Yesterday we noted that a new poll gives Barack Obama a massive lead. But this was not good news for Obama, for the survey was not of likely voters or even registered voters, but of people who cannot vote in American elections--namely, foreigners.
Jonathan Freedland, a columnist with London's Guardian, has appointed himself spokesman for "the world," and he gives voice to this preference:
Obama has stirred an excitement around the globe unmatched by any American politician in living memory. Polling in Germany, France, Britain and Russia shows that Obama would win by whopping majorities, with the pattern repeated in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. If November 4 were a global ballot, Obama would win it handsomely. If the free world could choose its leader, it would be Barack Obama. . . .
Until now, anti-Americanism has been exaggerated and much misunderstood: outside a leftist hardcore, it has mostly been anti-Bushism, opposition to this specific administration. But if McCain wins in November, that might well change. Suddenly Europeans and others will conclude that their dispute is with not only one ruling clique, but Americans themselves. For it will have been the American people, not the politicians, who will have passed up a once-in-a-generation chance for a fresh start--a fresh start the world is yearning for.
Freedland goes on to assert that if Obama loses the election, "the world" will conclude that America is racist. He approvingly cites Jacob Weisberg's article to that effect, which we refuted last month. But there is something particularly rich about the notion of "the world" sitting in judgment of America on this score. Has a nonwhite politician ever even seriously contested an election to lead the German, French, British or Russian government?
What really encapsulates the absurdity of Freedland's position, though, is his statement that "if the free world could choose its leader, it would be Barack Obama." In fact, these polls show only that if the free world could chose the leader of America, it would be Obama.
This is a crucial distinction, because the American president is the leader of the free world only informally, and only by default. America has outsized power because it has taken on outsized responsibility, in significant part because other would-be world powers have shirked their responsibilities.
Freedland acknowledges that he isn't doing Obama any political favors by making this argument:
Of course I know that even to mention Obama's support around the world is to hurt him. Incredibly, that large Berlin crowd damaged Obama at home, branding him the "candidate of Europe" and making him seem less of a patriotic American. But what does that say about today's America, that the world's esteem is now unwanted?
What it says about America is true of every other country in the world. Do citizens of Germany, France, Britain or Russia cast their ballots on the basis of which candidate will maximize the "esteem" of other countries? Of course not. People everywhere vote on the basis of what they think is best for their own countries.
Americans may decide that a McCain presidency would better serve American interests than would an Obama presidency. Lots of people in other countries seem to believe that an Obama presidency would be better for them. There is no contradiction in these views. It may well be that when American interests and those of other countries diverge, McCain is more inclined than Obama to put his own country first. If "the world" prefers Obama to McCain, that may be a perfectly rational reason for Americans to prefer McCain.