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Andrew Sullivan's Atlantic Error

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

In liberals’ frenzy to elect Barack Obama in 2008, no one was quite as far out to sea as Andrew Sullivan, a respected columnist for the Atlantic website. He served up his “Daily Dish” by the plateful. Here’s perhaps the hottest example of his rhetoric—quoted endlessly around the blogosphere--back then:

“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.”

I wish we could find that young Pakistani today. It would be most interesting to have him chat up Andrew Sullivan on the sea change in his country’s attitudes toward America’s most effective weapon in international relations, a President Barack Obama.

Last year, the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project showed that Pakistan’s attitude toward the U.S. seemed to worsen the more foreign aid we sent to them. In 2010, American aid topped $1.33 billion, but then only 17% of Pakistanis held a favorable view of America.

That was, of course, before we found Osama bin Laden comfortably ensconced just outside the gates of Pakistan’s military academy. And no one in all of Pakistan had a clue he was there.

This year, after Mr. Obama brought bin Laden to justice—quite rightly in my view—and literally deep-sixed the remains in the Indian Ocean, the Pew Researchers last week reported that America is approved by just 12% of Pakistanis. Haven’t they been watching their televisions? It would be hard to avoid Mr. Obama’s handsome image on the tube.

But it’s not just Pakistan where America’s image is taking a beating. Recall Great Britain. In 2000, 80% of Britons approved the U.S. Today, Pew tells us, just 61% do. Maybe Mr. Obama should ask for Sir Winston’s bust back. Thousands turned out in 2008 in Berlin to cheer wildly for Sen. Obama. In 2000, 78% of Germans liked the U.S.; today, only 62% approve. In strategic Turkey, 52% of this NATO partner’s people approved America in 2000; today, that level has fallen precipitously to 10%. This is doubtless a reflection of the ongoing radicalization of this once reliable U.S. ally.

Even in Indonesia, where Mr. Obama spent part of his boyhood, the U.S. support has declined from 75% to 64%. And in Kenya, where Barack Obama has family ties, backing of the United States has fallen off from 94% to 83%.

Russia, interestingly, is more supportive of the U.S. today than it was in 2000. That may be because President Bill Clinton was bombing Russia’s Slavic ally, Serbia, in 1999, and today we are paying for the modernization of Russia’s obsolete nuclear stockpile. Russians probably also appreciated the fact that when the Obama administration caught ten Russian spies here, we sent them home on the next first class flight and didn’t even let TSA manhandle them.

Liberals made much of the supposed unpopularity of the United States in the world community and blamed President George W. Bush for that. They claimed that Bush’s “Texas swagger,” his “I’m the decider” comments, and his Bush Doctrine were to blame for a negative U.S. image in the world.

Just give us President Obama and the sun will come up tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar.

They got that bottom dollar part right. We gave billions in foreign aid in the only shovel-ready projects this administration could find. Obama is giving our money to the UN Fund for Population Affairs and to International Planned Parenthood. These outfits are heavily implicated in forced abortion and compulsory sterilizations in the Third World.

Mr. Obama has bowed to desert despots and apologized the world over for American Exceptionalism, and yet we still see America’s image abroad suffering. Take Mexico, whose president was applauded by liberals as he attacked Arizona rhetorically from the well of the U.S. House of Representatives, we’ve gone from 68% approval to just 52%.

It’s late in the president’s term to learn this, but it is better to be respected than to be loved. In doing nothing to gain their respect, we find we are not loved either.

Liberals were horrified by Ronald Reagan, but his unabashed love for America’s unique position in the world, his standing firm with great U.S. allies, like Britain, Israel, and Canada, his emphasis on American strength and resolve, all managed to make us respected and admired in the world. When the Berlin Wall finally came down, they all ran toward Reagan’s shining city on a hill.

It’s not too late. Mr. Obama can work to repair our relations with Britain, Canada, and Israel. He can pursue America’s enemies, as he successfully did with Osama bin Laden, and he can once again raise the banner of American Exceptionalism. The world needs our leadership.

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