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View Diary: Clinton Mobbed U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! (341 comments)

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  •  Hence why (4.00)
    I said "most" and not all. I well know the love/hate relationship that the rest of the world has with the US; I'm from Canada originally and have lived in Japan as well (just a bit pre-9/11). While I concur with you that there is definitely a tension between the left-leaning in world politics and the US, I do think that the ideals the US was founded on (primarily freedom, liberty, free-speech; maybe not so much free market economy) are the qualities that are so admired by many around the world, and the anger comes when the US fails to live up to these qualities.

    Bush has forced the US from that previous view into something far worse, and yes even if Kerry had won it would take a long time to improve relations again. But Kerry was, and still is, an internationalist and made a point in his campaign that he would reach out to the international community. I do think that if he had been elected it would have created a new optimism around the world that things could be improved. Where it would have gone after that we'll now never know.

    Clinton is so well received because he was popular during his presidency abroad. I've had at least one British friend express confusion as to why he could not continue to be president. He wasn't perfect but he was charming and showed actual consideration for the rest of the world. I do not think he would have waited three days before making an on camera statement about the Tsunami.

    I wear no rose tinted glasses about the past of the US relations with the world, the US is a super power both militarily and economically, and we have hardly always been moral about the use of such power. However there is a major difference between how the US is perceived right now and how it once was. I think Joe Biden, of all people, put it best when he pointed out to Condi Rice during her hearing in front of the foreign relations committee that when WWII was over it was the US that insisted on giving Nazi war criminals a full trial because that was the right thing to do by American standards and that we are not currently living up to the standards that we set in Nuremberg.

    "Take back the new millenium!" - Dan Bern

    by iambaytor on Fri Apr 08, 2005 at 03:59:54 PM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  Sorry, but I disagree (4.00)
      While I concur with you that there is definitely a tension between the left-leaning in world politics and the US, I do think that the ideals the US was founded on (primarily freedom, liberty, free-speech; maybe not so much free market economy) are the qualities that are so admired by many around the world, and the anger comes when the US fails to live up to these qualities.

      My opinion is that the main anger comes from the Americans' assumption that their country has something special to do with "freedom", "liberty" and all that. The American Revolution may have been an inspiring event (among those people who know of it...), but America is not the Declaration of Independence, it's now a country with a national identity and its own culture(s). All too often Americans (of BOTH parties) will, without noticing it, assume that their particular culture is a special representative of those ideals and by default admired by everyone, rather than an equal.

      There are many nice words for people who assume that they're admired because of how special they are, regardless of how they actually act. I probably don't have to mention those names. My point is, there are far too many Democrats crying about how Bush's America isn't admired; it seems that there's some underlying assumption that America should or could be some especially admired country. That is not a healthy idea - people who set up impossibly high moral standards for themselves are just begging to appear as hypocrites and it seems like the same holds for countries as well.

      No one likes exceptionalists. (Right now there's some anti-French feeling on the air here, with the French once again torpedoing EU reforms with their own stupid exceptionalist excuses.)

      This particular instance gives a nice example, as the recent tsunami was really big news for this country:

      I do not think he would have waited three days before making an on camera statement about the Tsunami.

      Yes, and despite the fact that the US eventually came up with a lot of aid, the Bush people still managed to turn it into negative PR, at least here. Why? Because we ended up with a bunch of American leaders on TV announcing how helping others is "a great American value" and how this is a great opportunity to show the world how great America is.

      One of the reasons Clinton was well-liked is that he knew how to speak to the world, unlike Bush, who apparently speaks to the world just as if he were talking to an audience of Texas Republicans. Ugh. What on earth does he expect the world to think, when after a massive tragedy we basically see a cowboy with a completely unashamed "I'm gonna give you all this cash, so you see how great I am, oh I'm great" attitude?

      Kerry would've surely not done that (although I doubt he'd have been as charismatic as Clinton), but I just wanted to warn some people here - you can't "restore" an "admiration" that has never really been there. Normalcy is not really a bad thing to aim for.

      •  I think we're basically (none)
        in agreement on this, maybe just phrasing it differently. The ideals put forth in the Declaration of Independence are exactly that, ideals. And no, they didn't originate in America either; they were the product of the Enlightenment and largely influence by the French as well (not that half this country remembers that anymore). America just has the reputation because of its history and it's prominence on the world stage, particularly after WWII. The US should be seeking normality with relation to other nations, there are many nations in the world one could describe as "respected" and it's simply due to a normalcy.

        But you can't deny that there is always a little extra attention paid to the US because of it's status as a super-power and thus perhaps idealists both in the US and abroad tend to hold the US to a higher standard, both positively and negatively, whether or not it's deserving. From my own experience growing up in Canada I always had a sense of America being this almost mythical land of freedom and opportunity, while at the same time being aware of the critical eye kept on American politics. The history of US politics has always been as a struggle between idealism and realism. Democrats, Republicans, liberals, progressives, you name it; all Americans have what is probably an overdeveloped sense of our own importance around the world. Doesn't every empire? Didn't the British or the Romans? That doesn't make it right, but there it is. I think this is where the Neo-Con mentality comes from, the sense that the world deserves the so-called "New American Century." It's a new kind of manifest destiny that many in the US are disgusted by.

        I think the Democrats, who as you said are crying about how Bush's America isn't respected, are longing for the days when there was not such outright and widespread anger at US policies. As Kerry mentioned once during the campaign, during the Cuban Missile Crisis DeGaulle told Kennedy that he did not need to see photographic evidence because the word of the President of the United States was enough. Now that was respect. During the Bush administration America has been drifting further and further away from international political cooperation; and the dream of many progressives of creating a world community, ending poverty, etc. is fading. Once there was a hope that the US had the potential to help the progress of humanity, now we long to just be liked.

        And yes, Bush mangled his reaction to the tsunami, politicized it. Clinton would simply have gotten immediately on television, extended his sympathies and pledged aid. That is why he is so well liked even now. You would never see Bush apologizing in person for accidentally bombing a civilian target, he can't even conceive of having made a mistake. It's the negative American arrogance taken to a whole new level.

        I guess what I'm trying to say is that there is an hypocritical ideal of America both at home and abroad, but there are also those who know the truth but still genuinely desire to live up to those impossible ideals. Maybe that's a good thing, or maybe it would be better if we aimed a bit lower, a bit more realistically. But there it is.

        "Take back the new millenium!" - Dan Bern

        by iambaytor on Fri Apr 08, 2005 at 06:50:15 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, it seems (none)
          From my own experience growing up in Canada I always had a sense of America being this almost mythical land of freedom and opportunity, while at the same time being aware of the critical eye kept on American politics.

          Well, that's the weird thing. America has here, obviously, a nostalgic reputation as a land of potential riches, although that reputation goes in the past (ie. to the pre-WWII era; gold rushes are infinitely better material for such mythologies than anything modern) and Canada and South America also got a share of it, at least here (the country was really desperately poor, so any place accepting immigrants got the reputation).

          But... freedom? Huh? Apparently, "freedom" means completely different things in different cultures. For me, freedom simply means not having Russians running the country. For the past 200 years, they have been the only ones threatening freedoms here. So, to me freedom means freedom from foreign oppression, but the US has the least risk of that of all countries and thus it's definitely the last country in the world that I'd associate with freedom - maybe there was some heroic struggle centuries ago, but it's safely won, so what's all the yapping about?

          If you mean political freedoms, well, after independence and a bit of war, there have hardly been many countries that would've done consistently better in those (definitely not the US). So, it's not exactly like I'd consider any other country a mythically free place, as there has hardly been a freer country in the world. I'd guess most people here would agree - I doubt anyone here who doesn't know English or French has any idea how much some other people can obsess over freedom.

          •  Freedom in America (none)
            is generally considered to be freedom of speach, thought, religion, freedom to live your life as you want, etc. The US has also been an idealized refuge for those in the world living in oppressive conditions, a place to start a better life. Freedom from foreign oppression was part of the original intent but is now more theoretical than anything else. Which is probably why so many Americans have become complacent about their freedoms/civil liberties and thus are able to be frightened into giving them up (which Ben Franklin warned against). The struggle for personal freedoms is ongoing in the US and thus requires "constant vigilance" to use the cliche. Witness the current struggle over gay rights.

            "Take back the new millenium!" - Dan Bern

            by iambaytor on Fri Apr 08, 2005 at 09:45:25 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  An Australian perspective (none)
        I think there's always resistance to the way America self identifies as the home of all that is free, democratic and courageous in the world. And for that reason there's always some enjoyment in seeing the USA "cut down to size" a bit.

        I know a lot of what Australians dislike about Americans is that they seem to know so little about the rest of the world -- like it's all so damn unimportant. But that's just the kind of thing that irritates Aussies about Americans. I don't think it makes them dislike Americans.

        Generally the only time there was widespread dislike of the US in Australia -- before this Bush administration -- was during the Vietnam war.

        Clinton, for all his faults (and I mean his faults, not his misdemeanours) would still get treated like a rockstar in Australia whereas Dubya would get booed here as well. There's widespread loathing for his arrogance and stupidity. Even a lot of conservative types think he's embarrassingly unintelligent.

        I think Clinton at least appeared interested in the rest of the world and intelligent and didn't bung on the "superior race" attitude -- which is why people in other countries still respect him.

        Of course, as jaakkeli says, there are always those on the far left who simply dislike America and its extreme capitalism. I think they exist in every country. Here they often complain about us being "force-fed" American culture and letting ourselves become the 51st state of the US.

        Still I'd have to come down on the side of saying most Aussies want to like America but Bush makes it hard.

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