Olbermann Suggests Obama Helped Defeat Hezbollah in Lebanon

On Tuesday’s Countdown show, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann suggested that President Obama’s speech in Cairo may have been responsible for the defeat of Hezbollah in Lebanon’s parliamentary elections which occurred a few days after the speech. But as Olbermann discussed the possibility that Obama had a hand in the results, he neglected to inform viewers that the apparent 71 out of 128 seats won by pro-Western candidates in 2009 is nearly identical to the 72 won in the last such round of elections in 2005.

During the show’s opening teaser, Olbermann brought up Obama’s speech: "The Cairo effect: Did this already pay off practically?"

After a clip of Obama’s speech, the MSNBC host continued: "Three days later, voters in Lebanon elected an American-backed coalition instead of a Hezbollah-backed coalition."

Olbermann plugged the segment during a commercial break at 8:16 p.m.: "On Thursday, President Obama reaches out to the Arabic and Muslim worlds. On Sunday, a pro-American coalition upsets a pro-Hezbollah coalition in the elections in Lebanon. Cause and effect or coincidence? And, by the way, on Friday, a moderate challenges Ahmadinejad`s presidency in Iran."

The MSNBC host later introduced his discussion with Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation reiterating the possibility that Obama’s speech had paid off while he also acknowledged that the theory may be incorrect:

A logical fallacy is an endlessly dangerous thing. A happens, then B happens, therefore, A caused B. But in our third story in the Countdown, is it actually possible that the first Arab-friendly speech by an American President in years could be given on a Thursday and positive, pro-American results show up in an election on the following Sunday? The militant group Hezbollah expected to win a comfortable majority in Lebanon`s parliamentary elections the day before yesterday; instead lost just three days after President Obama spoke directly to the Muslim world.

Below is a complete transcript of the segment from the Tuesday, June 9, Countdown show on MSNBC:

KEITH OLBERMANN, IN OPENING TEASER: The Cairo effect: Did this already pay off practically?

BARACK OBAMA: I`ve come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world.

OLBERMANN: Three days later, voters in Lebanon elected an American- backed coalition instead of a Hezbollah-backed coalition.

...

OLBERMANN, BEFORE COMMERCIAL BREAK AT 8:16 P.M.: On Thursday, President Obama reaches out to the Arabic and Muslim worlds. On Sunday, a pro-American coalition upsets a pro-Hezbollah coalition in the elections in Lebanon. Cause and effect or coincidence? And, by the way, on Friday, a moderate challenges Ahmadinejad`s presidency in Iran.

...

OLBERMANN: A logical fallacy is an endlessly dangerous thing. A happens, then B happens, therefore, A caused B. But in our third story in the Countdown, is it actually possible that the first Arab-friendly speech by an American President in years could be given on a Thursday and positive, pro-American results show up in an election on the following Sunday? The militant group Hezbollah expected to win a comfortable majority in Lebanon`s parliamentary elections the day before yesterday; instead lost just three days after President Obama spoke directly to the Muslim world.

BARACK OBAMA CLIP #1: In Ankara, I made clear that America is not and never will be at war with Islam.

OBAMA CLIP #2: America`s strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable.

OBAMA CLIP #3: The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable, and America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity and a state of their own.

OBAMA CLIP #4: The only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.

OLBERMANN: Today, Hezbollah referred to the President`s speech as "recent U.S. statements" when it denounced what it called "U.S. interference in Lebanon." And Osama Safe, director of the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies, said this: "Lebanon is a telling case. It is no longer relevant for the extremists to use the anti-American card."

The next step, an even bigger test for President Obama`s call to reestablish good relations in the Middle East, comes on Friday of this week. That is when Iranians go to the polls to vote for extremist President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or the moderate candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi. Joining us now, Steve Clemons, senior at the New America Foundation, publisher of the foreign policy blog TheWashingtonNote.com. Thanks for your time, Steve.

STEVE CLEMONS, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Great to be with you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Can it be that easy? Is Lebanon evidence that sometimes the logical fallacy is not, in fact, a fallacy?

CLEMONS: Well, you know, there are a lot of reasons why the western-affiliated coalition did rather well in Lebanon. But I do think that Barack Obama is capturing the imagination of people throughout the Middle East, and I do think he had a positive effect. One of the things the Bush administration managed to do was to show the world a lot of limits, military limits, economic limits, moral limits. And that has cost us in the way people look at the power and influence of the United States. Barack Obama is pushing beyond all those limits and showing that we can kind of rewire and re-create what the United States means and is. It`s fascinating to watch. He`s like a surfer with this big wave, and I think it`s having a tremendous effect.

OLBERMANN: All right, obviously, the wave now travels to Iran. Clearly, the belligerence during the Bush administration backfilled the lunacy of Ahmadinejad. This telephone poll that you collaborated on just a month ago had most Iranians favoring the incumbent, Ahmadinejad. But today there`s an unofficial poll that shows Mousavi with a 15-point lead. Is that, too, a function of the Obama speech? Is that possibly going to happen on Friday?

CLEMONS: Look, I think it`s a combination of things. When the poll that was done by the New American Foundation and Terror-Free Tomorrow was done, it was very interesting because it was done from a nation we can`t name that had phone access, and it was a phone poll with Iranians, whom I think spoke rather honestly.

And I think, if I remember the numbers right, Ahmadinejad had about 30 percent. But in that poll, you had about 27 percent of the people didn`t decide who they were going to vote for, and 15 percent refused to respond. But many of those people want reform and are angry at Ahmadinejad for the way in which he sort of brought dishonor to Iran for the Holocaust denial, for some of the positioning that has not improved Iran`s strategic position, and which has produced isolation.

And you see this amazing thing going on. Mousavi`s people lined up and held hand in hand across the entire city of Tehran yesterday. And the government tried to block them from meeting, but they did it with cell phones. And so, it’s important to remember that Ahmadinejad is an incumbent president, and during the Islamic Republic, no incumbent president has ever lost an election. But it`s also fair to say that no incumbent president has faced the kind of opposition, anger, frustration, and desire for an alternative course with Obama and with the West, I think. So there are new tools. It`s fascinating to watch it play out.

OLBERMANN: Steve, how does this finally play with Israel? They seem to be on the verge of being boxed into a kind of a peace corner, which probably is not a good thing with a hard line government, the way they have it, that coalition which could break up over this particular issue. Has Obama built in some sort of climb-down for the Israelis?

CLEMONS: Well, the Israelis are scrambling right now. Prime Minister Netanyahu is going to give a speech on Sunday in which I think he`s going to try to recalibrate some of his harsh positions on settlements and some of the real negative posture that he`s had with the President. I think that`s going to happen. I also think, I don`t know if she`ll go in, that there is behind the scenes right now a scramble to try and figure out some way to get Tzipi Livni into the government, as a way to sort of show, to create a narrative for why Israel is changing course.

And even Avitor Lieberman, the rather pugnacious and some would say racist foreign minister, has, behind the scenes, encouraged the United States to even reach out to Hamas and to basically, and he`s more liberal on land deals with the Palestinians than Netanyahu. So there`s a lot of scrambling going on right now, because it`s very, very hard to withstand the pressure of the Obama smile and the positive message with so many.

OLBERMANN: For a change, scrambling in the Middle East that is good to watch and hopeful. Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation and WashingtonNote.com, thanks, as always, for enlightening us, Steve.

CLEMONS: Great to be with you, Keith.