Blogs > Cliopatria > World Opinion in US Elections

Oct 28, 2004 10:33 am

World Opinion in US Elections

If the whole world could vote in the US elections.... we'd probably need more lawyers.

Seriously, though, I don't think there's ever been a presidential election in which the opinion of the rest of the world was as important as this one. I have very mixed feelings about that, to be honest, but if the president of the US is 'the leader of the free world' (and whatever other countries we deem allies of convenience) then we have to at least note what our words and actions mean to the rest of the world.

With that in mind, I offer two sources on world opinion, one serious and one worthless internet poll. For decent reporting on world affairs, the World Press Review Online remains the gold standard: not quick or comprehensive, but selective and effective reporting. They have two articles of relevance:"Poll shows 8 out of 10 countries back Kerry" and the"US Elections 2004" page which samples opinion from a variety of sources.

For a wildly imprecise snapshot, there's nothing like an on-line poll. An Australian friend forwarded me a link to, where anyone can identify their nationality and cast a vote. George Bush is leading, as of this moment, in Lichtenstein and Niger, and within striking distance (their idea of"statistical tie" is anything within ten percentage points, apparently) in Afghanistan, Barbados, the Cocos Islands, Comoros, Congo, the Cook Islands, Iraq, Kiribati, North Korea (DPRK), Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, the Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mayotte, Montserratt, Myanmar (Burma), Niue, Norfolk Island, Pitcairn, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Turkmenistan, Turks and Caicos Islands, and the Western Sahara (Only Afghanistan exceeds 400 votes cast at this point). Bush is showing strongly in Africa and on small islands, in other words. Yes, I know it's nearly worthless data -- if it was worth anything as a real poll, it would show Bush leading in Israel and Russia and a tie in the US -- but it's data nonetheless.

Our standing in the world really is at stake. First, if we can't clean up the election process, we're going to have to put up with a lot of pointed comments about our hypocritical attempts to spread a dying system of representative democracy. Second, if we reelect George Bush, we're clearly going to have to make our case to the world all over again, and other nations will increasingly take the lead in regional and perhaps even world affairs. Don't be fooled: Kerry will give greater attention to the opinions of our allies and the world in general as a way of making our agenda theirs, but Bush will be ignored, except where he can bribe and bully, and our ability to do those things is slipping away by the hour.

Update: For what it's worth, Tom Friedman agrees with me:

I have been struck by how many foreign dignitaries have begged me lately for news that Bush will lose. This Bush team has made itself so radioactive it glows in the dark. When the world liked Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, America had more power in the world. When much of the world detests George Bush, America has less power. People do not want to be seen standing next to us. It doesn't mean we should run our foreign policy as a popularity contest, but it does mean that leading is not just about making decisions - it's also the ability to communicate, follow through and persuade

If the Bush team wins re-election, unless it undergoes a policy lobotomy and changes course and tone, the breach between America and the rest of the world will only get larger. But all Mr. Bush and Dick Cheney have told us during this campaign is that they have made no mistakes and see no reason to change.

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Stephen Thomas - 10/29/2004

The issue of whether or not we should give a damn about world opinion in our presidential election is one of the more important questions in the election.

We know where Mr. Dresner stands.

I not only don't give a damn about world opinion of our presidential election, I will vote against Kerry partially because he suggests that we should.

The job of the president of the U.S. is to aggressively pursue the self-interest of the U.S. I think that most voters will have the sense to realize this and reject the foolish sophistry of Kerry... and Mr. Dresner. Sen. Kerry's foolish embrace of the French and Germans will cost him plenty of votes, as it should.

Sen. Kerry has made a life's work out of worrying about foreign interests over U.S. interests. You might want to check out the current controversy over whether he received direct guidance and support from the communist North Vietnamese government in his role as leader of VVAW.

And, yes, our standing in the world is at stake. Mr. Dresner doesn't even make a pretense of any interest in the facts(or even sanity) here. He's still stewing over the 2000 election results. Even the New York Times long ago gave up on this nonsense. You are really way out there in the loony-sphere, Mr. Dresner. Ground control to Major Tom, indeed.

Next up, perhaps, Mr. Dresner will join the incipient movement to allow convicted felons to vote, arguing that this in fact amounts to "disenfranchisement" of blacks. Mr. Dresner just soaks up this goofy stuff, doesn't he?

Stephen Thomas - 10/29/2004

"...your assumption that it is somehow possible, in this day and age, for any major power to have a "self-interest" that is not intimately connected with the fate of the world."

When I purchase a house, I certain have a self-interest that is intimately connected with the fate of the buyer.

That doesn't mean that I spend much time worrying about the buyer's side.

The moralizing inherent in your statement is just nonsense that our president should not consider. You are confusing morality with the job of the president, which is to represent the self-interest of Americans. It's nice that you want to do good things. Completely irrelevant to the job of the president. I think you are the one who is naive. You've convinced yourself that human nature is not what it has always been.

Stephen Thomas - 10/29/2004

Yeah, enlightenment and compromise are good things.

Those things take place after each side has aggressively promoted its self-interest.

You don't engage in elightened compromise at the outset of bargaining. Unless you are determined to lose.

Stephen Thomas - 10/29/2004

Well, then, I'm looking forward to doing business with you.

"Inappropriate" in what sense? That you think it's bad?

Good thing you work in academia. You'd lose your shirt in a hour in a business environment.

Stephen Thomas - 10/29/2004

Jon, I've worked for partners in corporate law firms who make $10 million a year and called them by first name.

If you want to respond in this fashion, Jon, I'll be sure to call you by your first name all the time, Jon.

You get awfully silly. What do you make, $50K?

Ralph E. Luker - 10/28/2004

We disagree.

Richard Henry Morgan - 10/28/2004

I wasn't aware there was any productive part. I resigned myself a long time ago to have my motives questioned rather than my points addressed.

Ralph E. Luker - 10/28/2004

Given your last paragraph, I think the productive part of this exchange ended quite some time ago.

Richard Henry Morgan - 10/28/2004

In the Weinstein matter you'll find that at one point, because I disagreed with you, you declared that I didn't give a damn about scholarship. In the Kerry matter, when I disagreed that the Swift Boat Vets were failing, I was asked by you if there was some right-wing smear I wouldn't embrace. Strangely, I don't find that response on point, presupposing as it does that I endorsed the length and breadth of the SBV assertions.

As a matter of fact, the Christmas Eve story is not the only assertion that survived. The bulk of the evidence points to the fact that Kerry wounded himself twice, neither time while engaging the enemy. Brinkley has an interesting evolution of his views on Kerry and the CIA and Cambodia. In his book, he has it that Kerry took spooks and special ops guys up to the Cambodian border. When challenged on this, in the London Telegraph he asserted that Kerry had taken such types into Cambodia (a stronger claim). The story was floated that Brinkley was working on a New Yorker piece in support of this -- it has yet to appear.

In fact, there are histories of Salem House operations (SOG operations into Cambodia), not one of which cites a single instance of insertion by boat. That is understandable. A boat in a river is observable from cover (undetected) for some distance -- not the best way to insert covert operators. A helicopter can insert in one of a dozen stops (in dense areas), leaving the enemy confused as to where the insertion took place. This ain't brain surgery. In any case, Kerry's assertions of spook droppings never surfaced until after he had seen Apocalypse Now, and responded to it in print. Hmmm.

The Sonoma State thing ...well ...I leave it to others to assess your tone.

I have my A-hole moments. I'm of course more sensitive to those occasions when I feel that others' similar moments are directed my way.

Ralph E. Luker - 10/28/2004

Can't find what you're talking about in re Weinstein, Kerry and the Swift Boat Vets. As I recall the latter have been thoroughly debunked, except on the Christmas eve matter. Is that correct? As for the MA from Sonoma State, as a matter of fact, one of my daughter's honors is from that august institution. Cramer discredits himself, not with the source of magnitude of his degrees, but with careless and unsubstantiated accusations.

Richard Henry Morgan - 10/28/2004

The rhetorical question or request masquerading as a substantive point is precisely the kind of disrespectful stuff to which I referred. For more examples just take a trip to the previous entries dealing with Weinstein and Kerry and the Swift Boat Vets. It isn't worthy, any more than the crack about an MA from Sonoma State.

Ralph E. Luker - 10/28/2004

Mr. Morgan, Please tell me that there are some bits of right-wing spin and propaganda for which even you refuse to be the currier to Cliopatria.

Jonathan Dresner - 10/28/2004

Inappropriate in the sense that it is too simplistic a measure of success or failure to be relevant to this discussion.

Jonathan Dresner - 10/28/2004

You are technically correct, but to assume that I am not part of the conversation in comments on my own post is a bit ... incomprehensible.

I simply state my preference. Whether you honor it or not is entirely up to you. How I respond to that is entirely up to me.

Jonathan Dresner - 10/28/2004

Mr. Thomas,

I simply desire to be clear about my relationships with others, even on-line, and one aspect of a relationship is naming. Referring to someone as they wish to be called is a simple and harmless mark of respect. Mr. Morgan is aware of my preferences, as he is a long-time reader; he simply seems to have forgotten lately; you certainly could have seen me make similar requests before to people who were being more 'friendly' than I felt warranted by our exchange.

You are not impressed by my education and position; I am not impressed by your hobnobbing in monied halls. That doesn't lead to my making personal attacks or being disrespectful of you as an individual.

I know, from our many exchanges, that you do not respect me as an individual, as a scholar, etc. This is simply one more example of how nearly impossible it is to have a meaningful or respectful exchange with you.

Ralph E. Luker - 10/27/2004

Name names. Cite cases. Surely you don't defend Mr. Thomas's childish badgering as anything worth discussion.

Richard Henry Morgan - 10/27/2004

Nor does it bode well for bringing others around to his agenda that, if the latest reports are true (from the Douglas Pike Center), that Kerry didn't bring the VC around to his agenda, but they were directing him and the VVAW.

Richard Henry Morgan - 10/27/2004

Funny. I've been addressed with even less respect by members of this blog ...

Ralph E. Luker - 10/27/2004

Mr. Thomas, There's been quite enough of this. You are at that edge, again. You can be barred from HNN if you cannot speak respectfully.

Richard Henry Morgan - 10/27/2004

I think it probably doesn't bode well for the theory of peace through better listening, that Kerry has claimed for more than a year that before the Iraq war he met with the entire Security Council to discuss it. Turns out that too was a bald-faced lie.

Richard Henry Morgan - 10/27/2004

Actually, a first name basis is a mode of direct personal address. I wasn't addressing you, Professor. I would have thought the structure of the sentence made that perfectly obvious.

And actually, we do have help right now. The main powers dedicated to denying us more help had their own agendas, including the receipt of bribes from Hussein. Kerry is floating a pipe dream if he thinks he can bring them to the fold. But that's just my opinion.

Jonathan Dresner - 10/27/2004

Your obsession with 'winning' and 'losing' is inappropriate in the complexities of real business and diplomatic relationships. Not that the concepts are meaningless, but your zero-sum assumptions are.

Jonathan Dresner - 10/27/2004

You are mistaking the kind of relationship we have with the world. A real estate transaction (I suspect you meant 'sell' since otherwise you would be the buyer about which you don't really care) is a single interaction.

Our interaction with other nations is an ongoing economic, diplomatic, military, cultural and legal relationship in which self-interest must be (has always been, since you're so concerned with eternal verities) tempered with (not overwhelmed by) enlightenment and compromise.

Jonathan Dresner - 10/27/2004

Mr. Morgan,

(I don't remember when we ended up on a first name basis, do you? We're not friends or colleagues, as far as I know.)

You are reading a false dichotomy into the discussion: even Carter took a hard line against the USSR, for example. Not all conflict is resolvable by simple discussion: sometimes we have to negotiate and deal and compromise, and sometimes, if we need to apply force, we're going to need help. Like now. Our agenda will have much greater success if we are not seen as pushing it purely for our own interests and if we are seen as reasonable on matters worth discussion.

Richard Henry Morgan - 10/27/2004

Do you agree with the proposition, floated by Jon, that giving greater weight to the opinions of allies and the world will make our agenda theirs? Will it even tend to? Are there perhaps (no, say it ain't so!!) nations of the world with incompatible agendas? Is it possible that there exists conflict in the world that isn't resolvable by chatting a la Jimmy Carter? That not all conflict comes from misunderstanding? Just asking.

Anne Zook - 10/27/2004

I find your position somewhat naive, but I can't decide which I find odder - your characterization of Kerry as someone interested in foreign policy at the expense of US interests, or your assumption that it is somehow possible, in this day and age, for any major power to have a "self-interest" that is not intimately connected with the fate of the world.

Jonathan Dresner - 10/26/2004

I really miss getting WPR as a magazine: I think reading it for the years that I did really helped prepare me for my current job as a world historian. And the website doesn't include my favorite part of the magazine: the roundup of editorial cartoons.

Not a happy source, as you say, but valuable.

Anne Zook - 10/26/2004

Thanks for the link to World Press Review. I wasn't aware of this site and found it fascinating.

Much of what was reported was frustrating for someone who is not supportive of the Bush Administration and who has been critical of their abandonment of Afghanistan, as well as their mishandling of Iraq, but it's good to know articles like those are being written...for those who care enough to go find them and read them.