in al-Hayat.