There are few opportunities for American presidents to make a fresh start in a major area of foreign policy, but Barack Obama tried to do that yesterday in his speech in Cairo to the world's one and a half billion Muslims. Unfortunately but predictably, the very schisms that have made a hash of the Middle East at policy at home and the region a reliable powder keg had reared their ugly heads before he concluded his address by saying "And may God's peace be upon you."
Atop the predictability chart were the reactions of Palestinians and Israels who wasted no time in shouting past each other. The Palestinians, of course, wallowed in their own victimhood and were unmoved that they were not being treated like antagonists for a change, while the Israels further distanced themselves from the moral high ground that they once proudly occupied in expressing outrage that their illegal settlements had drawn scorn.
I had hoped -- in vain, of course -- that the discourse would be slightly more civil back in the U.S. of A.
But there was the right-of-center brigade taking umbrage that Obama quoted the Koran, spoke of democracy as something that is not to be imposed on one nation by another as the Bush administration so disastrously attempted to do in Iraq and, horror of horrors, never used the word "terrorism." (Although he did refer to the 9/11 attacks three times, violent extremists and extremism six times and . . . you get the idea.)
Oh well. My post-speech high was nice while it lasted.