Free Markets, Free People
Do you remember the promises? When Obama took over, the Middle East would come to love the US again. As Obama, famously declared in his 2009 Cairo speech, his election meant a “new beginning” with the Muslim world.
The truth, however, is much uglier:
President Obama’s first journey to Israel as president comes amid earth-shattering change in Middle East, much of it for the worse. The Arab Spring, which once raised hopes of freedom and dignity, has diverged onto the dark path of Islamist authoritarian rule. In Syria, tens of thousands of people have died in a bitter civil war that might have recently seen its first use of chemical weapons. And Iran continues its march toward nuclear weapons capability, heedless of international condemnation. Obama’s effort to seek peace between Palestinians and Israelis is in tatters.
And Libya? One word: “Benghazi”.
How about the much anticipated and promised love fest that would occur after that mean old George W Bush was retired and The One waved his mighty hand and blessed his own Middle East policy? Yeah, it hasn’t quite worked out that way:
According to the latest survey by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project, confidence in Obama in Muslim countries dropped from 33% to 24% in his first term. Approval of Obama’s policies declined even further, from 34% to 15%. And support for the United States in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Pakistan is lower today than it was in 2008 in the closing year of George W. Bush’s administration.
Israel, our closest and most important ally in the area isn’t much enamored with Obama:
Of all the strained relationships in the Middle East, the partnership with Israel is the most important and potentially the most easily repaired. Obama is not popular in the country. A poll released last week showed he had a scant 10% approval rating in Israel, with an additional 32% saying they respect but don’t like him.
And, if the tactic of stiffing Israel had the intent of winning popularity among Palestinians, that too hasn’t worked:
If Israelis don’t like Obama, Palestinians are even less favorable.Washington’s perceived failure to take a harder line with Israel over the final status of Jerusalem, and U.S. opposition to President Mahmoud Abbas’ successful campaign for higher Palestinian status in the United Nations, have engendered a deep sense of frustration. Passions spilled over in Bethlehem this week, when young Palestinians defaced a billboard with Obama’s image and burned pictures of him in the streets. Obama’s symbolic nods to Israel’s history are likely to raise Palestinian ire even further.
In fact, none of the administration’s policy initiatives have had any positive impact, or, for the most part, any impact at all (despite a fawning media telling us how wonderful a SecState Hillary Clinton was, this is her legacy too).
So, what will Obama do today in Israel? What he usually does. Make a speech:
The hope that Obama will say the right things in Thursday’s speech at Jerusalem’s convention center is negated by doubts he will follow through. The president has to assure Israelis and Palestinians that he is still engaged if the peace process has any chance of moving forward. In part, this means convincing them that he still matters.
Key point emphasized. If you’ve watched Obama even casually over the past years, you can’t help but have noticed that he’s very strong on “talking the talk”, but hardly ever “walks the walk”. He doesn’t know how.
And there’s absolutely no reason this particular issue will see him even attempt it now. Oh, he’ll say the “right things”. That’s what he does. His problem is he never then does the “right things”. Rhetoric is his action. It’s for the history books, not as a guide to leadership. He’s not a leader.
But you know that. And the results of that lack of leadership are evident for all to see in the Middle East.
Here are today’s statistics on the state of the economy:
Initial jobless claims rose 2,000 to 336,000. The 4-week average fell 7,500 to 339,750, while continuing claims rose 5,000 to 3.053 million.
The Philadelphia Fed Survey jumped 14.5 points in March, to a positive reading of 2.0.
Existing home sales rose 0.8% in February, to an annualized pace of 4.98 million, thanks to a rise in the supply of available homes.
The PMI Manufacturing Index Flash fell 0.3 points in March, to a still-positive 54.9.
The FHFA House Price Index rose 0.6% in January, up 6.5% on a year-over-year basis.
The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell 2.3 points to -33.9 in the latest week.
The Index of Leading Economic Indicators, which indicate economic conditions six months from now, rose a better-than-expected 0.5% in February.