Popularity on the Cheap

Carol Platt Liebau
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Posted: Sep 23, 2009 5:33 PM
As the UK Telegraph's Nile Gardiner points out, it's easy for the President to be "popular" in a world still seething with anti-Americanism: Just keep apologizing for your country.  Hence, he today told the UN, "America has too often been selective in its promotion of democracy."  Really?  Relative to whom?

Not surprisingly, the President's speech waxed lyrical about the promise of collective action -- and contained the predictable self-congratulation for the "the concrete actions we have taken in just nine months."  But what's interesting is that he seems to project a warmth and approval for international action, multilateral talks, blah, blah, blah, blah that one doesn't ever detect in any of his comments restricted to the USA or Americans alone.

In fact, the President seemed to  be working hard to give away America's pre-eminent place in the world, struggling mightily to define America as no worse -- and certainly no better -- than anyone else.  Witness his admonition that, "Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world's problems alone."   Whatever that kind of rhetoric suggests, it sure isn't any sense of American exceptionalism.

Ultimately, it's easy to mouth high-minded words.  It's easy to win popularity on the cheap by saying all the "right" things to please an audience that's largely hostile to America.  But when the speechifying is over, only two questions remain:  Because of a President's leadership, is he any more likely to attain his objectives in the world?  And are those objectives consistent with those of the American people?  I guess we'll see.

Final comment . . . Most ironic phrase in the address: Speeches alone will not solve our problems. 

And Obama's equivalent of Nixon's "I am not a crook" moment: I am not naive

Well, time will tell about that last one.