Some very early reaction (more to follow). Yglesias:
This is a guy who’s not afraid to try to express complicated or difficult ideas...his whole team is clearly imbued with the same spirit and that same mandate to try to really explain the complicated and difficult ideas rather than sweep them under the rug. This seems connected to me to the remarkable way in which this speech is being pushed out in multiple mediaon television, but also on Twitter and on Facebook and via SMS and all in multiple languagesto a global audience. Part of the rise of Obama is the rise of a post-television, post-sound bite technological paradigm. You can deliver a speech at 7 AM Eastern Time and know that even though relatively few Americans will be up to see it, anyone who’s interested will be able to Google up a transcript...It creates a whole new world from one in which the point of a speech is just to field test a couple of zingers in hopes that one or two of them gets picked up for the evening news.
Yaacov Lozowick, in Israel:
A wise Israeli Prime Minster such as we don't have, would have gone on air two minutes after Obama's speech and said "As the elected leader of Israel and foremost political figure in the Jewish world, I welcome President Obama's speech wholeheartedly. He speaks for us, too, in our joint aspirations for peace dignity freedom and well-being in the Middle East and everywhere. We will do whatever we can to assist him in realizing his fine vision". Let the Arabs wriggle and squirm. Why should we be defensive after such a positive speech? Of course much of what he asked for will never happen. Let the enemies of the vision stand forth and reject it. How did we paint ourselves into their camp?
In a speech about freedom and democracy, America and Islam, Obama glides right past the most remarkable development in the region in decades: "Iraq's democratically-elected government." He mentions it only in passing, to note that he's keeping his campaign promised to remove troops...the fact that he can even use that phrase -- Iraq's democratically-elected government -- might have caused him to acknowledge that America's intervention there, despite the tremendous difficulties, has made Iraq a country that practices many of those things that he seeks for the rest of the region.
This was yet another in the series of speeches that individually and as a group really are out of phase with anything we have known in contemporary political rhetoric. I mean a sequence that began most noticeably with the "race and America" speech in Philadelphia 15 months ago and has continued with five or six clear high points since then (most recently at Notre Dame, as discussed here) and no obvious flop.
[T]he constant refrain, heard on Cairo’s streets as well as from media pundits, is that Arabs and Muslims would like to see Mr Obama’s words matched by deeds. “To win our hearts, you must win our minds first, and our minds are set on the protection of our interests,” declared one of the reams of editorials, columns and open letters from across the region.
[A]s the President said, a speech is just a speech. But that doesn't mean it is only a speech. Obama's ambition was to speak to Muslims all around the world, not just to dictators and princes and emirs. The existence of the speech was probably more important than anything Obama actually said - most of which will be just as perishable as most speeches. But the image of th American president in Cairo may endure rather longer. Who knows how much it can achieve?