Thursday, April 19, 2007

Help Wanted

Friedman with two spot-on points: a) How widely hated this administration is around the world -- and the enormous damage this does to our national interests:

As I travel around, I have never seen a president and a vice president more disliked in more places than George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Some of the animus arises from an attitude they project of not caring much about what the world thinks. Some of it is spawned by Bush-Cheney policies toward Iraq, Kyoto or the Geneva Conventions. Some of it is unfair: President Bush, for instance, has been at the forefront in combating H.I.V.-AIDS in Africa. And some is nonsense: foreigners blaming America for their own ills. (It annoys me no end to read about how China is now more popular in Asia than America — China, which censors Google and has supported a Sudanese regime engaged in mass murder in Darfur.)

But in some ways, that's the point: The Bush-Cheney team, by its own hand, has undermined its ability to talk about American principles in a way that foreigners will take seriously. They have moral clarity and no moral authority. Foreigners just have to say "Abu Ghraib" or "Guantánamo," and that ends the discussion. It also lets the foreigners off the hook.

And b) How Obama becoming President is our best hope to reverse this:
when was the last time you saw a U.S. president or politician being held up as a role model abroad? It's been awhile. And that got me thinking about Mr. Obama. It seems to me that the strongest case one could make for an Obama presidency right now is rarely articulated: it is his potential to repair the broken relationship between America and the world...

I think Mr. Obama has the potential to force a new discussion. For now at least, he has a certain moral authority because of his life story, which makes him harder to dismiss. And while he is a good talker, he strikes me as an even better listener. It's amazing what people will let you say to them, if you just listen to them first.

April 18, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist

Help Wanted

While in Kenya last week, my wife, Ann, a teacher, visited Mukuru-Kayaba Primary School in a Nairobi slum, where the U.S. helps finance a lunch program that keeps kids coming to class. When she returned from the school visit, she remarked to me that there was a poster on the wall of the school showing Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, during their visit to Kenya last August. The poster said: The Obamas know their H.I.V. status. Do you know yours? The senator and his wife had volunteered to be tested while in Nairobi.


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