Editor's Note: This column was coauthored by Bob Morrison.
Before he became a China scholar, our friend Steve Mosher was an engineer. He likes to say that if you are an engineer whose bridges collapse or whose highways break up, you’re likely to lose your Professional Engineer’s license. But if you are a social scientist, or a history professor and all your ideas collapse under the weight of evidence, you get tenure. And if you are a liberal journalist who gets it all spectacularly wrong, you get promoted.
Andrew Sullivan is a case in point. He waxed lyrical about the Advent of Barack Obama. Even better than the Age of Aquarius, the Age of Obama would stop terrorists dead in their tracks. Here’s a famous paragraph of Andrew Sullivan in full gush mode:
Consider this hypothetical. It’s November 2008. A young Pakistani Muslim is watching television and sees that this man—Barack Hussein Obama—is the new face of America. In one simple image, America’s soft power has been ratcheted up not a notch, but a logarithm. A brown-skinned man whose father was an African, who grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii, who attended a majority-Muslim school as a boy, is now the alleged enemy. If you wanted the crudest but most effective weapon against the demonization of America that fuels Islamist ideology, Obama’s face gets close. It proves them wrong about what America is in ways no words can.
We elected Barack Obama president in November 2008. And those young Pakistanis all swooned, right? They made sure to wear some flowers in their hair as Islamabad vied with San Francisco to host a summer of love.
Not so much. In the Year Four of the Age of Obama, only seven percent of Pakistanis had confidence in the American president. They must not be watching enough TV. The PEW poll ofinternational attitudes toward President Obama last spring showed some more dismal results. President Obama’s standing in Pakistan may have been a chilly 7% but he was little better thought of in these Muslim-majority lands:
Lebanon: 39% Egypt 29% Tunisia 28% Turkey 24% Jordan 22%
Interestingly, America’s president seems to register warmer feelings—though still below freezing level—in those Muslim-majority lands to whom we do not give foreign aid. Is that a clue? If we cut them all off, would we see a rebound of U.S. respect from the locals.
That was the PEW International poll and last spring. More recently, we see this headline: