Whatever you might say about Obamacare, whatever you may say about a certain lacking in decisiveness, whatever you may say about his general inability as a superhero, you can say that Barack Obama did more for Americas image abroad than any president since Lincoln. I am not, in saying this, assessing the merits of the presidency in any other dimensions than image abroad. Though there are other areas in which such merits exist, it is my belief that the single greatest contribution was this. I have seen it personally. The making of amends with “Old Europe” was a step in the right direction, not a step back.
The problem, you must remember, was the previous administration. You can make the argument that the previous administration needed to be the way it was: cold, tightlipped, brash… because they were fighting to maintain American culture, not in its oil consumption and general opulance, but in its protection of those things we must maintain: freedom of religion and both dimensions of freedom of speech, in addition to our general right not to be the property of another. But the lack of communication created a stir among those left out of the know – including Europe – and it was met, appropriately, by a President that did not stop talking.
Importantly, he was also not dumb. Here was a very charismatic individual who honestly tried to say what he could while attempting to reenergize america. Occassionally it was too much, but such slips should not be considered worse than consistent stonewalling. In the long run, slips that don’t destroy do engender trust, and it is trust which america lacked after the Bush administration. That trust itself was not lacking between the american people and Bush as much as it was lacking in the administration as a whole, which was largely viewed as an occassional puppet show by more than one intelligent critic.
So hope was a skinny Black man with a talent for communication, whom with honest courage, worthy of a Nobel, ran for president to put old problems to bed. He cared about people, and he tried to show it in his policies, but better, he showed America could also think and tell – tell enough to show that America was not just grabbing power. He has failed in many things, but one of these things was not representation. And through it all, he stood by the Military and even, in many ways, vindicated Bush. Given Americas presense in the world, there is little to complain about for the image reparations made. You can only flex your might for so long without loosening the reigns. Diplomacy is oftentimes the better part of valour, even when you are strong.
Our president shouldn’t always be focused on diplomacy and many worrying things remain for a tired America, but given a measure of diplomatic success, what is missing in the grander scheme is a systematic way to overcome the cycle of stonewalling and reparations. I don’t believe we were so very far from something terrible in the days after 9/11. I think much more could have been lost, and into the immanent “forever”. But it wasn’t. And in our recovery, it is important that we do better to understand how to avoid the rift between those who know and those who don’t, which threatens America and Americas image, whenever a call to arms is necessary.