Too Popular Abroad?

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Daniel Larison thinks that the argument that Obama could appeal to developing countries' populations and transform American soft power will only hurt Obama at home:

You could not have concocted a more insidious anti-Obama campaign than what many of his supporters (as well as the candidate and campaign) have managed to do in constantly talking up all the foreign places he lived, his relatives in Kenya, and on and on.  From a certain perspective, Obama’s background and biography must seem to be undeniable political assets, but slowly it is beginning to dawn on his boosters that a great many, probably most, Americans do not share that perspective.  Furthermore, the emphasis on Obama’s background and biography has always meant that the ‘08 election would become a culture clash, and it is one that I suspect the Democrats still cannot win.

I find this too depressing and defeatist an attitude. If Obama's biography and appeal affect global opinion and therefore foreign policy, the subject should be on the table - as a weapon in pursuit of national self-interest. If we cannot have a debate in a democracy about this impact without fostering xenophobia, ignorance and fear, then democracy cannot work. Which, I suspect, is partly Larison's point. I'm not as defeatist - and it's telling that many criticisms of Obama - Carole Simpson's for example - fall into this trap.

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