Apropos, this week I heard Sen. Ted Cruz on Hannity's show after a senatorial junket; Cruz was talking about anonymous "whispers" from foreigners asking, "What has happened to America?" On Fox and talk radio it's practically gospel that America's global popularity is in decline thanks to Obama.
So Beinart reminds us of the facts:
For more than a decade, the Pew Research Center has been asking people around the world about their opinion of the United States. The upshot: In every region of the globe except the Middle East (where the United States was wildly unpopular under George W. Bush and remains so), America’s favorability is way up since Obama took office. In Spain, approval of the United States is 29 percentage points higher than when Bush left office. In Italy, it’s up 23 points. In Germany and France, it’s 22. With the exception of China, where the numbers have remained flat, the trend is the same in Asia. The U.S. is 19 points more popular in Japan, 24 points more popular in Indonesia, and 28 points more popular in Malaysia. Likewise among the biggest powers in Latin America and Africa: Approval of the United States has risen 19 points in Argentina and 12 points in South Africa.
Indeed, "the guy in the White House retains a personal brand that outshines America’s as a whole:"
Again, the numbers come from Pew, which has been asking people in key countries every year whether they have “confidence” in America’s president to “do the right thing in world affairs.” Obama’s popularity is down since 2009. Still, in Mexico and Argentina, the president’s 2013 numbers (the most recent we have) are 33 percentage points higher than Bush’s in 2008. In South Korea, the margin is 47 points. In Japan, it’s 45 points. In Brazil, it’s 52 points. In Britain, it’s 56 points. In France, it’s 70 points. In Germany, it’s 74 points.In case you’re reading quickly, 74 points isn’t Obama’s approval rating in Germany. It’s the gap between his approval rating and Bush’s. In George W.’s final year in office, 14 percent of Germans had faith that the president of the United States would do the right thing internationally. Last year, 88 percent did.
The conservative comeback to this overwhelming evidence is that world leaders are turning against Obama and America, even if foreigners aren't. Well, that's almost impossible to measure or substantiate; as are Cruz's alleged "whispers."
But this gets back to my point made long ago that the U.S. should be more concerned what the people in other countries think of us. If indeed these countries are democratic, then that's what ultimately matters. And even in the countries that aren't democratic -- there tends to be a disturbing overlap of anti-American terrorism with autocracy, especially in the Mideast and North Africa.
Not to say that the job of commander-in-chief is to be popular, but... it's certainly not to be unpopular abroad. That only hurts us among our allies and adversaries alike.
And then there's the last line of anti-Obama defense: "But Obama doesn't deserve to be so popular; he hasn't done anything!" That may be true, it's debatable. But maybe it's more about what he hasn't done or said, and what he has said. Future U.S. presidents, take note!
Regardless, if this is the international bonus that we get by having Obama in office, let's not look a gift horse in the mouth! Let's be happy and accept it! To feel otherwise is just bitter partisanship.
By Peter Beinart
May 30, 2014 | The Atlantic