Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Can he help us heal?

I came out as a Barack Obama convert in February, much to the dismay of some of my feminist friends who were pulling for Hillary's history-making run as a woman.

Hillary, however, voted for the Iraq War. Who knows what Obama would have done if he'd been in her place? However, he wasn't. He's in a much better position to hammer home his differences with Bush & Co.

The last eight years have wreaked havoc on the U.S.'s world-wide reputation. Too many people hate us, fear us--and for what? A war designed to enrich Bush & Cheney's corporate friends in the face of killing, maiming and displacing millions of human beings. If we elect Barack Obama, Americans are telling the world that we don't support this.

Along those lines, look at what this New York Times piece says about foreign reaction to Obama's clinching the nomination:

Indeed, for many, the idea of an African-American in the White House for the first time seemed a concept that could potentially presage a profound shift in America’s sense of itself.

Gerard Baker, the U.S. editor of The Times of London, wrote: “In 220 years a country that has steadily multiplied in diversity, where ethnic minorities and women have risen to the very highest positions in so many fields of human life, has chosen a succession of 42 white men as its leader. For good measure, the vice presidency, the only other nationally directly elected position in the US government, has been held by a succession of 46 white males.”

“But last night, in a tumultuous break with this long history, the ultimate realization of the American dream moved a little closer, and a black man became his party’s nominee for the presidency,” Mr. Baker wrote.

Ségolène Royal, President Nicolas Sarkozy’s Socialist rival in last year’s French presidential election, called Mr. Obama’s candidacy “a historic choice.”

“He embodies the America of today and tomorrow,” she said Wednesday. Ms. Royal, who attended an Obama rally in Boston on Feb. 1, said his consistent opposition to the war in Iraq could help mend America’s battered image in the world. “He had a lucid judgment of the war in Iraq.”
. . .

“It should bring a good change in relations with Pakistan” should he win the presidency, said Munaway Akhtar, a prominent lawyer specializing in international arbitration in the capital, Islamabad. “Pakistan has always been friendly to the United States but the people have never benefited, the rulers have always benefited. Hopefully, that would change with Obama.”

There was a prevailing sentiment, he said, that Mr. Obama would better serve Pakistan’s interests. “If Obama would become president there would be a push for democracy in Pakistan.”

A former senior Pakistani diplomat, who was briefly ambassador to the United States, Tariq Fatemi, said that Mr. Obama’s “idealism” struck a chord with Pakistanis.

“Barack Obama would do very well in improving the image of the United States. He would position the United States more as a force for moral values rather than for brute force,” he said.

That sense of optimism emerged in Hong Kong’s financial district.
“I feel his image is younger, fresher and more energetic, with no baggage and a shorter history,” said Richard Law, 50, a lawyer.

Across Europe, Mr. Obama’s announcement was seen through the prism of national interest. In Kosovo, whose birth as an independent country in February won strong support from the United States, political observers said that both Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain would be embraced by the territory’s ethnic Albanian majority, since both supported Kosovo’s self-determination.

In Denmark, which supported the invasion of Iraq before withdrawing its troops amid a growing domestic backlash, Matias Seidelin, the political editor of the newspaper Politiken, said Mr. Obama was widely seen as the candidate who could repair America’s damaged reputation.

“Obama is viewed a multilateralist who favors dialogue in his foreign policy,” he said.

Mr. Seidelin said Mr. Obama’s s multiethnic background could foster understanding between cultures in the United States and other countries.

In Germany, where newspapers and broadcasters have been fascinated by the United States election campaign, several politicians and commentators have referred to Mr. Obama as the new John F. Kennedy, expressing fervent hope that he will be make it to the White House not only because of his youth and background but also as radical departure from the Bush administration.

Reinhardt Bütikofer, leader of Germany’s Green Party, said the election was of crucial importance for democracy. “I think this is a major historical moment,” he said. “And it came about against all the odds. What is most exciting is how Obama has been able to mobilize younger voters. This is one of the most important aspects. He can always be proud of that.”

The enthusiasm was also clear among conservative politicians, such as Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, the foreign policy spokesman for the Christian Social Union, the sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats.

If Mr. Obama becomes president, “a transatlantic honeymoon will take place which will reach its climax at the next NATO summit which will be held both in Germany and France. We will reach a new peak of transatlantic romanticism,” he said.

“The dreams of Germans are connected with a renaissance of multilateralism, to which Obama is committed.”

In Brussels, Jan Marinus Wiersma, vice president of the Socialist Group, which has 216 seats in the European Parliament, was equally exuberant: “Mr. Obama represents an agenda for change for which we in Europe are longing. We hope and expect Mr. Obama to win. This will be the start of a new era of positive cooperation between the U.S. and Europe.”

In Switzerland, Miriam Behrens, the spokesperson for Switzerland’s Green Party, said, “Among the general public there is a tendency to support Obama. He’s perceived as a person who’s very charismatic and he’s more open to a European approach to things. That’s very much appreciated here.”

Some Europeans expressed caution about the outcome of the November election. “It’s clear that to affirm this change, there would have to be a victory in November, which isn’t at all certain,” said Mario Del Pero, who teaches American history at the University of Bologna in Italy. But Margherita Boniver, of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Party of Freedom, said an Obama victory in November “would be a moment of great liberation, of the overcoming of many millenary prejudices” whose impact would spread to the entire world.

Nikos Karahalios, a top strategist of the ruling New Democracy Party in Greece, said the government in Athens “isn’t playing the Republican or Democratic card game. But Greece, a small country struggling to make its mark in international affairs, has always had a history of siding by the underdog. That’s what Obama is. That’s why he’s appealing to the Greeks.”
He also evoked expectations that Mr. Obama could soften the anti-Americanism that has flowed from the Iraq war. “How well Mr. Obama rebrands America is crucial for Greece. It will determine how Greeks position themselves vis-à-vis the United States,” Mr. Karahalios said.

The American campaign has been closely followed in Baghdad, where politicians have tended to judge their American counterparts by reference to their stance on and knowledge of the Iraq war.

In a telephone interview Wednesday, Mahmoud Othman, a prominent member of Kurdish alliance in Parliament, said: “It is a matter related to the American people. I have preferred Clinton to be the candidate because she is more concerned about the Iraqi issue and the Kurdish issue especially. In general, I think it is good for the Americans because they want a change. They want a new administration since Obama represents the youth and he wants change.”

And since Obama is now the nominee, here's a poem in honor of him:


appalcart said...
I think Obama put his Illinois senate race on the line when he went on record to oppose the Iraq war. He was speaking at anit-war rallies.

Collin Kelley said...

I hope he makes Hillary VP. They'll go all the way.

Kate Evans said...

Thanks for the video links, cuz. I knew he'd been outspoken against the war, but I still am not sure given the post 9-11 patriotic ferver if he would have voted against it as a senator. Still, it's heartening to see he apparently saw through the b.s. from the beginning.

Collin: Do you really think he'll choose Hill?? I'm curious what others think of the plusses and minuses of that move. Maybe I'll do an entry on it...

appalcart said...

Don't pick a VP for just political reasons but folks with experience and integrity.

I think Hillary is a poor choice for him for several reasons. Bill, for one. Of course I want women to hold high offices but somehow Hillary's just not my gal. Secondly, I don't think she's truthful.

I think Obama needs to chose a VP candidate such as an elderly-statesman type, the democratic version of John McCain, yeah an old white guy. One that has the foreign affairs/military chops. Also, hint at a Colin Powell for Secretary of State.

Obama needs to surround himself with folks of much experience and folks the American people aleady know they can trust. To suggest - "OK, I may not have the experience but I do have the good judgement to surround myself with folks of experience and integrity."

I've personally liked Obama since I saw him campaigning for the US House. Most importantly though, he has shown the ability to get the young people interested in this campaign. And hey, if the foreign leaders respect him and show an interest in working with him, that's another reason he has my vote. VIVA Obama!