Obama: Overseas Appeal

Like a lot of folks, I’m, well, intrigued by the presidential candidacy of Illinois Senator Barack Obama. I know, I know. He’s not experienced enough or specific enough. And for some, he’s not angry enough or even black enough – and probably never will be.

Enough on that for now. Neither the current president nor his predecessor could claim prior experience as a justification for holding such high office. Specifics typically aren’t necessary until primary season. The Iowa caucus is Jan. 14, 2008. The Florida primary – with or without the parceling of delegates – is Jan. 29, 2008.

Here’s what seems overridingly relevant right now about the next presidential election. Unless we figure out the role of the United States on this planet, everything else – from universal health care to capital gains tax rates – could be moot. That’s because America’s international role – and its perception by the rest of the world – directly affects our national security and our involvement in the global economy. Like never before.

Of course, the United Nations is feckless on a good day and a major chunk of Europe is, indeed, “Olde,” and too many countries give autocracy a bad name. But this is the world we’re saddled with, not the one we would dearly love to have, to paraphrase Don Rumsfeld.

But aside from Israel, Palau and Tony Blair, that world is increasingly looking askance at the U.S. as something other than a force for good and a paragon of liberty. And the Jihadi prism of fanaticism, of course, is even more distorted.

Which brings us back to Obama. It certainly helps that he’s quick-study bright and articulate, which at one time seemed prerequisites for the presidency. Think Bill Clinton without the, uh, baggage.

But he also has the most international upside — at a time when it’s never mattered more.

With his Kansas-Kenya lineage, he even looks like much of the rest of the world.

And in the midst of a civilizational war, where putative friends qualify as allies, Obama certainly has at least the potential to fix the fractured relationship between the U.S. and the rest of the world.

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