The US Presidential Race: A View From Down Under

A Guest Blog by Derek The Australian Blogger

Back in November 2008 the world breathed a huge sigh of relief. The Democrat candidate by the name of Barack Hussein Obama II had emphatically defeated his Republican opponent, John McCain to win the ultimate political prize – President of the United States of America. It was, to the world, as if sanity had been restored after the somewhat calamitous reign of George W Bush.

Obama was a breath of fresh air to us outside of America. He was young by presidential standards, could easily engage the electorate and had a moderate view on world events. Around the world people rejoiced. The great Steam Ship US of A was back on course. However, there was always going to be challenges for the new President. He was the first (part) Afro-American politician to get the top job. Rumours abounded that he was a Muslim, given his name and his father’s background. After all, wouldn’t that be a good way to attack the US – by having a Muslim President? Said the extremists.

Couple this with the fact that under the Dubya reign America had been ravaged by the Global Financial Crisis. Unemployment was high, and the country was falling even deeper in debt. Obama would be the saviour, many thought. However, to turn around the savageness of the recent past was always going to take more than a ‘couple of years’. The Republicans were aware of this and played on Obama’s failings to magically turn the country around quicker than it takes to buy a gun in the local gun store! Personally, I see parallels between Nelson Mandela’s first term as President of South Africa, and that of President Obama. Both had ridiculously high expectations put on them by the media and citizens alike.

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Fast forward to today, and President Obama is likely to face-off for the White House against Republican Mitt Romney. Will Obama win a second term? Or will Mitt Romney become the 45th President? Now I am not going into Romney’s Mormonism. My friend Jessie has that well and truly covered. What I am going to do is give you a view of what the world, well Australia, thinks of the Presidential Race. Whether you agree or disagree with the following, that’s up to you. However, it might open your eyes to what others are thinking right now.
If I am honest, a large number of Australians are passing more than a cursory glance at the forthcoming Presidential election. Why? Well, after the disaster of the Bush Mk2 reign and its lack of respect and understanding for other countries, we are honestly worried as to what a President Willard Mitt Romney would do. Remember, that Australia is one of America’s closest allies. Australian’s fought side by side with the US in Vietnam, as well as the two Gulf Wars.

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Australia wants another Obama term. It is imperative for a number of reasons. One, he is respected by a number of leaders around the world, including Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard. A number of Muslim countries have actually embraced him, as have countries in the South East Asia region, our region. Secondly, he is unlikely to go on a wild goose chase and invade a country like Iran. The West is very wary of another unsanctioned sojourn into foreign territory. A third point to keep in mind is that diplomacy is a core component of any Presidency. You have to keep your friends happy. One day you might require a huge favour from them. President Obama is very skilled at diplomacy. As such the world appears to be a safer place.
So how has Mitt Romney fared on the diplomacy stakes? If you had to assess it as an examiner would a test, then it’s a huge fail! Firstly, he misinterpreted the comments of the Australian Foreign Minister, Bob Carr. For those of you that do not know, Bob Carr was Premier (similar to a US Governor) of New South Wales for 10 years. He is extremely intellectual and was a former journalist. Carr’s remarks to Romney was that the US was one budget away from turning the corner. A clear reference that Obama’s policies are working. Mitt, on the other hand, somehow turned this comment on its head and made it seem that overseas investors see America as a ‘dodgy investment’. This did not go down too well here in Australia.
A few days later and Romney was in England, essentially raising money for his presidential campaign. Whilst there he couldn’t help himself, and commented that London was not prepared for the Olympic Games. Now Romney could easily say that he helped ensure that the Winter Games at Salt Lake City a few years ago was a huge success. However, comparing a Winter Olympic games to a Summer Olympic games is like comparing Kabul and Florida as tourist destinations!
Romney’s foot in mouth disease actually did some good for the UK. Despite the Brits being the closest allies of the US, and also having a centre-right government and London Mayor, Romney by speaking without thinking, has united this country and they are now well and truly getting behind the London Olympics. Boris Johnson, the London Mayor certainly let everyone know his view on Romney’s comments. So thank you, Mitt!

These examples, though fairly small, show the pitfalls and dangerous consequences of electing a President who really is out of touch with global events and countries. It takes talent, skill and flexibility to keep your allies happy. These characteristics are sadly missing from the Republican candidate.
Finally, there are other things that the rest of the world find baffling about the US. We find it strange that the gun lobby is so powerful, we are amazed at the power of the religious right, we are staggered at the underlying bigotry that some rural areas have, and confused as to why being a Vietnam veteran is so important in politics. These are the things that confuse and dumbfound us global citizens, especially other western countries. Why they are able to influence US elections to the extent they do is a true mystery to me!

{If Jessie allows, I might expand on these in another blog and then compare them to politics Australian style.}

I find Mr Derek Wood’s commentary refreshing and unique after being bombarded with right-slanted news here in America! I will definitely post more of his thoughts very soon. Follow him on Twitter @Main_Man. He resides in Sydney, NSW. VegasJessie

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One thought on “The US Presidential Race: A View From Down Under

  1. I would love for you to expand on these ideas and give a comparison! As an educated, liberal American who often feels like a stranger in my own country, I am EXTREMELY interested in how people in other parts of the world are thinking about how it works best for them and their efforts/solutions in overcoming obstacles in creating that “best” environment for themselves.

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