'I'm Keeping My Eye on Virginia,' the Palestinian Refugee Said

I doubt that one in 10 -- or one in 20 -- Americans could name the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, or the prime minister of Jordan, or the president of Nigeria, whose name is very easy to remember. And yet, tonight, in Amman, I fell into conversation with a group of Palestinian-Jordanians who seemed to be reading RealClearPolitics (or Molly Ball) every single day.

I was hoping for a discussion about broad themes in American foreign policy -- such as, for instance, will any American president come up with a suitable plan for eventual Middle East compromise? Or anything having to do with the Muslim Brotherhood, or Iran. But all these guys wanted to talk about was the electoral map. How many votes does Ohio get? Why is New Hampshire so important when it's so small? One of these guys, an engineer (and a refugee from the West Bank) said, "I'm keeping my eye on Virginia." I asked him why. He said he read on FoxNews.com that Virginia was key this year.

This is just a reminder to Americans, who seemed, especially during this campaign, to forget that the rest of the world exists, and matters, and that people in virtually every country around the globe care immensely who becomes the president of the United States. One of the people I was speaking with said something else that struck me: "Your elections are very polite. The candidates are very polite." I expressed surprise, and asked him, compared to what?  "Syria," he said, and laughed.

One thing, though: Not one of these men had an opinion, one way or the other, about Nate Silver. So there are limits to their knowledge.

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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