Diana West

Obama continued. "My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy. We sometimes make mistakes. We have not been perfect. But if you look at the track record -- as you say, America was not born as a colonial power -- and that the same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago, there's no reason why we can't restore that."

What golden age of American-Islamic "respect and partnership" (circa 1979 or 1989) Obama is talking about I have no idea. But mark his words to describe Islam and the United States: "People who just want to see their children live better lives" versus a country that isn't "perfect" and sometimes makes "mistakes." This is one reprehensible way for an American president to frame the relationship between the repressive, jihad-exporting Sharia cultures of Islam and the liberty-and-justice-for-all-based USA.

"I'm not going to agree with everything that some Muslim leader may say, or what's on a television station in the Arab world," he continued, quite possibly but also quite opaquely referring to the genocidal yearnings and hatreds expressed from Iran to Syria to the Palestinian Authority by both leadership and state-run media. "But I think that what you'll see is somebody who is listening, who is respectful" -- there's that word again -- "and who is trying to promote the interests not just of the United States, but also ordinary people who right now are suffering from poverty and a lack of opportunity. I want to make sure I am speaking to them as well."

This wasn't just one of those beacon-of-freedom pep talks U.S. presidents have given in the past. This was something different. Indeed, not since Napoleon has a leader of a Western superpower made so unabashed a political pitch to the people of the Muslim world.

Commenting on CNN, Islam apologist Reza Aslan called himself "giddy" over the interview, explaining: Obama "is essentially setting himself up as a bridge between the Muslim world, between the United States and the Middle East. It's a grand gesture, and I think it's going to be taken very well."

In the Muslim world, anyway. But again, that's precisely where Obama was aiming.

At one point, the interviewer mentioned Osama bin Laden and his henchman Ayman al-Zawahiri.

"They seem nervous," Obama interjected.

When asked why they should be "more nervous," the president replied: "Well, I think that when you look at the rhetoric they've been using against me before I even took office, what that tells me is that their ideas are bankrupt."

Excuse me, Mr. President: You mean before they used rhetoric against you, their ideas were not bankrupt? But I digress. What's worth noting here is the possible glimmering of a presidential inference that he, Barack Hussein Obama, poses an alternative to Al Qaeda in the eyes of the Muslim world. (Mehlem insists Obama doesn't put Hamas and Hezbollah in the same category as Al Qaeda.)

Obama continued: "There's no actions that they've taken that, say, a child in the Muslim world is getting a better education because of them, or has better health care because of them. ... And over time, I think the Muslim world has recognized that that path is leading no place, except more death and destruction."

Mehlem later interpreted these comments as I did above -- as the Obama alternative to Al Qaeda for Muslims. As Mehlem put it to theatlantic.com, "He's closing down Guantanamo, sending Mitchell, pulling out of Iraq, and ... I hope he would show Palestinians and Israelis tough love. Do you want to tell me that bin Laden and all these nuts" -- excluding Hamas and Hezbollah, in Mehlem's eyes -- "are not going to be nervous about him?"

In other words, the new president of the United States is vying for the affections of the Muslim world, and this is making jihadists "nervous." Aslan's comments seemed to underscore this same point. "I'm sure that wherever Zawahiri and bin Laden are right now, they're scrambling to try to figure out a way to answer this comment. When the president of the United States says, `My family is Muslim,' what are you supposed to respond to that? How do you -- how do you criticize that?"

I'll agree that it does tend to leave one speechless.


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).