Something to kick around in the comments on the slowest news day evah.
The consensus, after an entire day of reporting, is Cairo.
Why Cairo? It’s a matter of elimination. I called Ziad Asali, the president of the American Task Force on Palestine, to gauge his thoughts. “Damascus would be cool, except it would look as if he was rewarding the Syrians and it’s too soon for that,” Mr. Asali said…
My colleague, David Sanger, heard me talking about it and came over to my desk. “I think he’s going to pick Jakarta,” he said. “It would be a big homecoming-type trip.”
But Jakarta’s too easy. Mr. Asali thought so too: “Jakarta? People would yawn about that.” Sure, Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country — some 177 million Muslims live there — but the very fact that Mr. Obama once lived and went to school there would make choosing it seem like cheating…
Tehran? Too soon for that. Amman? Been there, done that. Islamabad? Too dangerous. Ankara? Too safe. Plus the Turks aren’t going to be too crazy about being used for outreach to the Muslim world when they’re trying to join the European Union.
The ballsy choice? Mumbai, although realistically there’s no way he’d antagonize Pakistan like that. Abe Greenwald notes, correctly, that Cairo’s a horrible pick unless The One means to signal we’ve come all the way back to embracing decrepit Arab dictatorships full stop. Goldfarb prefers Baghdad, but whatever message Obama meant to convey in the speech would be subsumed in the perceived symbolism of a new president speaking from the seat of American colonial power. It could work in the context of an appeal for a “fresh start” between Americans and Muslims, with the location a reminder that what’s done is done and needs to be accepted, but it’s risky in the sense that no one knows how Arabs will interpret it. Why chance it? As for Tehran, that’d be fine as a reward for them giving up their nuke program; otherwise, no. Imagine The One showing up there for a cameo, giving his kumbaya speech to formally invite Iran back into the community of nations, and then learning upon returning home that they’re going to keep their centrifuges anyway, thanks. Think Rush Limbaugh and Fox News might find any material in that?
My own preference, if this simply must be done, is Dubai. No high drama in it, but their tourist industry likes westerners and their economy’s modern by Arab standards. “Less religion, more filthy lucre” isn’t the worst message to send. Exit question: Greenwald wonders what, precisely, Obama plans to say. Won’t it just end up being a rehash of his tedious speech on race, with both sides nominally faulted for their sins followed by a pander about Arab anger being “real” and everything ultimately blamed on economic insecurity?