Friday, June 5, 2009

But Consider the Alternative

Almost everybody has already parsed Obama's Cairo speech, and most of the opinions are entirely predictable. The left loved parts of it, but felt Obama should have pushed a more progressive agenda. The right hated it, with much screaming about "apologies" and "terrorism" weakening America. The Israeli lobby doesn't want to be confronted about settlements, and most of the Muslim Middle East response is one of "very nice words, but what will be the action?"
One thing (almost) everybody agrees on is that Obama is a powerful speaker who can articulate his message clearly. Speeches don't change the world, but they sometimes shape perception And that was Obama's goal for this speech. On that criteria, the Cairo speech appears to be a success.
The thought that kept bouncing into my mind was "what if it were McCain on that stage?" While I actually doubt that McCain would have even attempted going to Cairo to make such an outreach, he would be compelled to articulate some Middle East position in some forum. And I just cannot imagine that his views would generate a positive resonance.
That's the crux of it. When progressives feel disappointed by Obama's moderation (and we feel it a lot), we must remember that the alternative we faced in McCain was a continuation of Shrub and the Republican international disaster. When Obama speaks on a global platform, it's a positive. Shrub and McCain induced a global cringe.

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