Obama’s Arab speech: meanwhile, back in the real world…

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Opinion Zone,Neil Hrab

"Billions for Egypt’s unemployed, but what about ours?" reads the headline on a biting blog post by senior Washington Examiner editorial writer Conn Carroll.

I think this captures the strange unreality at the heart of President Obama’s much-hoopla’d speech today on Arab issues – and specifically his plan to spend as much as $2 billion to create jobs for unemployed Egyptians, Tunisians and, if the NATO bombing campaign against Colonel Gadhafi succeeds, one presumes Libyans as well. (Is this the incentive the Libyan rebels need to finally push Gadhafi from power - the prospect of US assistance with job creation?)

Writes Carroll : "Domestically, this is either a very gutsy, or completely tone-deaf move by the administration. The president’s base is grumbling every day about Obama’s lack of focus on jobs and his unwillingness to fight for new spending in Congress."

It isn’t only people in the President’s political base who may be upset with this expensive plan – entire regions of the US hit hard by the global recession may take the news badly. People may begin asking why the President's advisors didn't point out that the money could be put to excellent good use at home by helping to re-industrialize the battered US economy. (Where’s the Tea Party on this slight to the country’s economic heartland, by the way? Are they planning any rallies to protest this giveaway?)

If only we could see in advance the talking points and question-and-answer documents that Obama’s communications staffers have been working on, to prepare for such criticism. Maybe the plan is to brand all critics as "isolationists" and "nativists" - two slurs one often hears when someone speaks out critically on foriegn policy.

Administration officials gave an advance briefing to media on the speech yesterday, which might have yielded a clue. But because the question-and-answer session that followed the briefing was so tame, the Administration response to criticism remains unclear.

So we will have to wait for some daring reporter to ask a hard question about how it is that with Americans facing a wave of job lossess, foreclosures on their homes, bank failures and assorted other economic difficulties, their President has decided the people who really need his help at this moment all happen to live on the sunny south shore of the Mediterrean Sea.

Today, you will hear from a lot of talking heads and pundits analyzing every word of the President’s speech and making predications about how it will play in the Arab world. I hope Conn Carroll isn’t the only person who will raise the matter today of what the President’s speech says about his sense of connection (or lack of it) to domestic US economic difficulties -- and how his announcement will go over with Americans facing hard times. 

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