July 16, 2008

IF LIFE IS LIKE HIGH SCHOOL...:

The Democrats' Popularity Fetish: Global approval is overrated. (James Kirchick, 07/21/2008, Weekly Standard)

In the simplistic narrative of the Obama boosters, President Bush and his party's successor, John McCain, are cranky nationalists who view the world through the barrel of a gun. But the fact is, in this election it is the Democratic candidate who is proposing policies profoundly at odds with his promise to restore America's preeminent place in the world.

Take the issue of trade. In Senate debates earlier this year, Obama vocally opposed free trade deals with both South Korea and Colombia. Asked what Congress's failure to pass the Colombia Free Trade Act would mean for bilateral relations between his country and the United States, Colombian president Alvaro Uribe replied, "It would be very serious."

But Obama hasn't just opposed free trade pacts with our closest allies in Asia and Latin America. During the Democratic primary, in an attempt to shore up the votes of rust-belt blue-collar workers in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, he vowed to renegotiate NAFTA, the free trade pact between the United States, Canada, and Mexico. A minor scandal erupted when it was revealed that Obama's chief economic adviser had reassured Canadian officials that his boss's protectionist rhetoric was just campaign sloganeering. After he clinched his party's nomination, Obama tried to confirm that the Canadians' fear was unfounded in an interview with Fortune magazine, saying that "sometimes during campaigns the rhetoric gets overheated and amplified."

Given his anti-trade voting record, though, it's hard to know whether to take Obama's latest statements seriously. His easy ability to go from calling NAFTA a "big mistake" to disavowing the comments months later doesn't inspire confidence in his supposedly unshakable principles, never mind his ability to send a positive message to the world that America is open for business.

Indeed, so put off was he by Obama's protectionist rhetoric that British foreign minister David Miliband in May sent Obama an implicit warning to unmoor himself from the agenda of American labor unions. "The problem is not too much trade, the problem is too little trade," he told the Financial Times. "That is our position as a British government, and it will be articulated clearly and consistently." Alarmed at Obama's anti-NAFTA rhetoric, Canada's National Post opined, "The treaty is simply too integral to our prosperity to take anything about it for granted," and suggested that should the United States even consider renegotiating NAFTA, Canada, America's largest supplier of oil, should threaten to cut off supplies.

Also disconcerting to many around the world is Obama's promise--articulated in a debate last August--to meet with a variety of anti-American dictators without preconditions. He has since tried to backtrack from this off-the-cuff remark, yet its utterance showed Obama's remarkable hubris--his apparent belief that seemingly intractable world problems will be easier to solve simply by dint of his charming personality. He is far from alone in this belief. Writing recently in the Boston Globe, Mark Oppenheimer suggested that "given Obama's popularity abroad, it's possible to imagine that his meetings would embolden pro-American or pro-Western forces wherever he went."

Yet negotiating with tin-pot tyrants is a double-edged sword. For every despot a President Obama meets with, he runs the risk of demoralizing the democracy activists suffering under the despot's boot, and the neighboring countries threatened by said tyrant's hegemony. An unconditional meeting with Venezuela's Hugo Chávez, for instance, would rightly anger Colombians, as Chávez's Venezuela has provided assistance to Colombia's antigovernment FARC guerrillas.


...isn't it germane that no one--other than a couple teachers--actually likes the most popular girl?

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 16, 2008 5:12 PM

The fact that 9 out of 10 Americans would agree with the statement "Our relations with our allies are worse because of George W. Bush", is another example of public stupidity combined with Bush most titanic failure.... that of public relations and marketing.

The fact that Germans, Italians, French, and Canadians ALL threw out Bush haters to replace them with Bush-friendly governments, while British and Australians held onto Bush-friendly govs for a decade or more, finally replacing them with Labor ones that have not changed their relations with Bush one iota..... these facts of course fail to dent a multitude of skulls. Their MEDIA hates Bush (whoop-de-doo), ergo... "They hate us... wahhhhh!")

But the admins Pi$$-poor PR strategies of course play a role. One wonders what an empowered, healthy Tony Snow, appointed in 2002, could have accomplished.

Ahhh, what-ifs....

Posted by: Andrew X at July 16, 2008 5:49 PM

"no one--other than a couple teachers--actually likes the most popular girl"

That makes about as much sense as Yogi Berra's comment about a certain restaurant: "Nobody eats there anymore, it's too crowded!"

Posted by: Brad at July 17, 2008 2:51 AM

No one = the rest of the world

The 2 teachers = Anglosphere

Most popular girl = USA (a.k.a. Bush admin.)

Who cares what the rest of the world thinks.

Posted by: Bartman at July 17, 2008 8:47 AM
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