In the World
Let's face it--this is no time to criticize George W. Bush. Right now, it's like shooting lame ducks in a barrel. But one thing that must be said is that, during his administration, America's standing in the world has taken a staggering blow, especially since 9/11, when, as some European head of state sympathetically said, "We are all Americans."
President Bush tossed out the world's respect and admiration as if it were confetti, making America something of a pariah. And he did it by cowboy swagger, by playing on those six guns and saying that, in the war on terror, you're either for us, or agin' us. He did it by claiming righteousness in the cause in Iraq, a pose that caused most of our good friends to pull up their noses and keep their troops at home.
Unlike his own father, George W. failed to consolidate world opinion and, resultingly, alienated most of the world. For whatever good things he did in his time in office--and there were some significant victories, such as the broad support for AIDS in Africa--today his OK Corral combativeness has us isolated from people who have been and should be our friends.
In this morning's NY Times, Roger Cohen tells the story of how that alienation occured with Spain's democratically-elected, socialist Prime Minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, a man Cohen respects more than admires. But the Zapatero story is an oft repeated chorus. Today, most of the world dislikes us.
I say that because the McCain campaign's latest strategy seems to be to urge the American electorate to distrust this strange, half-black, half-white, Hawaii-raised and Indonesian-educated short-term senator from Illinois, the guy with the Muslim name, a man who pals with terrorists. Gov. Palin's winkingly tells massive crowds, overwhelmingly white, that, really, don'tcha' ever wonder whether he's like us? There's something odd about that guy, don'tcha think?
Well, maybe there is. Maybe he's not like her at all. Or Bush. Or McCain. Maybe he's not Joe Six-pack or you're good ol' ever-lovin', flag-wavin' hockey mom. Maybe he is different.
A good friend, not an American, called me recently, and claimed he could not understand the American electorate. "Don't you understand that 60,000 people in Berlin came to hear Barack Obama, not because he was Barack Obama, but because he may just be someone who will address the world with respect? Don't Americans understand that?"
Our economic problem is not our economic problem. What is obvious in the last two weeks is that we're part of a global society. It's sheer madness to think otherwise. We need to get along in the world. It might make us feel good to draw lines in the sand, but it's lunacy. It's not smart.
There may be wonderful reasons to support John McCain, but most of the world sees his taking over--and his running mate's swagger--to be simply more of the same.
Maybe some people want that. Not me. If there's anything we don't need, it's more of the same.