Losing the Global Popularity Contest
By BRET STEPHENS
September 12, 2008; Page W11
Told he had the support of « every thinking person » for his second presidential bid in 1956, Democrat Adlai Stevenson famously replied: « That’s not enough, madam. We need a majority! » It’s a line that springs to mind in this presidential season, amid polls and reports that the current Democratic contender from Illinois has the support of just about every non-American interested in our politics.
The latest data come courtesy of the BBC, which commissioned a survey of 23,531 people in 22 countries for their views about the U.S. election. The not-so-astounding result: Barack Obama is the favorite in all 22 countries. The Illinois Democrat’s numbers are especially striking in Britain (where he leads Republican John McCain by a 59% to 9% margin, with the rest not expressing a preference) and Canada (66% to 14%). They also hold up in China (35% to 15%), Egypt (26% to 13%), Brazil (51% to 8%) and, of course, France (69% to 6%). Broad majorities in most countries also believe an Obama administration would do more than a McCain one to heal America’s relations with the wider world.
But here’s a question: Should we — that is, voting-age Americans — care?
Four years ago, John Kerry made a pitch that we should. « I’ve met with foreign leaders who can’t go out and say this publicly, » he said. « But, boy, they look at you and say: ‘You’ve got to win this. You’ve got to beat this guy. We need a new policy.’ Things like that. » Though it seems that the only foreign leader Mr. Kerry met leading up to that comment was the prime minister of New Zealand, it was certainly true that, like Mr. Obama, Mr. Kerry was widely preferred by foreign publics in almost every country except Israel. Too bad for him that none of those countries got to cast an electoral vote.
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