Olbermann Countdown Clip on Arab Network Interview


I was very pleased with this interview.
Just a few minutes long — but tried most to emphasize to Keith Olbermann. . .
. . .that the interview Obama gave last night to Al Arabiya telegraphed that America actually cares about and values Muslims and Muslim lives;
. . .that unclenching fists as he did can be very smart statecraft;
. . .that we can’t approach complex problems in the world with bias, stacked decks, and false choices between one side’s interest and another’s;
. . .that the Arab-Palestinian conflict is key and is part of an interlocking set of problems in which none can be totally siloed off from others;
. . .that while George W. Bush tried to respond to terrorism by killing terrorists (and many others), Obama understands that to beat terrorism’s efforts to exploit grievances and look legitimate in the eyes of the people they are trying to reach, Obama must steal the audience by seriously appealing to hearts and minds with hope, with a more sensitive posture, and with policies and a team that will change the facts of otherwise bleak and hopeless lives.
More later.
— Steve Clemons


18 comments on “Olbermann Countdown Clip on Arab Network Interview

  1. Cee says:

    Obama understands that to beat terrorism’s efforts to exploit grievances and look legitimate in the eyes of the people they are trying to reach, Obama must steal the audience by seriously appealing to hearts and minds with hope
    If I wasn’t paying attention to events abroad, what you said above would have sold me.
    People who are still being attacked by US soldiers and weapons in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Gaza aren’t feeling very hopeful.
    His appointee Clinton is STILL out there talking about Israel defending themselves.
    Last week the IDF killed a defenseless farmer. They later fired on fishermen.
    Someone retaliates (if that is what really happened) and a Bedouin is killed. Now Israel is bombing the food supply tunnels again.
    So much for hope.


  2. DonS says:

    Yeah, seems like the holiday is already over, digesting Obama’s dog and pony interview. Nir Rosen as a good summary of where things really are in the Arab world. And for all the glitz of the interview, Obama must start to bite off even a small chunck of reality if it’s not all just so much window dressing. Bottom line, as always, piss off the Israelis; piss off AIPAC; piss of Congress.
    I’ll take the interview as a signal that, one day, Obama may get serious. No more than that.


  3. sdemetri says:

    When there are options at peaceful negotiations, Israel has NO
    right to defend itself with disproportionate, barbaric violence.
    The June 2008 cease fire held for nearly 5 months. Hamas, 51%
    of Israelis, and 74% of Palestinians wanted to extend it. Israel
    entered Gaza on Nov 4, killed 6 Palestinians, and the cease fire
    fell apart. Settlements continue in the WB, collective punishment
    in Gaza, resistance will continue.
    If I lived in an enclave that was surrounded by a wall, entry into
    and out of it was strictly controlled so that food, medicine, fuel,
    water were parsed out at starvation levels, I would resist by
    whatever means possible.
    Without acknowledging Israel’s ambition as an impediment to
    peace, financing and arming those ambitions, there will be no
    peace. Mitchell was my senator, and is considered a great man
    up here, but until they all come to this acknowledgement they
    are bound to fail.


  4. PissedOffAmerican says:

    And Steve, you cannot have it both ways, and expect to be viewed as fair and balanced on this issue.
    Frankly, on the one hand, if lauding Obama for granting this interview, you must decry Hillary’s timing on this public statement, even if you are unwilling to criticize the content of her comments. She just undermined the diplomatic value of the Al Arabiya interview, did she not?
    If this is what diplomatic teamwork and strategies are going to look like from the Obama camp, than we are in for another four years of ineptitide and incompetence as it applies to Middle Eastern/Arab/Israel/Palestinian issues.
    Netanyahu makes statements of intention directly polar to any constructive policies towards peace, immediately preceeding Mitchell’s trip, and Hillary promptly slobbers her undying support for Israel’s discredited justifications for laying waste to Gaza??
    Just effin’ brilliant, ain’t it?


  5. DonS says:

    POA, I don’t ever expect Hillary to modify the Israel is only “defending” itself line.
    What I look for along side that is an independent and consistent line of talk emphasizing what Israel needs to do, i.e., begin dismantling settlements as a good will gesture (not as a result of some future agreement). [in my most optimistic moments] I expect those words might publically come from Mitchell. Hillary will not have to jeopardize her “Israel first” creds. (it answers, for me, the question of how Obama avoids a good cop/bad cop appearance with Hillary; Mitchell takes any heat!)
    Having said this, I’m not holding my breath. And its almost beyond belief that Obama admin will threaten Israel with consequences, as even Bush Sr. did with the freezing of loan guarantees, pyrrhic gesture though that was.


  6. PissedOffAmerican says:

    So, with Clinton on all fours for Israel with her public statements, what the hell is Mitchell doing in the Middle East? How can he effect any “change” if Hillary is already declaring what American public policy towards Israel is? With this butcher Netanyahu declaring that the settlements will “grow”, and Ohlmert once again closing the border crossings to humanitarian aid, is this a good time for Hillary to be kissing Israeli ass?
    Does anyone seriously expect the Muslim world community to pay more attention to Obama’s short interview with the Saudi equivalent of Fox News, than they pay to Hillary’s public declaration that might as well of come out of the mouth of David Horowitz?
    When will these pieces of shit recognize and comment on Israel’s use of White Phosphorous, or publically state that Netanyahu’s proposed policy on allowing the settlements to grow IS UNACCEPTABLE, AND WE WILL CUT OFF ALL AID TO ISRAEL IF HE CONTINUES WITH THIS HORSESHIT.
    Clinton: Israel has right to respond to Gaza rocket attacks
    By News Agencies
    Tags: iran, israel news
    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday that Israel had a right to defend itself and that Palestinian rocket attacks on the Jewish
    territory could not go unanswered.
    “We support Israel’s right to self-defense. The [Palestinian] rocket barrages which are getting closer and closer to populated areas [in Israel] cannot go unanswered,” Clinton said in her first news conference at the State Department.
    “It is regrettable that the Hamas leadership apparently believes that it is in their interest to provoke the right of self-defense instead of building a better future for the people of Gaza,” she added.


  7. Beth in VA says:

    Ah yes, Pauline. You demonstrate so well the difference between establishing a dialog wtih respect versus one of insult (e.g., “Barry”).
    I’ll go with the Presidential black dude’s approach!


  8. pauline says:

    “America actually cares about and values Muslims and Muslim lives. . .”
    Really? Really?
    “Israeli troops killed Gaza children carrying white flag, witnesses say”
    source —
    American citizens may care. . .DC warmongers do not — period.
    Our foreign policy under control of either side of the aisle follows Israel’s wishes and demands like a school kid trying to please the teacher.
    What’s Barry’s “CHANGE” going to do here? Anything??


  9. easy e says:

    Great interview, Steve.
    The Obama style should certainly resonate more effectively in the Arab world. Time will tell what realities emerge from any real foreign policy changes—or just manipulation of Islamic public opinion.
    Speaking of the Arab and international media outlets in general, more and more inquiring minds are curious as to how the Israeli woman and her SITE Intelligence organization always ends up translating and releasing Al Qaeda’s ‘messages’ to the US media.


  10. Dan Kervick says:

    Can someone please explain to me the new “unclenched fist” code language from this administration? Here is Clinton’s statement today on Iran:
    Does anybody know what they are talking about? The commitment to engage in discussions with Iran without preconditions seems to have been subtly changed into an expression of a general willingness to talk with Iran *after* the Iranians first make some unspecified preliminary gesture of fist uncleanching. But what sort of gesture are Obamans looking for? The statements following the inauguration from Iran have already been a bit softer, while the Obama team has done nothing since it was elected but ratchet up the rhetorical pressure on Iran, clenching its own fist as it were. This looks to me like a backing away from the “no preconditions” campaign commitments. Now Iran apparently has to make the first move in some way, and perform some gesture of submission first to demonstrate they are worthy, and willing to “engage meaningfully”.
    We’re back to the Bush approach of treating discussions with Iran as some sort of favor to Iran, rather than an opportunity for the US. Of course this is about what I expected from Eretz Foggy Bottom once we learned Hillellery Clinton would be in charge.


  11. Steve Clemons says:

    Kotz – glad you are back! I’ve missed you. I think when there is no equilibrium and when one is trying to establish a new stable order, then clear distinctions between allies and opponents need to be put on hold. You are right that there is a tension between optics and substance. I’m not in Disney Land — but I do believe that approaching this optically and reaching out to Muslims may create room for more constructive maneuvering. I’m running late to something — but wanted to check in with you and look forward to one of your wonderfully flamboyant but civil counterjabs. 😉
    All best, steve


  12. kotzabasis says:

    . . . that we can’t approach complex problems in the world with bias, stacked decks, and false choices between one side’s interest and another’s;
    Indeed Steve this is almost an absolute truth. But wouldn’t this also apply to one’s opponents? And do you seriously believe that the Mullahs, al Qaeda, and all other sundry jihadists, “approach complex problems” without bias and stacked decks? So how you can reach a rapprochement with such inflexible opponents through diplomatic overtures? In what kind of Disney Land are you still embedded?


  13. Jim Gilliam says:

    Just saw you on Olbermann, and just wanted to say that was a *great* point about how Obama is trying to steal the audience from terrorists.


  14. SassySuzy says:

    Dear Steve,
    Brilliant!! Thank you for helping us to understand what all this meant. I don’t understand so much in international issues, but you have a way of explaining it all so that we can.
    My children understood and will discuss in class tomorrow. Thank you!


  15. Steve Clemons says:

    POA — thanks for note. I discussed the settlement issue quite strongly today on a long TV interview on Al Arabiya today, about Obama’s interview. I wish I had had more time on Countdown as I would have gotten into settlements and how they are disrupting chances of success. best to you, steve


  16. PissedOffAmerican says:

    So, will the world Muslum community take note of Obama’s words, while ignoring his actions and inactions?
    How true will his words ring when we ship another ten billion or so to these butchers in Israel, or another shipload of American cluster bombs wind up making amputees out of another coupla hundred Palestinian kids??
    If this posturing fraud wanted to change the dynamic in the Middle East, Mitchell would be telling these butchers…


  17. ... says:

    steve, i admire your spirit and attitude regarding how communication can open up closed doors and minds…
    until such time as the usa (under any leader) adopts a position of supporting something other then its military establishment/financial empire) i fail to see how communication is going to alter anything…
    one has a choice to follow a persons words, or to follow there actions… it is premature to comment on obama in this regard, but i suspect the gross spending for the military establishment continues even as obama just enters office and gives eloquent speeches… i wish it was otherwise and i would love to be lulled into thinking great words are enough…


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