It has taken just eighteen months, but the world generally seems to have decided that President Obama is a failure. A quick sampling of views and opinions follows.
Firstly, Mort Zuckerman, writing in US News and World Report:
President Obama came into office as the heir to a great foreign policy legacy enjoyed by every recent U.S. president. Why? Because the United States stands on top of the power ladder, not necessarily as the dominant power, but certainly as the leading one. As such we are the sole nation capable of exercising global leadership on a whole range of international issues from security, trade, and climate to counterterrorism. We also benefit from the fact that most countries distrust the United States far less than they distrust one another, so we uniquely have the power to build coalitions. As a result, most of the world still looks to Washington for help in their region and protection against potential regional threats.
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Yet, the Iraq war lingers; Afghanistan continues to be immersed in an endless cycle of tribalism, corruption, and Islamist resurgence; Guantánamo remains open; Iran sees how North Korea toys with Obama and continues its programs to develop nuclear weapons and missiles; Cuba spurns America's offers of a greater opening; and the Palestinians and Israelis find that it is U.S. policy positions that defer serious negotiations, the direct opposite of what the Obama administration hoped for.
The reviews of Obama's performance have been disappointing. He has seemed uncomfortable in the role of leading other nations, and often seems to suggest there is nothing special about America's role in the world. The global community was puzzled over the pictures of Obama bowing to some of the world's leaders and surprised by his gratuitous criticisms of and apologies for America's foreign policy under the previous administration of George W. Bush. One Middle East authority, Fouad Ajami, pointed out that Obama seems unaware that it is bad form and even a great moral lapse to speak ill of one's own tribe while in the lands of others.
Even in Britain, for decades our closest ally, the talk in the press—supported by polls—is about the end of the "special relationship" with America. French President Nicolas Sarkozy openly criticized Obama for months, including a direct attack on his policies at the United Nations. Sarkozy cited the need to recognize the real world, not the virtual world, a clear reference to Obama's speech on nuclear weapons. When the French president is seen as tougher than the American president, you have to know that something is awry. Vladimir Putin of Russia has publicly scorned a number of Obama's visions. Relations with the Chinese leadership got off to a bad start with the president's poorly-organized visit to China, where his hosts treated him disdainfully and prevented him from speaking to a national television audience of the Chinese people. The Chinese behavior was unprecedented when compared to visits by other U.S. presidents.
America right now appears to be unreliable to traditional friends, compliant to rivals, and weak to enemies. One renowned Asian leader stated recently at a private dinner in the United States, "We in Asia are convinced that Obama is not strong enough to confront his opponents, but we fear that he is not strong enough to support his friends."
Nowhere has the tide against Obama turned so dramatically than in the UK. Niles Gardiner, writing in The Telegraph calls him the most unpopular man in Britain.
What a difference 18 months and an oil spill makes. In January 2009 Barack Obama was hugely popular on this side of the Atlantic, and could have walked on water in the eyes of the British media, the political elites, and the general public. In June 2010 however he probably qualifies as the most despised US president since Nixon among the British people. In fact you can’t open a London paper at this time without reading yet another fiery broadside against a leader who famously boasted of restoring “America’s standing” in the world.
When even Obama’s most ardent political supporters in Britain, including Boris Johnson, are on the offensive against the White House, you know the president’s halo has dramatically slipped. It’s hard to believe that any politician could become more disliked in the UK than Gordon Brown, but Barack Obama is achieving that in spades. And as Janet Daley noted of the British press, the love affair with Barack is well and truly over.
The key catalyst for rising anti-Obama sentiment in the UK has been his disastrous handling of the BP issue, and his relentless desire to crush Britain’s biggest company. There is no doubting BP’s responsibility over the Gulf oil disaster, and it is right that the firm is being held to account for its failures. But the brutal, almost sadistic trashing of BP by the imperious Obama administration, which has helped wipe out about half its value, threatens its very future, as well as the pensions of 18 million British people and the jobs of 29,000 Americans. There is now the very real danger of the bankrupting of a great British enterprise, and the prospect even of a Chinese or Russian takeover.
Instead of adopting a constructive, statesmanlike approach, Barack Obama’s decision to launch a “boot on the throat” campaign, while adopting a thinly veiled Brit-bashing agenda, has generated significant bad blood in America’s closest ally. At the same time, the president has inexplicably rejected offers of help from the UK and an array of European countries, no doubt out of both pride and protectionism.
As I wrote previously, we are witnessing one of the worst exercises in public diplomacy by a US government in recent memory, one that could cause significant long-term damage to the incredibly important economic and political partnership between Great Britain and the United States. And for those who say this is minor storm in a tea cup, I would point out that it is highly unusual for a British Prime Minister to have to stand up to an onslaught against British interests by an American president, as David Cameron has just done. In fact the prospect of a major confrontation between Downing Street and the White House grows stronger by the day.
But this is not the whole picture. President Obama’s handling of BP is part of a far bigger problem. This is an administration that has consistently insulted Britain, and has even sided with her foes in some cases, most notably in its wholehearted support for Argentina’s call for negotiations over the sovereignty of the Falklands, a position that has been strongly backed by Venezuelan tyrant Hugo Chavez. Time and time again, the Obama team has undercut America’s key allies, from London to Prague to Jerusalem, while kowtowing to the enemies of the United States in the name of engagement. It is a disastrous foreign policy that not only weakens American global power, but generates resentment and anger in nations that have traditionally stood shoulder to shoulder with America.
The Anglo-American Special Relationship, the most successful partnership of modern times, will survive long after President Obama departs the White House. It is far bigger than any one president or prime minister. But there can be no doubt that it is being significantly damaged and weakened at this moment by the Obama administration’s sneering approach towards Great Britain, at a time when British and American soldiers are fighting and dying alongside each other in a major war in Afghanistan. President Obama needs to see the big picture and understand that his anti-British posturing is hugely counter-productive and highly offensive. He is already one of the least popular US presidents of modern times, not only in the eyes of the American people, but now the people of Britain as well.
Should we expect that the UK will now withdraw its troops from Afghanistan sooner rather than later? The war was never popular in Britain to begin with--increasingly Britons must be asking why, oh why are we fighting Obama's war?
Here is Janet Dailey's take on the Obama brand in the UK media:
The BBC reports of Barack Obama’s speech last night are about as derisive as it would be possible to be about someone you were describing only a few months ago as the incarnation of Hope and Optimism. Yes indeed, the romance is over. The British media have decided that it was all a cruel deception: Obama is just one more ranting populist president who will do anything to divert attention from his own failure to get a grip. And this is not just about BP and the fate of all those pension funds.
Nor is it simply the demonising of Big Oil – which makes the US president sound as if he were recruiting his speech writers direct from the student union – that has evoked the UK media’s collective sneer. What has been much commented upon – especially by those fastidiously liberal BBC correspondents – is Obama’s pointedly bellicose language: the US is apparently engaged in a “battle” to be waged in very personal, anthropomorphic terms “against an oil spill that is assaulting” its coast. Considering how relentlessly the Bush “war on terror” was ridiculed, how long will it take before the Obama “war on an oil slick” is labelled as absurd? Given the tone of this morning’s coverage, perhaps not very long at all.
And, finally, this from Paul Rahe:
. . . from the outset, he [Obama] conducted himself in an irresponsible fashion that is highly unpresidential.
He forgot that, in the larger world, the President represents his country. Out of personal pique, he persistently insulted our friends abroad, displaying disdain for Gordon Brown, stiffing Nicholas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel, treating Benyamin Netanyahu with open contempt, and turning his back on the people of Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Iran. At the same time, he embraced Hugo Chavez, sucked up to Vladimir Putin, and kowtowed to the rulers of Saudi Arabia and China – all to no avail.
With regard to domestic affairs, he seems not to have recognized that, under our Constitution, it is the President of the United States who represents the national interest; that Congressmen more often than not cater to particular interests; that, if legislation is left to the latter, principle tends to give way to patronage; and that the result can be a profound embarrassment. And so he stood idly by while Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and the like drafted legislation – a so-called “stimulus bill” and healthcare reform, each more than a thousand pages in length, each embodying a multitude of corrupt bargains, each threatening to bankrupt the country. And, like a political hack, faithful to his party to the bitter end, he promoted and signed their handiwork.
All of this was obvious long ago, and it was evident as well that, if there were a real crisis, he would check out. This is what he did when Major Nidal Malik Hassan gunned down thirteen Americans at Fort Hood. This is what he did when Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab nearly brought down a jetliner at Christmas time. And this is what he did when Faisal Shahzad was found to have planted a bomb in Times Square. All three cases revealed an egregious failure of our intelligence apparatus. In all three cases, the danger had its source in developments within Islam And, in the face of all of this, the President of the United States signaled that he could hardly bear to take a few minutes off from his vacation at the beach in Hawaii, cancel a party or two, or give up his golf game to acknowledge and address the failures of his administration, and at no time has he been willing to level with us about the source of our peril.
Obama's approval rating has now sunk to 41% in the US. Any more bureaucratic boondoggling in the Gulf and it will inevitably fall down into the 30's. Now even his former most rabid cheerleaders in the media are thinking him feckless and hapless. Not good.