Obama Can Do For America What Hillary And McCain Could Never Do

They say all politics is local, right? That may be true for school boards and city councils, and it might even hold for national congressional elections too. But when it comes to U.S. presidential elections, there’s nothing local about them, at least not for the rest of the world. Being the planets lone superpower means eyes from around the globe scrutinize our choice of leadership. People across the globe understand that the American president shapes the lives of everyone, not just Americans.

To say that world opinion of America has degraded under the hand of George W. Bush may be an understatement, but I’m not going to belabor that point today. Suffice it to say that Bush has undermined our national reputation even among our allies during his tenure, both with his belligerance and his policies, and his concerted lack of curiosoty and ability reality haven’t helped things much either. Where this country used to be viewed as a beacon of hope, promise, and freedom by the nations of the world, the United States today is viewed with skepticism by many, with scorn by many more. Instead of a country that helps, we’re perceived as a country that takes and pushes its way through the global arena. Rule of Law? Not under this president. America may still be king in terms of brute force, but our prestige is sorely bruised, and declining world opinion makes it harder for America to lead the way towards a better world future. The damage Bush has done to America at home has been grave. But the damage he has done to America abroad has probably been even worse for this country.

American tend to discount the thoughts and concerns of the rest of the world in most everything we do. Hell, throw down a world map and most Americans probably couldn’t find more than half a dozen foreign countries without computerized assistance. So it’s only natural that when electing our president we think only about what a person offers us here at home, completely discounting the importance of what that person could offer us around the world.

The truth of the matter is that the American president sets the tone for how every other country will act towards American inspired goals and ideas. The world knows that America has the might to make happen the things it wants to make happen, but it isn’t might that shows leadership. True leadership relies on both might and the ability to gather partners around a common goal. And while might may force others to the table, albeit with a sour taste in their mouths, true statesmanship allows the participants to sit at the table both eager to listen and willing to participate in our goals, not out of fear of retribution but out of eagerness to forge a better path.

Which bring me around to the point of this post. World opinion surrounding the current U.S. presidential elections shows excitement about the possibility of Barack Obama becoming our next president. Like many Americans, Obama is perceived as a chance to change not just the direction of American politics and policies but the face of America in general. To many abroad, McCain looks a lot like Bush, with his continued support for the Iraq War and the broader Bush War on Terrorism and all its faulty premises to his Cold War mentality towards foes and U.S. foreign strategy in a world that has moved on. Similarly, Hillary Clinton is hardly viewed as the groundbreaking candidate abroad, especially in areas of concern like the Middle East. Remember that during her husbands reign of power, attacks in Iraq continued the war of the first President Bush. She carries the baggage of Bill Clinton’s presidency around with her whether she wants to or not, and despite her husbands popularity in general, not all things “Clinton” are viewed favorably around the globe.

But in Obama, non-Americans see a glimmer of hope that under his leadership America could not only regain her standing as a right and honorable nation among the world community, but that she could again assume a leadership role in solving world problems like global climate change, energy diversity, and a path towards global prosperity and peace. But don’t take my word for it. Read what people are saying themselves…

From Australia:

He’s (Obama) cosmopolitan, he offers a fresh framework for conceptualising global issues, and he is a defence against fundamentalist Christianity in the US.

This quote from an older Australian male living in Sydney is a good example of the symbolism surrounding the Obama “nomination”: “I think Barack Obama represents the best hope for a world entering a dangerous state of confrontation between Islam and Christianity. Obama is a Christian but he had Muslim parents and grew up in the world’s most populous Islamic nation, Indonesia …”

From England:

For the rest of us the Obama campaign is more than about mere American domestic politics. That moment on a freezing January day in Washington when a black man and his family stand on the steps of the Capitol to take the presidential oath will be flashed up all over the world. The wordless message to young black people from New York to Nairobi, Johannesburg to Brixton will be of a whole new world of personal possibilities. America’s sense of itself will be redeemed. The way that the world sees it will be transformed.

From Russia:

After presenting the question to nearly 50 Russians, the answer is clear: one hundred percent of our not-so-random sampling said Senator Barack Obama is their first choice. The reasons are varied. Some of Russia Blog’s Russian friends have had great experiences in the U.S., and they genuinely believe that the first-term junior senator from Illinois is a leader who is capable of bringing positive change to America. They like Mr. Obama’s goal of withdrawing the troops from Iraq and agree with his health care and education policies. Other Russians are more concerned about Russia, and don’t like the anti-Putin rhetoric of Senators John McCain and Hillary Clinton. (It is important to remember that Vladimir Putin still enjoys nearly 80 percent approval rating, and most Russians view themselves as enjoying more freedom and wealth today than ever before in their country’s thousand-year history.)

Russians have been keeping their savings in U.S. currency for over a decade. Some Russians believe that America’s aggressive foreign policy, negative image abroad, and high military spending contributed to the weakening of the dollar. Whether there is a defensible correlation or not, even if Mr. Obama spends more federal budget money on healthcare and education, the Russians in our informal poll hope that withdrawal from Iraq and increased “friendliness” of the United States abroad will help to strengthen the U.S. currency.

From France:

In an informal poll of the French Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution. Their members are descendants of French aristocrats who fought in the American Revolution. They are about as conservative a group as you can find in France, and yet they all preferred Obama. And they are not alone. The French as a whole say Obama is their favorite candidate. He has caught their imagination with his image and soaring oratory. When they talk about him, they almost always mention Kennedy. Even French Socialists, who chose a woman to run as their candidate in France’s presidential election last year, prefer Obama to Hillary Clinton by a slight margin.

And Iran:

“…the whispers of a Democratic candidate winning the US presidential election could soften the dark and frozen atmosphere in Iran. Iran’s current president - Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - was elected two years ago to face the foreign threat of having Iran considered a part of the ‘axis of evil’. Two years ago, Iran could have been attacked any moment, and a person was chosen to counter the foreign pressure. If the foreign threat diminishes, a slow democratic movement can go forward. Obama’s ideas on foreign affairs and Iran make reformists happy… maybe some do not know but peace and dialogue is like poison for a group whose political existence relies on violence and war.”

Now I’ll happily grant that these few glimpses into the minds of others across the globe do not equate to some kind of wholesale international support for Barack Obama, but if these are the average thoughts of average people across the globe then the international outlook for America with Obama at the helm could be promising.

As important as what a candidate can do for Americans at home is what can a candidate bring to America from abroad. Obama hasn’t the international political experience that Hillary has, but he has more practical international experience borne out of living in several foreign countries. Obama hasn’t the “war toughness” of McCain, but he has a more mature concept of when and how to use the power of the sword. Obama brings a face of hope (that a black man can become president in a country born from prejudice and slavery); he brings youthfulness (compared to the 72 year old McCain and the 60 year old Clinton); he offers infectuous ambition (challenging average citizens to help colve national and international problems); and he brings the message that in a new world, we must sometimes cast off the oppressive bonds that create gridlock, especially when we’ve been bound up so long we barely recognize the chains for what they are.

How the world perceives America is directly related to how they see our president. Right now, we are the bully in the playground and foreign attitudes towards us and our policies are very low. As important to solving our national and international problems is the face of our leader. Electing Obama will go a long way towards repairing American prestige abroad. That’s something that McCain and Hillary can’t do, not so long as they cling to the old way of governing-which they seem very likely to do.

(cross posted at Common Sense)

7 Responses to “Obama Can Do For America What Hillary And McCain Could Never Do”

  1. William Weber Says:

    Seems to me that if all those foreigners want Obama, perhaps we would be better off electing someone else. I doubt that the best interest of the United States is their first concern.

  2. Ken Grandlund Says:

    William-

    I guess you are either satisfied with our diminished reputation in the world or misunderstood the thrust of this post.

    Obviously we shouldn’t select a president based only on world opinion, but to understand that the world community is more at ease with an Obama presidency shows that American foreign efforts over the last eight years hasn’t led to an increase in friendship. And international friendship is vital to any efforts spearheaded by America when dealing with global problems that directly affect us too- like climate change problems, terrorism issues, economic matters, etc.

    This is not the 19th century and we do not act in a vacuum. We need worldwide cooperation on many things, and to me it is better to have that cooperation based on good feelings than on fear of American retribution.

  3. Lisa Says:

    Ken which countries don’t like us now that liked us before and why?

  4. Ken Grandlund Says:

    Lisa-

    I’m not saying that any country that has been our ally now does not “like” America. But plenty of our European allies have been less than happy when dealing with the Bush Administration.

    The primary complaint has been Iraq, but many are not enthralled with the Bush attitude towards climate issues or the manner in which we’re prosecuting this War on Terror. The Bush Torture stance has alienated many allies as well.

    I don’t have a handy list, but report after report has shown that the reputation of America abroad has suffered greatly under Bush.

  5. Lisa Says:

    Climate issues? All it is is a ploy t take more of America’s money. What happened to Global Warming?The cooling trend we are having has to be called something else?
    Our country has alot of emission restrictions. The Kyoto treaty is a bunch of BS too. The cost outweighs the benefits.

  6. Ken Grandlund Says:

    Personally I never liked the term “global warming” because it is so imprecise. Some warming…some cooling…regardless, man has had a negative impact on the environment in a number of ways over the last 150 years or so (and much farther if you go pre-industrial and note the land use changes that have altered the natural world).

    Global climate change is more than a ploy to take American money- it represents a serious problem for humanity itself- and that includes many more people than live in this country.

    You may decide that the short term costs outweigh any benefits we could have from reducing carbon (and other) emissions, formulating an alternate to fossil-fuel energy, pollution reduction, and massive deforestation, oceanic pollution, etc. That kind of thinking is unfortunate though as it will be not just our generation who begins to feel the effects of climate changes, but our progeny as well. Sad that you’re not too concerned with the state of the world you children’s children will have to inhabit.

    How well did you study the Kyoto treaty BTW? Or are you just taking the GOP approach here?

  7. Lisa Says:

    http://www.sepp.org/Archive/NewSEPP/kyotoprotocol.htm

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=479572&in_page_id=1770

    Ive read enough to not be so convinced we need to go along with it.

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