Diana West

It all just went by in a flash: The very first TV interview Barack Obama gave as president went to Saudi -- backed, Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television. Missed it? The interview aired too late Monday night to make the morning papers (in most of the United States, anyway), transforming its initial burst of coverage into a second-day follow-up story (at least in the United States). It was as if the people (Americans) who put Obama into office were so much, well, chopped liver.

Is that halal? Couldn't say. But the target audience for this first Obama interview was anything but kosher. The whole event, however, was a huge surprise.

According to Time magazine, Al-Arabiya reporter "(Hisham) Melhem's bosses in Dubai got a feeler from the White House on Sunday." That image alone -- a White House "feeler" to "bosses in Dubai" is sci-fi fantastic. That is, it's easy to see why Obama would bypass Fox News, for example, but how could he do this to his Main Squeeze Media (MSM)?

On Monday, the White House contacted the Washington bureau of Al-Arabiya, but even then Melhem wasn't expecting anything greater than an interview with the new envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell. "Would you like to chat with the president about 5 p.m. today?" a White House caller asked the reporter. And that was how this precedent-shattering interview came about.

But why did it come about? I'm guessing Barack Now-You-See-Hussein-Now-You-Don't Obama chose to sit down for this first interview before the Muslim world for an important reason. He wanted to appeal to what he seems to regard as his new constituency.

No kidding. Obama spoke quite deliberately about the requirements of his new "job" as commander in chief, many of which are unprecedented. "My job is to communicate the fact that the United States has a stake in the well-being of the Muslim world, that the language has to be the language of respect."

That's the job of the president of the United States?

"I have Muslim members of my family. I have lived in Muslim countries," Obama continued, simply speaking about his Islamic connections, indulging in what he condemned as "scare tactics" on the campaign trail. Now these connections are job credentials. "My job is to communicate to the American people that the Muslim world is filled with extraordinary people who simply want to live their lives and see their children live better lives."

That's the job of the president of the United States?


Diana West

Diana West is the author of American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation's Character (St. Martin's Press, 2013), and The Death of the Grown-Up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization (St. Martin's Press, 2007).