"It's conceivable," said then-presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008, "that there are those in the Arab world who say to themselves, 'This is a guy who spent some time in the Muslim world, has a middle name of Hussein, and appears more worldly and has called for talks with people, and so he's not going to be engaging in the same sort of cowboy diplomacy as George Bush.'"
A 2008 Zogby International poll surveyed those in the "friendly" Arab countries of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Eighty-three percent viewed the United States "somewhat" or "very" unfavorably.
Enter President Barack Hussein Obama, a man with a keen and learned understanding of the Arab world -- a man who promised to restore our image through outreach based on mutual respect and understanding. Bush, Obama believed, governed with a swagger and aggressiveness that alienated friends and hardened the hearts of enemies. To forge a "new beginning" and find "common ground," Obama apologized for America's "mistakes."
Candidate Obama said Bush offended would-be allies in the "good war," Afghanistan, by diverting resources to the "stupid" war, Iraq. After winding down the war in Iraq, Obama expected that allies committed to Afghanistan would stay and that new ones would join. He would close down the American "gulag," Guantanamo, and reverse the offensive, civil rights-subverting policies of the Bush administration. He would fight not a "war on terror," but an "overseas contingency operation."
Ronald Reagan became president at 69 years of age, having lived long enough to shed naive notions of hope and change. Reagan called the Soviet Union an "evil empire" -- and acted accordingly. He increased military spending, launched the Strategic Defense Initiative and, along with like-minded leaders British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II, helped consign the totalitarian regime to, as Reagan put it, the "ash heap of history."
Jimmy Carter urged Americans to ditch our "inordinate fear of communism." President Carter kissed Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev on the cheek to show his desire, as the Obama administration would put it, to "reset" the relationship. Brezhnev returned the kindness by invading Afghanistan, igniting a chain of events that essentially led to 9/11.
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