Obama on the world stage: The thrill is gone

One year into his second term, the world that warmly embraced a President Obama in 2008 is now giving him the cold shoulder. Photo: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

WASHINGTON, July 5, 2013 — In January of 2012, President Obama sang “Let’s Stay Together” while fundraising at the Apollo Theater during his 2012 campaign. Our nation chose to give him a second term that November, and much fanfare was made of it. Less than a year into this second change, the winds are not at this President’s back. Now America and the world are singing, “The Thrill is Gone.

Despite the brewing scandals of Benghazi, the AP/Rosen email mess, the IRS, and the NSA— major failures and overreaches that happened on his watch — the President appeared as Teflon Don, his popularity unaffected. However, in mid-June, a CNN poll showed Obama’s approval ratings dipping into the low 40s for the first time.


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The stinging indictments in this particular poll was a 17-percent drop in approval with the 30 and under crowd, along with 51 percent of respondents who now view the President as untrustworthy; up from 41 percent in a previous poll.

Looking at President Obama’s performance on the world stage, where he said he would make the most difference in the way America is viewed, the change smacks more of indifference and disregard than a positive outlook.

Go back to Germany in 2008, when then-candidate Obama’s visit saw estimated crowds of 200,000. His recent visit in 2013 now reported crowds in the 5-6,000 range of invited guests, rather than the open-invitation forum of 2008.

A USA Today article took the temperature of Germans the second time around. and the response ranged from measured to anemic. One German citizen said, “As someone who is interested in global politics, Obama sounded like a solution, liberation from all of the conflicts at that time. He didn’t do anything to back up his words.”


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These same echoes can be heard in other European polls and commentary as well as in America.

The NSA and Edward Snowden debacles have done much to undercut this administration’s public relations face abroad. We have an NSA with its pants down, publicly exposed and embarrassed by the former consultant’s leaks to the Guardian and the Washington Post. Once espionage charges were filed against Snowden, in Keystone Kops fashion, the Department of Justice did not get the name right on the extradition documents sent to Hong Kong law enforcement. So Hong Kong allowed Snowden to leave the country and slip through the grasp of international law enforcement. Now Snowden lobs volleys at the Obama administration from an airline terminal in Russia, claiming the U.S. is “using citizenship as a weapon.”

President Vladimir Putin has essentially flipped President Obama the bird by saying he has no reason to extradite Snowden because he has not committed any crime in Russia. So Putin allows Snowden to hide from authorities while Snowden, aided by WikiLeaks attorneys, cranks out the asylum applications. When asked about this situation on the first leg of his $100 million African tour, President Obama testily said he should not have to speak personally with the leaders of Russia and China regarding Snowden and stated he was “not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker.”

Speaking of the African tour, it was overshadowed by two presidents: Nelson Mandela and former President George W. Bush.

Nelson Mandela is seriously ill from a lung infection and reported to be on life support. The country’s appropriate focus on this civil rights hero’s health took most of the steam away from President Obama’s initiatives. An editorial in South Africa’s weekly Mail & Guardian said, “South Africans are ‘no longer in thrall of Obama’s star power.’” The thrill is definitely gone.

President Obama made a joint appearance with former President Bush at a memorial to the victims of the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania. President Bush remains beloved by Africa for his signature AIDS relief programs, which he still champions to this day. Obama’s optimistic goals to “build Africa for Africans” and to be a partner in this process were overshadowed by Bush’s work and presence in Africa, leaving President Obama looking like a Johnny-come-lately, especially in light of his lack of partnership shown to Africa in his first term.

As we watch Egypt erupt and President Morsi’s dethronement, President Obama’s previous backing of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood is also coming back to haunt him. Protestors have been shown holding up signs, “Obama Supports Terrorism” and others that are filled with profanity and equally unflattering comments to the U.S. President and his State Department. The Egyptian people now see Obama on the side of the extremists, and Obama’s measured response to the unrest is not doing much to quell this perception.

If recent world happenings are any indication, President Barack Obama’s foreign policy appears to involve plodding decision-making, delivered in a reactionary fashion with poor timing. This does not bode well for the next three years.


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Jennifer Oliver O'Connell

Jennifer Oliver O’Connell is the "In My Orbit" columnist for Washington Times Communities, writes on Los Angeles Faith and Community for Examiner.com, teaches Yoga, and coaches on careers and reinvention.

You can keep up with what's in Jennifer's orbit through her As the Girl Turns website: (http://asthegirlturns.com).

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