Some early analyses of President Obama's historic address to the Muslim world in Cairo today have noted that some of Obama's professions of unity with the Muslim world merely echo words President Bush said after 9/11. The implication is that deeds, not words, matter.
As President Obama embarks for Riyadh and Cairo this evening, the "scene setters" appear: the BBC headlines "what could be one of the most important speeches of his presidency"; America's own NPR features a pre-departure interview focused on the Cairo speech as a "high-profile opportunity to reshape America's image among Muslim countries."
We often get reminders that a new Administration in Washington means new leadership at U.S. Embassies overseas. Within a year of taking office, an incoming President generally will have nominated (and the Senate approved) new Ambassadors for all major overseas postings. In many foreign government establishments, these appointments are highly anticipated events, more closely watched than any foreign envoy’s arrival on Washington’s Embassy Row.
Permit me, if you please, to put on my hat as a former White House staffer and USIA manager to tell you what I read into Judith McHale’s becoming the next Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy.
Ms. McHale brings with her an impressive record as former president of Discovery Communications, and it is true as has been noted that she has no public diplomacy experience. But neither did many of the now-storied USIA directors of yore, who are recalled fondly.
Further evidence that President Obama is prepared to take some political heat at home in order to improve America’s standing abroad comes in the form of his decision on torture photos.