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Chris Matthews Panel Sees Name 'Barack Hussein Obama' as 'Net Plus' in U.S. Relations w/ Muslim World

On Sunday's syndicated Chris Matthews Show, after host Matthews asked if electing a President whose middle name was "Hussein" had "opened a door to better relations with the Arab and Islamic world. Or has it opened a door to more xenophobic American negativity?" the panel mostly agreed that Obama's election was more of a "net plus" for America's relations with the world's Muslim population. The Washington Post's David Ignatius had a dissenting view that "President Obama raised expectations that there would be a different kind of America. That in itself could be dangerous."

After former CBS News anchor Dan Rather argued that "I think it's opened the door to both, but, on balance, and in the main, it's still a net plus in terms of the country's reputation," the BBC's Katty Kay agreed and implicated President Bush in damaging America's relations with the Muslim world. Kay: "I agree that it's a net plus, particularly when you compare it with what came before and the invasion of Iraq and how much of a problem that was for America's relations with the Middle East."

NBC's Andrea Mitchell concurred: "I agree because after the invasion of Iraq and with this President and his multicultural background, it is a net plus."

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius then weighed in with a more pessimistic take:

There's no question as I travel the Arab world that President Obama raised expectations that there would be a different kind of America. That in itself could be dangerous. When expectations go up, the possibility of disappointment, of chronic disappointment - "but you told us that this would be different and it isn't" - I think that's a real danger for us going forward. I think Obama and his advisors understand that. That's why they're pushing so hard on the Israeli-Palestinian issue now.

The overall discussion was framed around the liberal premise that President Bush had not only harmed relations with the Muslim world by being too aggressive in the war on terrorism, but that those negative relations outweighed such positive accomplishments as overthrowing Saddam Hussein.

Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the Sunday, September 12, syndicated Chris Matthews Show:

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Let's get back to the question of our country. We, as a country, elected Barack Hussein Obama. We knew his name was Hussein. We knew of his background from his parentage going way back. The Arab world liked that. The Islamic world said, "Hey, this country's interesting." Overall, has the election of Barack Obama opened a door to better relations with the Arab and Islamic world. Or has it opened a door to more xenophobic American negativity?

DAN RATHER: I think it's opened the door to both, but, on balance, and in the main, it's still a net plus in terms of the country's reputation.

MATTHEWS: Okay. Katty, you agree with that?

KATTY KAY, BBC: I agree that it's a net plus, particularly when you compare it with what came before and the invasion of Iraq and how much of a problem that was for America's relations with the Middle East.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: I agree because after the invasion of Iraq and with this President and his multicultural background, it is a net plus.

DAVID IGNATIUS, WASHINGTON POST: There's no question as I travel the Arab world that President Obama raised expectations that there would be a different kind of America. That in itself could be dangerous. When expectations go up, the possibility of disappointment, of chronic disappointment - "but you told us that this would be different and it isn't" - I think that's a real danger for us going forward. I think Obama and his advisors understand that. That's why they're pushing so hard on the Israeli-Palestinian issue now.

MATTHEWS: I think a grown-up response and childish response are always going to be different. Grown-ups are going to say, "Well, it's an interesting country. They elect a guy named Barack Hussein Obama." ... (INAUDIBLE) country.

IGNATIUS: Don't look for grown-up responses in America or anywhere else.

-Brad Wilmouth is a news analyst at the Media Research Center.