Obama on Al-Arabiya, Stimulus Talk, Plus Debating Rush Limbaugh and Bill Kristol

Obama talks to the Muslim world, bloggers debate the stimulus, and more on Kristol and Rush Limbaugh.

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Extending a Hand: Obama Interviews on Al-Arabiya

Just days after nominating George Mitchell as U.S. envoy to the Middle East, Barack Obama grants his first interview as president with al-Arabiya, a major Arabic cable news network. Obama's overriding message: the United States is, at heart, a friend to Arabs. Here's a transcript of the interview, and here's part 1 and part 2 of the interview on YouTube (low volume on both videos). Andrew Sullivan gives a thoughtful account of two major reactions he has to the interview. First, Obama meets his expectations, fulfilling his promise to rebrand the United States in the Muslim world. Obama is working to bring us back from the apocalyptic trajectory of world events, Sullivan writes, and Obama "is attempting to change the game. Which led me to my second reaction ... Hope." John Santore weeds through the interview, highlighting when and where Obama dodges questions. Santore concludes, however, with this positive note: "Obama said during the campaign that on the day he was elected, the world would begin to see America differently. Interviews like this one will help to make that pledge a reality." Conservatives weren't as taken in. This blogger translates Obama's statements on U.S. policy toward Iran's nuclear program: "In simple English: I dunno." And Michael Rubin wonders what Obama's choice of al-Arabiya has to say about the U.S.-funded al-Hurra satellite channel.

Stimulus Talk

Lots and lots of talk on the stimulus today, with "partisanship" appearing to be the most frequent word of choice. Josh Marshall sees cold, partisan strategy in GOP reactions to the stimulus: "One can pick apart the political ethics of their stand, but the reality of it is clear. They want to criticize as many provisions of the bill as possible, push for as many non-stimulus inducing tax cuts as possible at the expense of spending on infrastructure, and then vote against the final bill en masse." Meanwhile, conservatives spend a fair amount of energy brainstorming for a better word than stimulus. Ian Murray likes the Pelosi-Reid-Obama Debt Plan, while Michelle Malkin prefers the Generational Theft Act of 2009. Others, like our very own John Farrell, discuss the Congressional Budget Office's report on the Democratic stimulus plan, asking whether the 35 percent worth of grease in the bill outweighs the 65 percent the American public finds useful. His answer? A big fat No.

The Day in Punditry

Conservatives Rush Limbaugh and Bill Kristol had the blogosphere a'talking today—in mostly disapproving tones. First up: Limbaugh. Writes the Progress Report: Last week Obama told GOP members "that they need to stop listening to hate radio host Rush Limbaugh if Congress is to accomplish anything. 'You can't just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done,' Obama told Republican leaders. His scolding of the far right came days after Limbaugh notoriously declared, 'I hope he fails,' referring to Obama." Our very own Robert Schlesinger doesn't think much of Limbaugh's words. "Rush Limbaugh thinks the American voters are shortsighted, blindly selfish fools," he writes. Michael Wolf gives a psychological look into Rush Limbaugh's soul and sees a worried, worried man. Moving, now, to talk of Bill Kristol, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard. Background on Kristol: The editor is leaving his weekly column at the New York Times only to be picked up for a monthly column by the Washington Post. Brian Doherty gives a great summary of bloggers' thoughts on Kristol. Matt Corley discusses the role Kristol's support for the Iraq war played in his departure, while our very own John Farrell thinks the Post's new hire is yet another sign of an aging, irrelevant op-ed page.

...Meanwhile...

Obama makes the cover of Mad Magazine ... Sarah Palin may or may not be launching her own political action committee ... The Ted Haggard, umm, witness speaks ... And the Israeli Defense Forces deploy antelopes to secure the country's northern border from Hezbollah.