The New York Times has an article out today on how President Obama will soon give a speech "resetting" the U.S. relationship with the Arab world by casting Osama bin Laden's Islamic extremism as the past and the Arab Spring's democratic stirrings as the future. A similar story in The Wall Street Journal yesterday drew criticism from some right-wing commentators, who argued that Obama was once again "prostrating himself" before the Muslim world, ignoring the resurgence of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, or addressing an irrelevant al-Qaeda when he should be condemning the region's undemocratic regimes. But the Times piece has caught another group's attention: Middle East bloggers. Why? The article suggested that Obama, as he hones his understanding of the region, is reading their work, but left the revelation maddeningly vague:
At night in the family residence, an adviser said, Mr. Obama often surfs the blogs of experts on Arab affairs or regional news sites to get a local flavor for events. He has sounded out prominent journalists like Fareed Zakaria of Time magazine and CNN and Thomas L. Friedman, a columnist at The New York Times, regarding their visits to the region.
The passage has, inevitably, provoked grumblings about Obama consulting Zakaria and Friedman about the Middle East. But, as Yemen expert Gregory Johnsen points out on Twitter, every Middle East blogger "is now convinced President Obama is reading their stuff," to which NPR's Andy Carvin adds, "And ME tweeps, perhaps" (Yahoo's Laura Rozen recommended that Obama "should get on Twitter"). Foreign Policy's Marc Lynch greeted the news that Obama reads Middle East blogs at home with a simple "You don't say" while the Mauritanian activist Nasser Weddady doubted the report. "Obama clearly isn't reading our stuff coz if he did, he'd have bombed Saleh & Al-Khalifa to hell," he tweeted, in reference to Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh and Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. When Middle East scholar Shadi Hamid tweeted an article about Bahrain beating schoolgirls, Weddady responded, "Pls fwd to Obama."