When Air Force One landed in the sands of the Arabian Peninsula yesterday with President Barack Obama aboard, my mind traveled back to Nov. 4, last year. On the day Obama was elected president of the United States, I was in Amman, Jordan, listening to jaded Arab men declare that nothing would change in the Middle East, no matter who lived in the White House.
Fast forward exactly seven months later, and the Arab world is abuzz with excitement. President Obama has traveled to the Middle East to prove my Jordanian interlocutors wrong, and to demonstrate that the relationship between the U.S. and the Muslim and Arab worlds will change under his leadership.
Not surprisingly, however, all the excitement surrounding Obama's eagerly anticipated speech at the University of Cairo in Egypt did not come without a little maneuvering in Washington. It is partly the result of a carefully choreographed effort to soften the ground to ensure that the audience will in fact judge Obama's speech not only "groundbreaking" and historic, but also successful.