As an American living overseas I am consistently amazed at how much support Obama generates among foreigners. He’s incredibly popular among people who are in no way able to actually vote for him. Some may point to this as one of Obama’s greatest assets, that he is able to put America on sold ground again with the rest of the world. But this is an incorrect assertion for a few reasons.
First, the President of the United States is not representative of Americans as a whole. If this were true then every American is a born again Christian who advocates preemptive strikes against anyone who looks at them funny. This goes the other way as well, not every Iranian is hell bent on acquiring nuclear weapons and spurning the Western world.
Second, as the Economist as rightly pointed out, a Muslim name does not necessarily equal bold leadership skills. It will take more than just an appearance of diversity to correct the festering foreign policy mistakes of the last eight years. And certainly if Obama’s stance towards Pakistan is any indication of the kind of foreign policy he espouses then I am afraid we may have a much longer road ahead.
Finally, I think it’s important to point out that the people who are using foreign support of Obama to promote his credentials as a future commander-in-chief to a domestic audience are wasting their time. Any voters who believe Obama will be able to heal America’s image abroad are already in Obama’s camp, those people on the fence are not going to be swayed by what a Danish or French citizen thinks of our elected officials. And rightly so. The President is not just concerned with foreign policy, domestic policy takes up a good deal of him time as well. It was general discontent with the economy that unseated George H.W. Bush, despite near universal acclaim among voters for his handling of the first Gulf War and it was domestic stumble after domestic stumble (Katrina, Miers, immigration, social security) that brought the current President Bush’s opinion polls to historic lows and certainly contributed to the election of a Democratic controlled Congress.
Foreign opinion certainly matters, but it doesn’t win elections.