To watch Condoleezza Rice, the face of George W. Bush’s foreign policy, stand before a convention of cheering Republicans and condemn Barack Obama for diminishing America’s standing in the world—one can only gasp at the magnitude of chutzpah in one woman.
After describing a world of freedom fighters and tyrants, Bush’s former secretary of state and national security adviser lamented, “Everyone asks, where does America stand?’ Indeed that is the question of the hour,” she continued, for when “friends or foes alike don’t know the answer to that question, unambiguously and clearly, the world is likely to be a more dangerous and chaotic place … We cannot be reluctant to lead, and you cannot lead from behind.”
The solution, she concluded, is to elect Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. “They know what to do,” she said. “They know that our friends and allies must again be able to trust us.”
First, it’s not at all clear that they have the slightest idea what to do or even—judging from Romney’s disastrously tin-eared trip to Europe this summer—how to think about what to do.
Second (this is the chutzpah part), Condi Rice—a top adviser in the most disastrous, reputation-crippling foreign-policy administration in decades—has no business lecturing anybody on this score.
Finally, Obama has done pretty well in foreign policy, and polls of actual foreigners—including allies—suggest that they think so too.
True, his foreign ratings—and America’s—have slipped a bit since the halcyon days when he first took office, but for the most part they’re still considerably higher than those of the Bush era.
According to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, 53 percent of British citizens had a favorable view of the United States in 2008, the last year of Bush’s presidency. Today the figure is 60 percent. In France, the figure rose from 42 percent to 69 percent; the Czech Republic, from 45 to 54 percent; Germany, from 31 to 52 percent; Japan, from 50 to 72 percent; Mexico, from 47 to 56 percent. Only in the Arab countries (Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan) has the rating declined (and do the Republicans really care much about that?).
Another Pew poll, released just this week, about global attitudes toward President Obama as a leader makes Rice’s concerns seem ridiculous. As summarized by CNN, 87 percent of the Germans, 86 percent of the French, 80 percent of the British, and 74 percent of the Japanese have confidence in Obama—in each case, more confidence than they have in their own leaders. More striking still, 92 percent of the French, 89 percent of the Germans, 73 percent of the British, and 66 percent of the Japanese want Obama re-elected.
What does Condi Rice know about Obama’s reputation in the world that the citizens of the world don’t?
Earlier in the evening, Sen. John McCain, Obama’s GOP opponent in the 2008 election, voiced the same concerns more grumpily. (Rice, it must be said, was eloquent, if a bit nervous at the start, and did not descend to the crowd’s rabidity; her most passionate plea, in fact, was for better schooling of K-12 youth.)