During the 2008 campaign candidate Barack Obama took a trip to Europe, ostensibly to show his foreign policy credentials and test drive his new approach to America's role in the world. Foreign nationals of course cannot vote in American elections, but the world's response - and Europe's in particular - would show us whether or not Barack Obama was the man for the job. Or so the reasoning of Obama campaign flacks seemed to.
Obama's appearance in Berlin, Germany before a massive adoring throng of European supporters wasn't about test driving his ability to meet with foreign leaders, it was to convince those Neanderthal Americans clinging to guns and religion in the red states that Obama was their ticket to global respectability.
If many Americans ignored the European side of the '08 Obama campaign they can be forgiven. After all, we're Americans and we have a tendency of doing what we pretty much well please in our politics. The international vote - a beauty pageant without legitimate electoral standing - was overwhelming behind Obama but that was hardly the reason he won.
With only 15 days left in the 2012 presidential race, Americans would do well to pay attention to the international vote for two reasons. First, the world in 2012 is arguably a more dangerous world than the one that existed in 2008. Iran is moving close to obtaining nuclear weapons; the Arab Spring has successfully dismantled a large swath of the old Middle East order; and the restless powers of Russia and China are assuming a greater role on the world stage. Second, voters can learn more about President Obama's foreign policy by looking at which world leaders are supporting him than they will likely learn in a 90-minute debate.
When Vladimir Putin, Hugo Chavez, and members of Castro's family all endorse a U.S. Presidential candidate, it would be generally good advice to pick the guy they are NOT backing. All of those leaders have chosen to endorse President Obama.
In early October, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, facing a looming election that he "won" amidst cries of voter fraud and election rigging, declared:
"If I were American, I'd vote for Obama."
He also called President Obama a "good guy" and said he would expect Obama to be in his corner if the President were Venezuelan. No evidence has surfaced of Obama posters in Caracas bearing the slogan: "I've got your back, Hugo" despite the obvious implications of such from this Administration.
Russia's Vladimir Putin cast Obama as a potential victim of his fellow American's unwillingness to be wise in the ways of world politics.
"My feeling is that he is a very honest man, and that he sincerely wants to make many good changes. But can he do it? Will they let him do it?”
Yes, sighs Putin, alas, American democracy is not as robust as a Russian oligarchy led by a former KGB operative.
Marielo Castro, niece of Fidel and daughter of current Cuban president Raul, has also endorsed Obama on the basis of his good intentions. France's new Socialist Party President Francois Hollande quipped that maybe he should back Romney because he knows that a Socialist endorsement can be the kiss of death in American politics.
America has tried nearly four years of a foreign policy premised on unilateral apologies issued by a man who refuses to believe in the singular exceptionalism of the American experiment. Tough world leaders may praise intentions, but they don't reward them; they use them, leverage them for their own purposes.
Foreign policy is not a community organizer's game. It calls for someone with courage, purpose, a definite vision, and a willingness to lead. America cannot continue to be the leader of the free world with a President who refuses to believe in the capacity of free men and women to live free from a government that dictates and defines nearly every part of their life.