Would Electing Obama or McCain have the Most Impact On Improving the U.S. Image Around the World?
When I realized that this global image problem was the key reason that I was planning to vote for Senator Obama, I wondered if that was just my viewpoint. Was this a valid idea or an idea that other people shared?
I decided to ask acquaintances and friends who were born in other countries or who were steeped in another culture this question, in order to explore an international consensus…. or not.
I set out to find out, first with my friend who lives in Luxemburg. For over 30 years she has owned and managed an empire of department stores in Luxemburg. She has a capitalist’s vested interest in world affairs. A lovely blonde woman who wears her authority like a magician’s cloak, Marie Antoinette Scholer answered my question immediately and forcefully. She had obviously already given this some thought.
Her reply, “It is going to take a lot to change that image! I do not know which of them would be better. When I listen to the debates, they both sound like they are saying the same thing. It is not the American people, we Europeans are angry and disappointed with, it is the politics. “
I replied, “But politics are decided by people. We can change the politics by changing the people making those decisions.”
“That’s true,” she replied, her tone somewhat skeptical.
I asked, “ What is your opinion of Obama?”
“I have questions about him. Is he politically knowledgeable? Does he know about diplomacy and the way politics work in the states? Politics is a rat’s race. There are rat traps. You have to weave your way through them. He’s very green. Is he tough enough?
Your presidency is not for sissies. You have to be tough as nails. He’s intelligent, but…..Is he willing to sack people who are not doing their jobs?”
These are all good questions, and I am not sure of the correct answers. If the answers to these are all “yes-s”, then Marie Antoinette thinks he would be good at his job. None of her responses actually answered my question about improving our global image. I came away from the interaction with the feeling that she thought it was doubtful that we can improve our image by one election, no matter who wins.
The next person for the interview is Carlos Suarez, who has a Stanford University Ph. D. and is from Venezuela. He is passionate about Venezuelan politics, so I was sure he had an opinion on this. Being bi-lingual, he was able to teach our interpersonal skills seminar to non-English speaking parents of school children all around the Bay area. Carlos has spent some time in Mexico,but returned recently. His words tumbled out fast. His voice was full of emotion as he answered these questions.
Carlos’s answer, “ Obama would be better for the international community’s view of the US. America talks multi-cultural, but doesn’t always walk it. The US should act out the principles of democracy in specific ways. This is very important. Obama is a consensus builder. That is very welcome to have in a democracy.
I would also like to see the end of 8 years of cowboy diplomacy.
In my opinion, most of the world would like to see a match of idealistic democratic principles and specific actions.”
My friend, Lilia Shirman, is a Business Development Consultant in the San Francisco Bay Area, was born in Odessa in the Ukraine, but came to the US as a pre-teen.
Lilia’s answer: “I don’t know. People love to hate the US because we are better off than they are. Bush has been deadly for our global image. McCain would send the message of ‘tough’. Obama would send the message of ‘go along with’ and be ‘UN compliant.’
It depends on who is viewing us. Obama is seen as ‘nicer’ but will be viewed with less respect than McCain. Russia and the former Russian countries would respect McCain more than Obama because he does come through as ‘tough’. The Arabs only understand force and strength. They do not respect compliance and agreement.
The Europeans would be happy with Obama, but the Arabs need to perceive us as ‘tough’; that’s what they understand. I find it strange that Obama must know this about the Arabs, but still he talks about negotiating and agreements. “
Next, I phoned Al Ikemoto, who is Japanese by culture though born in Northern California at one of the re-location camps for Japanese during the Second World War. His Father had been born in Sacramento but raised back in Japan, so Al is second generation American but still enmeshed in his Japanese heritage. Al is a Martial Arts expert who has trained hundreds of policemen during his long career. He is now partially retired, but he and his wife are raising two grand-children, one just turned 2 and the other 3 and one half.
Somehow, the question changed as the words came out of my mouth. My question for Al was phrased as, “ Would Obama or McCain have the greatest impact on the US global image?”
He answered my question with a question, “Positive or negative?”
“Either way, ” I answered.
“In the long run, Obama would have a negative impact on our global image, except in the Muslim countries. There it would be positive.”
We talked a bit, then he finished with, “Obama is still pretty green.”
Nina Moore is an expert in Real Estate in the San Francisco Bay area. She was born in Egypt and grew up in Cairo. She arrived in the US in her twenties. Nina reminds me of the bust of Queen Nefertiti. Her black hair is swept back and up as if she is wearing a dynasty crown as does the Queen. She still has relatives in Egypt; some of her in-laws are Muslims, so I was focused on hearing her emphatic reply:
“Definitely! Obama would have a positive impact because of his diversity and his philosophy, which is to sit down and talk. How on earth can you find a solution for differences if you are not willing to find out what the other group wants?”
Lena Osher, MD, a practicing children’s psychiatrist from Russia who still carries a slight Russian accent, answered quickly, because she had a patient waiting upstairs.
“I think Obama would have a bigger impact on America’s image. There are too many variables to know whether it would be positive or negative. It depends on the position of the person judging.” She jumped up and disappeared upstairs.
Deepika Bajaj arrived in the US approximately ten years ago, from India, worked in New York for a time then came to the San Francisco Bay area. She founded a successful web site, Invincibelle.com, for women in business making the transition from one culture to another.
Deepika responded, “Obama makes a better candidate to improve the image of US globally. He has consistently emphasized on diplomacy and has touched on a crucial factor about the war - if we are looking for Osama then why are we in Iraq? This resonates with the international community. Also, Obama's story is a true American story and would boost America's image, it would give people a sense of the promise of America, the ‘land of opportunities’ type of story.”
I did not interview Colin Powell, but over the weekend he gave his answer to my question in a TV interview. The former Secretary of State seems to have switched parties from Republican to Democrat, when said he was voting for Obama and that the next administration would have “to fix the reputation that we’ve left with the rest of the world.”
My other culture steeped interviewees did not all agree with me, but
Colin Powell and I are definitely on the same page.