Obama has a special affection for language, as his first book, “Dreams of My Father,” makes clear. In it, he writes, “with the right words, everything could change.”Indeed, he mentioned 'change' and 'words' repeatedly on the campaign trail (although some have speculated he borrowed some of the words). But really, that an internationalist liberal would be obsessed with the symbolism of words should not be a big surprise. It's the classic empathy play.
One item of note. The story mentions his local pronunciation of Pakistan but that he does not do the same with Afghanistan:
The response to Obama’s efforts as president has been positive, aides say. Pakistanis have told the White House they appreciate it, and some Afghans have even asked if Obama could start regularly pronouncing Afghanistan in the local way (Af-GAN-nih-ston).Here's an example:
Actually, most local Afghanis seem to pronounce it Af JUAN E ston. The fact he still says it the traditional western way might mean he's afraid to alienate Americans who see that country as the epicenter of evil and terrorism, thinking that any hint of pandering towards the local dialect might blow back against his popular support for operations there. With Pakistan it's all about pandering.
Finally, here's an al-Jazeera video calling our recent offensive "Operation Khaniar", which is being called "Khanjar" in western media. Notice the AJ reporter pronounces Afghanistan with a 'ston' on the end then pronounces Obama's first name 'BARE reck', which the Politico article mentions was the way his father pronounced it.