The Bush era careened into the Obama era and the world cheered. That is what we are told over and over again. The world has become a more welcome place for Americans. We have become less belligerent and the world has breathed a heavy sigh. That is indisputable, incontrovertible knowledge.
That was what I was being told at lunch the other day. My companion was not some wild-eyed leftist. In the best of times, this gentleman clings to the middle of the political spectrum. He presently has serious reservations about Obama, and believes that he is destined to be a one-term president. Yet when it comes to foreign affairs, somehow Mr. Obama is brightening our prospects around the world.
In a way my friend is correct. President Bush did not pander to public opinion in order to enhance his image. If foreign governments acted in a manner contrary to our national interest, Bush had relatively cool relations with them. Furthermore, whatever plans he may have wanted to pursue upon stepping into the Oval Office changed irrevocably on September 11, 2001.
Yet my friend was sucked into this commonly-accepted mindset. Does that mindset have any basis in reality? It depends on your reality. The demagogues of the world appear to be happier with Obama, as are the intellectual elite in Europe, most of whom shared a particular distaste for Bush. But that was only in parts of Europe.
Certainly Gerhard Schroeder and Jacques Chirac – respectively the former leaders of Germany and France – used Bush as a political soccer ball to enhance their own political positions. But they have been replaced by Angela Merkel in Germany, who enjoyed a warm relationship with Mr. Bush, and Nicolas Sarkozy in France, who seems to doubt the intellectual capacity and trustworthiness of Obama. Other close allies of President Bush included Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi as well as Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar (who was narrowly defeated for re-election after the Madrid subway bombing in 2004).