Obama’s foreign appeal

[Please note that Richard has not approved this blog entry.]

I’ve decided to re-write an earlier post to make my views clearer. Raj

It is clear from many reports that Obama has a massive amount of appeal the world over. This is partly because of the annoyance with Bush and therefore Republicans and partly because of how Obama comes across – young, handsome and eloquent. His race, as much as he doesn’t want it to be an election issue, stands out and reflects well on him.

However, as much as I enjoy reading election commentary from around the world, a recent piece in the Guardian was a bit too much for me. In 2004 a columnist with the Guardian urged readers to write to Americans and suggest they vote for John Kerry – which probably on average harmed, rather than helped, his chances. Recently an opinion piece on why Obama should win was published on the website.

And, most depressing, many African-Americans will decide that if even Barack Obama – with all his conspicuous gifts – could not win, then no black man can ever be elected president.

Yes, that would be depressing – because it would show that America still hasn’t moved on in terms of race. If African-Americans (what about West Indian-Americans – are they backing McCain?) are voting for Obama purely on race then that’s not hugely better in my view than voters voting for McCain because of Obama’s skin colour. But I’m not sure that they would despair that much. Obama has many talents, but he is also inexperienced – and running against possibly the worst opponent for him that the Republicans could have fielded. Although the age difference had the potential to lose McCain the election, if he could get over that Obama was always going to have a real fight.

It is my hope that if Obama loses, black Americans who were backing him will look with hope to the future rather than assume that was going to be the only chance of seeing a black US president. Freedland should have remained as optimistic, rather than make rather patronising comments that mocked the ability of the black voters to weather an Obama defeat.

But what of the rest of the world? This is the reaction I fear most. For Obama has stirred an excitement around the globe unmatched by any American politician in living memory. Polling in Germany, France, Britain and Russia shows that Obama would win by whopping majorities, with the pattern repeated in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. If November 4 were a global ballot, Obama would win it handsomely. If the free world could choose its leader, it would be Barack Obama.

Thinking back to the last Democrat president, I seem to remember (perhaps wrongly) that during Clinton’s terms in office, the criticism of America was that it “didn’t do enough” – many countries seem to see-saw between wanting the US to make military interventions and not. Some are better than others, but I wonder whether this “pendulum” will continue to swing. In any case, as much as many people would like to see Obama US president, they have to respect the choice the American people make. As much as I wanted to see Gore and Kerry win in 2000 and 2004 respectively, when I heard that Bush had won I shrugged my shoulders and hoped for the best. It’s also fair to consider the situation reversed – I doubt Freedland would respond positively to calls from the foreign media for David Cameron to be the next British Prime Minister, though it’s probably inevitable.

But what does that say about today’s America, that the world’s esteem is now unwanted? If Americans reject Obama, they will be sending the clearest possible message to the rest of us – and, make no mistake, we shall hear it.

I don’t think at all that America would ignore the world to spite it. But just because the world backs someone doesn’t mean it is the best choice for America – that’s what US voters need to decide on. I remember some years ago that Chinese people desperately wanted to see the back of former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi – despite the fact that he had pushed a reform agenda that Japan desperately needed. Did they care about whether his successors would continue that process or send the country backwards? No. They were focused on one issue – whether the Japanese Prime Minister visited the Yasukuni Shrine or not.

Similarly, even though the world as a whole doesn’t wish a US president who will cause harm to his country, the desires of non-Americans are mostly focused on the next president “not going to war”. If they thought a monkey in a suit would do that better, they’d be “backing Bubbles”. From my POV what people like Freedland see in Obama is a mere shadow of his true qualities, taking a selfish, snobbish, self-righteous view that doesn’t do the man a shred of justice.

I can’t say that I would vote for Obama if I was American, but if he wins, I would give him the benefit of the doubt and hope for a good presidency – if he loses, I would like to see him stand again when the time is right. But for me, unlike people like Freedland, his race, youth and good features are irrelevant. It would be nice if the world could appreciate Obama for his policies rather than his image. Otherwise there will be an even greater disappointment if Obama wins and then does not turn out to be everything they thought he would be.

The Discussion: 21 Comments

Apologies in advance for the lost comments on the earlier thread.

September 15, 2008 @ 12:28 am | Comment

Apologies accepted.

“It would be nice if the world could appreciate Obama for his policies rather than his image.”

But seriously, what do you know about McCain’s domestic and foreign policy? McCain himself admitted that he is not an expert in economy. That’s exactly what we need in a recession? And you think bombing Iran is a good idea when the US is still fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan? Sorta, if you look at the map, we’ll have a connected region from Iraq, across Iran to Afghanistan. We’ll have one war there instead of two wars. That’s progress.

His VP choice is just MAD, now tell me. What does Palin have other than her image? She gives all hockey moms/ moose hunters/ NRA members/ Pro-lifers hope, that’s why she’s picked.

September 15, 2008 @ 2:25 am | Comment

Very 70’s – but this one will run

September 15, 2008 @ 2:26 am | Comment

Gupta, I know that McCain is pro free trade and that with Iraq he wants to stay as long as is necessary, though he thinks most troops could be back in the US by 2013.

On the domestic front he has talked about spending money on retraining unemployed industrial workers with skills that they can use in the modern work-place. Also, I think, something about giving them a subsidy if they take work in available but lowly-paid jobs to make their earnings more comparable with what they used to earn – until they get a better paid job.

Also he wants to “drill more” to reduce foreign energy dependence in the long-run.

Palin has not hurt his chances so far – one poll put McCain 15% up on Obama for white women. You can argue that isn’t Palin, but it doesn’t seem she’s put them off either. The Times ran an article today indicating that white women in Michigan who voted for Kerry are toying with McCain now – which would have almost been unthinkable even a little while ago (both Gore and Kerry won that state). Obviously there’s a lot still to play for but that works both ways (RCP’s polling average putting Obama ahead by 2%).

September 15, 2008 @ 3:39 am | Comment

Raj (I’d like to call you my Papabear but apparently it’s not allowed here)

Do you think the problem with the US economy is not enough free trade? The major causes of this recession are the sub-prime crisis induced slow down in the housing market and further damage to the financial sector. Those have little to do with trade or NAFTA! It’s the lack of regularities in the Wall Street that makes all of us in deep shit now. McCain has no understanding of the economy, he can talk Free Trade all he wants, that’s not going to solve the problem.

“Also he wants to “drill more” to reduce foreign energy dependence in the long-run.”

You sound awful like a conservative pundit here, emphasizing “FOREIGN” here, let me tell you a way to reduce the dependence on FOREIGN energy in the LONG-RUN. Develop some fucking alternatives, US is the leader of science and technology and should take the lead. Obama/Gore has the vision, McCain does not.

I’m not arguing that Palin gives McCain a boost in the polls. That’s exactly the problem, right? It’s her image, not her substances. You see, it’s the blue collar white women turning to Palin, because they think Palin looks like them so she must represent their interests.

This a free world, let everyone speak.

September 15, 2008 @ 4:27 am | Comment

Raj does exceptional overtime duty in giving rational and courteous answers to Kumra Guptra/Guptra Kumra’s silly rants.

Kumra Guptra/Guptra Kumra, you leave a very wide target that invites broadsides but I promise restraint. Do you really think that any one of the US Presidential or Vice Presidential candidates is an “expert in economy” (sic; your usage of the noun here is incorrect but I understand what you intended), or foreign relations, or diplomacy, or area studies, or military affairs most especially strategy and order of battle, or any of the dozens of specialized fields of study that will necessarily involve decisions by the head of government during his tenure? Or can you allow that there are departments of government addressing these very specialities that a President or Vice President or member of cabinet calls upon to form a balanced opinion? Or, to make it easy for you, who among the candidates has demonstrable expertise in economics that can translate to – well, to do what? What would you expect of a candidate who would have an advanced degree in economics? You’d expect a booming US economy because the President cum economics expert could pronounce sagaciously on US economic affairs? Could guide a free market economy along a critical path to prosperity? Could effectively usurp the constitutional power of the US House of Representatives to initiate revenue bills? Along that line of thought shouldn’t a Nobel Prize winner like Milton Friedman had been elected President some long while ago? Ya’ think so?

September 15, 2008 @ 4:59 am | Comment


We don’t need a Nobel Prize winner. But I’ll take a Harvard/Columbia and Syracuse educated combo over an Idaho grad and a 894 of 899 in the Navy academy class of 1954, anyday.

I want smart people in the Whitehouse.

8 years of a dumbass running the show is not enough for ya’ll?

September 15, 2008 @ 5:14 am | Comment

I want smart people in the Whitehouse.

8 years of a dumbass running the show is not enough for ya’ll?

Bush’s problem wasn’t that he was “dumb”, it was who he appointed to cabinet positions and advisors.

Besides, Bush was in a league of his own – I’m sure that both the candidates are sufficiently smart. Though intelligence isn’t enough – wisdom is probably more important when forming the cabinet, etc.

September 15, 2008 @ 6:00 am | Comment

Kumra, Bush like his father graduated from Yale so maybe you’d best revise your measure of dumbass. Nevertheless, if it’s academic credentials you’re wanting then why not vote for someone like the actor Tommy Lee Jones who was roommate of Al Gore at Harvard? Hey, why not turn over running the country to a class of educated men of good societal standing with proprietary interests in the economic development of their region, like the Virginia gentry who ran America before the presidency of Andrew Jackson? Graduates from Idaho can’t cut it for you, eh?

Kumra, do you ever think through what you’re saying?

September 15, 2008 @ 6:08 am | Comment

Raj, of course Bush’s failure as President is his failure to ever realize himself as President, devolving responsibilities of his office to persons he appointed like Rumsfeld who were clearly beyond their competency, and his failure to rely upon broader informed opinion. Bush lacks intellectual curiousity and imagination, but instead seems to rely primarily on faith.

September 15, 2008 @ 6:14 am | Comment

So we all agree Bush Administration is a colossal failure.

It’s not Bush’s failure, it’s Dick/Rumsfeld/Wolfwitz/Rice/Ashcroft/Gonzalez/Paulson/the dude who took over Greenspan/heckava job brownie/Tony Snow/Scooter I Libby and most of all

Carl Rove

You see the pattern here? It’s not just Bush, it’s the whole Neo-Cons, the Republican machine. The very group of people who made GW the king, and the very group of people who picked Palin. So why should people give them another 4 years? Just because McCain claims himself as the CHANGE and the MAVERICK?


I am aware that Bush was a legacy student. Thank you. Obama was not. He was also the editor of Harvard Law Review. Enough said. You are damn right I would have voted for Tommy Lee Jones had he won the Democrat nomination.

There is nothing wrong with Idaho, I didn’t have time to list the details of Palin’s education background. Go google Palin, see how many years/schools took her to get through college.

September 15, 2008 @ 6:35 am | Comment

I admit, Kumra, your questions and scattered thoughts are like MIRV’s lost in trajectory, gyro system amuck, and simply need to much effort to aim a reply. Generally it seems you blame the “Neo-Cons, the Republican machine” for making George Bush President and all the attendant ills of the last eight years, notwithstanding that most people would not think themselves Republican or part of any Neo-Con movement or political machine but… ah! that’s it! The people don’t know they’re part of a political machine! That’s it, right? And when people do understand they been marching in lockstep, that they’ve been manipulated by Neo-Cons, they those people vote Democrat in a flush of enlightenment? Is that it? Or are those people so far removed from grace they cannot be saved and should just let the noble Democrats do as they will?

September 15, 2008 @ 7:34 am | Comment

Corrigendum: then those people vote Democrat…

September 15, 2008 @ 7:36 am | Comment


Just tell me why we should vote for the same group of people again, when themselves admit their failures (McCain’s the poster boy for CHANGE now, WHAT?!).

Loar, just give up. The republican crowd are not champions in logical and critical thinking.

OK, last question for you, Yes or No. Do you agree with Palin that dinosaurs were around here four thousand years ago. Yes OR No.


September 15, 2008 @ 8:05 am | Comment


Sponge bob is a sponge. You, too.

September 15, 2008 @ 8:53 am | Comment


Your remark on Bob was removed by Richard before I had time to respond.

You didn’t offend me, you amused me.

September 15, 2008 @ 9:31 am | Comment

Freedland fails to grasp something (in common with a lot of other Europeans). The whole idea to begin with was to NOT be like Europe, and “Europe” has had its knickers in a twist for the 230 years since then. European approval and friendship is fantastic when it works out that way, but if our primary purpose was to gain their approval, we’d just invite them all to vote. Most of the time, Europe has disapproved of US progress, always for the same reasons. And like I said before, the preening self-importance of writers like Freedland really doesn’t help relations. To say nothing of idiotic campaigns like the infamous Clark County offensive (or the offensive Clark County campaign).

Guptra, you and others are working a false dichotomy. Drilling more of our own oil and developing alternatives are not mutually exclusive. In fact, we have a desperate need to do both. Solar and wind are a long way from practical yet, and until they are, we’re likely to send more trillions to rather ugly regimes.

September 15, 2008 @ 9:32 am | Comment

Sam_S wrote: “Drilling more of our own oil and developing alternatives are not mutually exclusive. In fact, we have a desperate need to do both.”

– Yes, I agree. Either we devlop a variety of alternatives, including the drilling of our own oil, or we continue to support “ugly” regimes, and to invade and occupy those oil-rich countries whose leaders turn recalcitrant.

September 16, 2008 @ 5:09 pm | Comment

I normally consider myself to be a right-wing pro-America European. I normally believe that this is America’s election, and socialist Europe’s righteousness and strongly pro-Democratic opinions do not matter.

However, there is one thing Americans need to understand. As America is a country with huge economic, financial and military clout all over the world, people from all over the world are going to have opinions about American politics and its government. Living in Europe, it often feels like decisions being made by a government on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean which came to power in elections I didn’t get a chance to take part in, have a greater influence on life over here than our own governments do.

When your country has hundreds of military bases all over the world, is invading countries left and right, is creating tension with Russia on other people’s continents, and lets it financial sector undertake adventures which in the long run affect people negatively ALL over the world…. you don’t really get the chance to say “back off world, these are OUR elections.”

September 16, 2008 @ 5:23 pm | Comment

Agree wholeheartedly with J. Very, very well said. I think that ends this discussion.

To Jason Lee: Heh!

Sam, I don’t disagree with your key point; we do need oil for many decades to come and I’m certainly not against all drilling. It’s the gleeful “drill baby, drill!” that’s so scary – these people love oil and show a reckless, orgiastic, almost bloodthirsty desire to tear up the land and look for more. To think that those words could whoop people up into a bacchanalian frenzy….

September 16, 2008 @ 6:00 pm | Comment

Jason, someone once asked why it was that so many “dodgy regimes” controlled so much of the world’s energy resources. I wonder if it’s God’s way of telling us to switch to cleaner energy for our long-term good.

Of course either way those same countries are shafted if they can’t diversify when output drops in the future (Russia is wasting time). The Bedouins aren’t stupid – they’ve been restocking their camel herds for some time.

September 17, 2008 @ 8:42 pm | Comment

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.