Jonathan Freedland: The World's Verdict will be Harsh if the US Rejects the Man It Yearns For

Yesterday, I wrote a post in which I said the BBC helping defeat Obama. According to a BBC poll of two dozen or so foreign nations, citizens of those nations want Barack Obama to be President of the United States. I linked to and quoted from that article and said that people of other nations have no business telling us whom to vote for. Some commenters said I was being ridiculous, that people from other nations weren’t telling us whom to vote for but that they were simply answering a question posed to them.

Well, today, I am proven right. Jonathan Freedland writing at the Guardian puts it bluntly: America, vote for Barack Obama or else. Of course, it’s absurd that Freeland could possibly speak for the rest of the world, but if Freeland himself wants to take on that role of world spokesman, fine.

So what did Mr. Freedland say? Well, after bashing Sarah Palin with smears that have already been debunked by Factcheck.org, he goes on to say what the world’s reaction will be if McCain/Palin win on November 4th:

But what of the rest of the world? This is the reaction I fear most. For 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.

The crowd of 200,000 that rallied to hear him in Berlin in July did so not only because of his charisma, but also because they know he, like the majority of the world’s population, opposed the Iraq war. McCain supported it, peddling the lie that Saddam was linked to 9/11. Non-Americans sense that Obama will not ride roughshod over the international system but will treat alliances and global institutions seriously: McCain wants to bypass the United Nations in favour of a US-friendly League of Democracies. McCain might talk a good game on climate change, but a repeated floor chant at the Republican convention was “Drill, baby, drill!”, as if the solution to global warming were not a radical rethink of the US’s entire energy system but more offshore oil rigs.

If Americans choose McCain, they will be turning their back on the rest of the world, choosing to show us four more years of the Bush-Cheney finger. And I predict a deeply unpleasant shift.

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.

And the manner of that decision will matter, too. If it is deemed to have been about race – that Obama was rejected because of his colour – the world’s verdict will be harsh. In that circumstance, Slate’s Jacob Weisberg wrote recently, international opinion would conclude that “the United States had its day, but in the end couldn’t put its own self-interest ahead of its crazy irrationality over race”.

Even if it’s not ethnic prejudice, but some other aspect of the culture wars, that proves decisive, the point still holds. For America to make a decision as grave as this one – while the planet boils and with the US fighting two wars – on the trivial basis that a hockey mom is likable and seems down to earth, would be to convey a lack of seriousness, a fleeing from reality, that does indeed suggest a nation in, to quote Weisberg, “historical decline”. Let’s not forget, McCain’s campaign manager boasts that this election is “not about the issues.”

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? If Americans reject Obama, they will be sending the clearest possible message to the rest of us – and, make no mistake, we shall hear it.

How is this not a threat? How is this not another way of saying, “vote for Obama or the rest of the world will come down on America’s head like a ton of bricks”?

The American people don’t meddle in other countries’ elections. The man or woman Britons choose as Prime Minister affects our country greatly but you don’t see us going out there and saying “elect so and so or there’ll be hell to pay!”

So, I was right. In fact I was spot on when I said the rest of the world is telling us for whom to vote in this presidential election.

Mr. Freedland, we don’t take kindly to people in other nations telling us how and for whom we are supposed to vote on November 4th. What happens in America is our business, sir. And by the way, Mr. Freedland, your little threat is going to help defeat Senator Obama, not help him.

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