I did not vote for the man who today becomes the 44th president of the United States, and in fact, advocated for his opponent. But I am not immune to the happiness of those who did support him, particularly African-Americans, and -- to slice it a little thinner -- particularly older African-Americas who actually lived through the contempt and cruelty of Jim Crow America. I do not for minute deny the symbolic greatness of the moment, and despite my wariness of President Obama's policies, it makes me happy to see so many of my fellow Americans in a celebratory, patriotic mood. (If the shoe were on the other foot, however, I doubt that they would reciprocate these sentiments.)
That much having been said, it would be salutary in the midst of all this effervescence to reflect that many of the difficulties faced by the United States are not -- the left's animadversions notwithstanding -- the fault of George W. Bush. It is, for example, nearly universally agreed that America's supposed unpopularity in the world will be erased by the simple fact of Barack Obama raising his right hand and swearing to uphold the Constitution.
Well, the Obama ascendancy may make the U.S. more popular in Europe -- though our unpopularity there has been overstated. The most influential nations in Europe elected or re-elected Bush allies during his two terms in office, including Silvio Berlusconi in Italy, Tony Blair in Great Britain, Angela Merkel in Germany and Nicolas Sarkozy in France. In other hemispheres, Canada elected Stephen Harper, and Australia (hats off please for one of our most stalwart allies) re-elected John Howard.
Still, let's concede that for many Europeans, George W. Bush's style was off-putting. The Texas swagger that many of us (though not all to be sure) regard as an amusing regionalism, they found obnoxious. The same cannot be said for our enemies. It wasn't a matter of Bush's style, or his accent or his political party.
Let's not delude ourselves, America's enemies remain our enemies. They were not George W. Bush's personal hate club (that distinction belongs to others, like the BBC and The New York Times).
Consider that all the good will in the world doesn't cut any ice with Hizbollah, one of Iran's terrorist proxies currently controlling a swath of Lebanon. Just last month, former President Jimmy Carter traveled to Lebanon hoping to meet with the leaders of Hizbollah. Carter sought this meeting despite Hizbollah's long record of murder and terror (including the deaths of 243 United States Marines). They gave him the back of their hand. Carter was disappointed.
In the final days of the transition, Obama gave an interview to Univision in which he mentioned that Hugo Chavez's Venezuela "has been a force that has interrupted progress in the region." He also mentioned that Chavez, a Castro acolyte, has been funding the FARC in Colombia, the revolutionary insurgency that has engaged in a terror campaign including murder and kidnapping. "We need to be firm," said President Obama, "when we see this news that Venezuela is exporting terrorist activities or supporting malicious entities like the FARC. This creates problems that are not acceptable."
Well, Chavez was not happy. "No one should say that I threw the first stone at Obama. He threw it at me " In 2006, Chavez made world headlines by saying of President Bush during an appearance at the United Nations, "The devil came here yesterday. And it smells of sulfur still today." Last week, responding to President Obama, Chavez said "I hope I am wrong, but I believe Obama brings the same stench, to not say another word."
What inflamed Chavez? It wasn't the cowboy boots or the Texas twang or the "go it alone" arrogance of George W. Bush. It was the truth. Was it an accident that Obama took such a firm line against Chavez, or was he ensuring that he will never be obliged to live up to his unfortunate campaign promise to meet personally with America's enemies?
As for Hizbollah, Iran, Hamas, al-Qaida, even, to a degree Russia, they have their own reasons to be hostile to us and to our interests. The new occupant at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. won't make a particle of difference to their implacable enmity or menace.