Today in Slate: The Mosque Anger Isn't About the Mosque

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 17 2010 11:30 AM

Today in Slate: The Mosque Anger Isn't About the Mosque

My take on the politicization of the "Ground Zero mosque" is here , and one thing I focus on is that even people who believe that America needs to better appeal to the Muslim world worry that grand gestures don't work.

Before and after Obama took office, some foreign policy realistssaid that his election, all by itself, would smooth over relationsbetween America and the "Arab street." Said former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in February 2009: "I dothink that with the election of President Obama, there are many changesthat are out there and a different image of the United States." In hisfirst week in office, Obama announced a schedule for closing the prisonat Guantanamo Bay. In June, he gave an address to Muslims in Cairo thatwas acclaimed by all the right people.

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But did this do anything for non-American Muslims or for Americans themselves? The 2009 Arab Opinion Poll ,conducted by the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, showed Obamasingle-handedly spiking Muslim optimism about American foreign policyup to 51 percent. In the 2010 poll, it fell back to a Bush-level 16percent. The Obama magic fell flat here, too: In February 2010, a poll for the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies found 53 percent of Americans viewing Islam unfavorably.

Will Saletan has another take .

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.