President Obama has a way with words and a beautiful ability to set a mood. That he certainly did in his speech to the Muslim world, June 4. He was right to reach out to the Arab world. Indeed, rarely has an American president in peace time undertaken such a major initiative, together with a visit to a Nazi concentration camp and then on to the 65th anniversary of the invasion at Normandy! Clearly the president has grasped the reins of leadership like no one in recent history. Just as clearly, the mood he sets cannot be divorced from the substance of his remarks, especially about the Middle East.
On one level the President’s address was a breath of fresh air. On a wide range of hot button topics — Muslim violence, Holocaust denial, American mistakes, Iran’s nuclear pursuit, the Arab peace plan, Muslim head scarves — Obama tells it like it is. Violence by Muslims is wrong. The US was wrong at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. The Holocaust happened. No nukes for Iran. No nuclear arms race in the Middle East. The Arab peace plan is a nice start, but only that. Behavior and education, not Muslim scarves, count. Obama’s remarks help forge a new, sensible and better world.