How fares Obama's multi-tasking?
A charm offensive alone won't settle a troubled world.
During the presidential election campaign, one of Barack Obama's interrogators asked him how, with his lack of international expertise, he could handle foreign problems as well as domestic challenges. The then-senator replied, a little tartly, that the presidency required being a "multi-tasker," able to handle several crises at a time.Skip to next paragraph
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Just 16 days into his presidency, Mr. Obama has proved to be an able multi-tasker, juggling domestic and foreign issues simultaneously.
At home, he is handling one of the most critical economic challenges the United States has faced in decades.
Abroad he has set a new pace and tone in international diplomacy with a series of dramatic moves:
1. He ordered the Guantánamo facility holding suspected terrorists and sympathizers closed within a year.
2. He ordered that, except under extraordinary circumstances, interrogation of suspected terrorists henceforth be carried out in accordance with the US Army field manual. Both these decisions were widely hailed as making positive improvements in the image of the US government.
5. In a remarkable gesture to the world of Islam, he chose to give his first White House media interview to the Saudi-funded Arab TV network Al Arabiya. In so doing, he sidelined both Al Jazeera, often criticized for anti-Americanism, and the US government-owned Al Hurra network.
Reaching a Middle East audience of some 23 million, he spoke of having Muslim relatives and having lived in a Muslim country. He called for a new partnership with the Muslim world "based on mutual respect and mutual interest."
All this is being interpreted abroad as a distinct change in at least the tone of US diplomacy. Even Iran said it "welcomed" the president's words.