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Inauguration Elicits Varied Sentiments in Middle East

Reporting from Egypt, Lebanon and Kuwait during the transition to the new presidency, Jeffrey Brown spoke with locals about their reactions to the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

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  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Jeff was in Lebanon, Egypt and Kuwait during this time of transition from President Bush to President Obama. Jeff was preparing a number of arts pieces that will be aired later, but he also found time to talk about politics.

    And now you're here to tell us about it, Jeff.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Hello, Margaret.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    How did you find — what did you find with the attitudes about President-elect and then President Obama when you got there?

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Well, the most extraordinary thing about being there at this time was not only do you have a transition to a new president, but Gaza was happening, and so that made all the attitudes about President Obama and, frankly, about everything in the context of Obama — the context of Gaza, it made everything very concrete. There was nothing abstract about this.

    So when I asked people about the prospects — what they thought about Obama, the prospects for him, it was, "What is he doing right now about Gaza? Why isn't he doing more?"

    Remember, there were those days where, as President-elect Obama, he was talking about, we only have one president here, so he wasn't going to say anything. Well, some people didn't buy that; they thought he could send a signal, he could do more.

    So it was all, what is he doing? What will he do directly to intervene, to somehow do something about what they're seeing in Gaza and what will they see going forward?

    So I heard everything from outright skepticism — "Nothing will change," "It doesn't matter who the American president is" — to cautious — and I would emphasize "cautious" — optimism.

    We did a lot of interviews. We talked to a lot of people. We would ask people at the end of every interview about President Obama, and we put together a little tape of reactions.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    OK, let's watch.

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