NDN Blog

Obama’s Al Arabiya Interview

In an interview yesterday with Al Arabiya, President Obama talked candidly about the United States’ role in negotiating conflict in the Middle East. Obama emphasized the importance of setting aside preconditions and focusing on the future instead of harping on the past. He also stated the importance of a multilateral approach to negotiations that would involve the EU and the UN.

Obama acknowledged Israel as a strong ally to America and expressed concerns for its safety. He also said he would like to see the territories grow as place of trade, commerce, business and freedom of movement.

In perhaps two of the most memorable lines of the interview, President Obama tells Muslims that “the Americans are not your enemies” and that the “moment is ripe” for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian territories.

I applaud President Obama for the interview and his attitude toward the role of the United States in the Middle East. Specifically, Obama emphasized the importance of immediate and continued involvement, whereas President Bush dealt with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict intermittently, and left the brunt of the work to the last months of his administration. The President also suggested that he would listen and advise instead of dictating. While the use of a firm hand is sometimes necessary in negotiations, Obama’s thoughtful, even handed approach will help to restore the United States’ validity as a mediator.

Obama also proposed a more holistic approach to Middle East conflict, incorporating problems in Syria, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan instead of just honing in on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This will undoubtedly prove difficult and complicated, however if ever there was a time to tackle those issues it is now. A fresh face in negotiations is most certainly welcome to all parties.

For a full transcript of the interview click here.

Democrats Push for More Foreclosure Prevention with TARP Funds

According to Congressional Quarterly yesterday, House Democrats are gearing up to demand more TARP funding for foreclosure prevention. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank have been collaborating on a bill that would close a loophole found in the original bailout language. This bill would take much needed steps towards redirecting funds and keeping people in their homes.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday she has directed House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank , D-Mass., to write a bill that would enforce language in the bailout law intended to keep people in their homes.

“It was very clearly spelled out in the initial legislation that funds would be used for mortgage foreclosure forbearance,” Pelosi said, adding that the foreclosure language was essential for winning Democratic support to pass the broader bailout bill.

But when Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. abandoned the asset purchase program, instead favoring capital injections for banks, the foreclosure prevention language also fell by the wayside. So far, Paulson has resisted calls to do more to offer direct help for struggling borrowers. 

Pelosi emphasized that some of the last batch of potential TARP funding should be provided to mortgage foreclosure relief, but she added that she had set no set goal for how much should be provided to help homeowners. “As much as is needed,” Pelosi said. “Because that is really what is going to get to the core of the financial crisis. . . . People are losing their homes. . . . Communities are affected.”

Many Democrats are outraged with how TARP bailout funds have been handled by the Treasury. While the bailout language states explicitly that efforts must be made to prevent housing foreclosures, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has largely ignored it and focused on capital injections for banks. NDN applauds Pelosi and Frank for undertaking this effort, as we have argued since September that keeping people in their homes is essential to abating the financial crisis. For more on NDN’s campaign to keep people in their homes, click here.

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