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Obama’s current plunge from favor follows an initial optimistic spike in the polls when he took office. At that point, the Arab world was skeptical but hopeful about his ability to follow through on his grand promises and to reverse America’s course under Bush. (To the hardcore Islamists, however, America is the “Great Satan” and that’s that; it is therefore irrelevant to them who occupies the White House.) Since then, a whopping 99% of Lebanese feel Obama hasn’t lived up to his soaring, telepromptered rhetoric. 94% of Jordanians agree with them, as do 90% of Egyptians, 88% of Moroccans, and so on.
So, far from patching up our differences and ushering in a new era of rapprochement, Obama has the Arab world hating us more now than during Bush’s reign. This, despite his many verbal overtures of respect toward Muslims and Arabs. Despite his worldwide apology tour. Despite his famed Cairo speech of June 2009, which the willfully blind believed would be an historic watershed moment in East-West relations. Despite his bow of dhimmitude to the Saudi King. Despite his alienation – if not abandonment – of our crucial ally Israel. Despite his legitimization of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Despite the much-vaunted Arab Spring, a rash of revolutions which the naïve media saw as the blooming of pro-American democratic movements throughout the Middle East, and which some say were inspired by Obama’s Cairo call for freedom.
Where did the Chosen One go wrong? According to the poll, attitudes toward Obama and the United States as a whole have been growing increasingly negative over the past ten years due to: the American occupation of Iraq, which Obama promised to end but has not; outrage over Guantanamo Bay, which Obama promised to close but has not; continued frustration over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which Obama assumed he could solve but has not; and (to a far lesser degree) his own recent military involvement in Libya
In essence, Obama’s outreach to Arab hearts and minds has been, as the pop culture expression goes, an “epic fail.” Pollster James Zogby describes that failure simply: “It’s because expectations were created that were not met.” Unmet Expectations – that Dickensian-sounding title neatly sums up the story of Obama’s entire presidency thus far, whether viewed from the Arab world or here at home.
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