Thursday, June 05, 2008


The Great Brown Hope of the Day: Barack Obama

This is close to a miracle. I was certain that some things will not happen in my lifetime. A black president of the U.S. will mean that there will be more American tolerance for people around the world who are different. —Sunila Patel, "a widow encountered on the streets of New Delhi," as quoted by Kevin Sullivan in "Overseas, Excitement Over Obama"

The Democractic primaries would surely have ended months ago if the international community had had a say. Barack was the clear favorite of pallid Europe as well as almost anyone wearing a shade of brown—

Obama ... has strong support in Europe, the heartland of anti-Bush sentiment. "Germany is Obama country," said Karsten Voight, the German government's coordinator for German-North American cooperation. "He seems to strike a chord with average Germans," who see him as a transformational figure like John F. Kennedy or Martin Luther King Jr.

"He's African, he's an immigrant family; he has a different style. It's just the way he looks -- he seems kind," said Nagy Kayed, 30, a student at the American University in Cairo.

For many, Obama's skin color is deeply symbolic. As the son of an African and a white woman from Kansas, Obama has the brownish "everyman" skin color shared by hundreds of millions of people. "He looks like Egyptians. You can walk in the streets and find people who really look like him," said Manar el-Shorbagi, a specialist in U.S. political affairs at the Cairo university.

Iranians are hoping that Obama will stand by his word to talk to them—

... government officials have taken no official position on the race. But "the majority of Iranians feel that the Democrats support what they want: a major and drastic change in relations with the U.S. So for them the coming of Obama would be a good omen," said Davoud Hermidas Bavand, professor of U.S.-Iranian relations at Allameh Tabatabai University.

International Naysayers

When it comes to the general election though, Sullivan suggests that some countries are holding out for McCain.

The Chinese leadership is said to be worried—

In China, leaders are widely believed to be wary that a Democratic administration might put up barriers to Chinese exports to the United States.

I doubt that Chinese leaders need fear Obama on trade. If they have a problem it will be with the U.S. Congress.

Iraq is divided, as usual—

In Iraq, views on Obama's victory were mixed. Salah al-Obaidi, chief spokesman for Moqtada al-Sadr, the Shiite Muslim cleric who opposes the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq, said the Sadr movement favors having a Democrat in the White House on grounds that McCain would largely continue Bush's policies.

But in Samarra, a Sunni stronghold north of Baghdad, Omar Shakir, 58, a political analyst, said he hoped McCain would win the election and combat the influence of Shiite-dominated Iran.

It all comes down to which side of the Iraqi civil war Obama supports. Any American withdrawal will implicity enhance the power of the majority Shia.

Then there's the all-important Israel—

Interviews suggested that McCain is more popular than Obama in countries such as Israel, where McCain is particularly admired for his hard line against Iran.

Which raises the question of just how many "countries such as Israel" there are? Off the top of my head I can think of one. No matter. In the American press Israel counts for about fifty.

The only group with a clear-headed view of the implications of an Obama Presidency seems to be the Palestinians—

Obama's candidacy has generated suspicion among Palestinians as well. Ali Jarbawi, a political scientist at the West Bank's Bir Zeit University, said that even if Obama appears to be evenhanded in his approach to the Middle East, he would never take on the pro-Israel lobby in Washington. "The minute that Obama takes office, if he takes office, all his aides in the White House will start working on his reelection," Jarbawi said. "Do you think Obama would risk his reelection because of us?"

This view was confirmed when Obama's first act yesterday after winning the Democratic nomination was to scurry over to AIPAC, the rightwing Zionist superlobby, to assure them of his pro-Zionist credentials.

Sana Abdallah gives the Arab view of his performance—

Palestinian and Arab hopes were dashed by a speech that U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama gave to a pro-Israeli lobby, in which he promised his full support to Israel and went further by adopting Israeli policy that sees Jerusalem as the "undivided capital" of the Jewish state.

Millions of Arabs were able to watch the address to the powerful American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which was aired live on some Arab television networks, serving as a "rude awakening" that the United States, regardless of its leadership, would continue to favor Israel at the expense of Palestinian and Arab rights.

One person at the AIPAC meeting, however, who evinced less than total admiration for Obama's pro-Zionist credentials was Hillary Clinton, who spoke right after Obama. Hillary still hadn't noticed that she'd lost the nomination.

Zvika Krieger had an ear attuned to the campaign rhetoric—

Most of the instant coverage has focused on Hillary's praise for Obama's pro-Israel credentials--"I know that Senator Obama will be a good friend to Israel"--which, short of dropping out this morning and throwing her support to him, was probably the nicest thing she could do at an event like this. But I didn't find her speech all that magnanimous; maybe I'm wearing the media's Clinton-hating goggles, but her references to Israel's female prime minister Golda Meir ("my personal heroine") and quoting Meir's urgent phone call "a few minutes after midnight" (3 a.m. is after midnight, right?) seemed like subtle reminders that Hillary still very much sees herself as in the race. Her quoting of Isaiah ("All day and all night, they shall never be silent") and her application of it to AIPAC supporters ("You never give up...there are some who say you shouldn't be here...not only do you have a right to stand up for what you believe in, but you have a responsibility to do so") echoed the rhetoric she has been using lately to describe her own self-righteous struggle for the nomination. Also, her compliments to Obama were couched relative to her own positions ("I know Senator Obama shares my view...").

If Obama can win over Hillary, he may be able to conquer the world.

Related post
Some thoughts on Obama's victory (6/3/08)


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