From George W. Bush to Barack Hussein Obama

Woo Hoo!! It’s inauguration day in the United States. While Barack Obama scored big in the electoral vote over John McCain by about 2 to 1, the popular vote was 52% to 48%. That may be significant in election results but maybe not as a voter mandate. Both percentages are close enough to 50% to say that about half the country supported each candidate. Those who supported Barack Obama for President are understandably exuberant or euphoric. Those who opposed him are not so happy. Some of Obama’s opposition suggest we should hope he is successful as it would be in all our best interests. It may be insufficient to express that sentiment without knowing the definition of ‘successful’ in this case. If he succeeds in accomplishing his own objectives that may not meet with approval even from the entire 52% who voted for him. Most Americans may hold a similar opinion as those in other countries on hopes for a new President. If his agenda is good for them personally they will approve, otherwise not. It is after all a somewhat selfish world.

The current situation in the Middle East may indicate how a new American President may influence world events before officially becoming President. In all the back and forth violence in the Middle East do you remember any time in the past when Arab countries were at odds with each other over how to proceed or what stance to take in view of the international press? In December 2008, ‘Anti-Israel protests erupted throughout the Middle East again on Monday, as Israeli forces continued air strikes against Hamas targets on the Gaza Strip. More than 300 people, including many civilians, have been killed in the assault, which Israel launched in response to a series of rocket attacks launched from Gaza.’ As this quote indicates Israel launched an offensive in response to attacks from Gaza. The United States and other Western nations have blamed Hamas for triggering the outbreak of violence. That was the beginning with expected protest from supporters of Hamas and the US and other Western nations holding Hamas responsible for the ‘outbreak’. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Thomas Steg, said the chancellor believes Hamas is exclusively and clearly responsible for the violence.

That is where typical ended.
An Egyptian peace plan, crafted to put an end to the Gaza conflict, appears to be at the center of the diplomatic row between pro-Western Arab states, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, and more hardline states, including Syria, Sudan and Iran. It is no surprise that Syria, Sudan and Iran are listed here as hardline states. Similarly referring to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan as pro-Western is not far off the mark although sometimes it is hard to tell why they are referred to this way. Two rival Arab gatherings have been taking place in Kuwait and Qatar, reflecting the deep divide among Arab leaders over how to react to the three-week-old conflict in Gaza. The bitter division is taking Arab leaders into uncharted territory. The unchartered territory is the part hinted at earlier suggesting this has never happened before or at least was not this noticeable. Could it be that the first crowning of a new king in the US is responsible for these events?

A look at other opinions expressed around the world may help. But it may require reading between the lines as is often the case in public affairs, politics or other endeavors featuring public statements. World financial markets operated with the US markets on holiday in honor of MLKjr. The other world markets posted modest gains and have a different take than the public at large over Obama’s election. Will a huge stimulus and more bailouts be forthcoming? Britain appears to be following lock step with handouts to banks and other businesses like their US counterparts. The markets appear to be hesitant in much the same way as foreign governments seem to be.

India’s impression and expectations for the new American President may differ widely from other countries simply because of their form of government in addition to selfish interests which for them include Pakistan and US sentiment toward them. The incoming Obama White House is going to be watched closely from the world’s largest democracy. India has enjoyed a warming relationship with the United States under the past two presidential administrations following decades when American policy in the region clearly tilted in favor of Pakistan – India’s primary rival. Other selfish motives are nuclear weapons treaties and test bans not to mention outsourcing of American jobs.

In contrast, Syria claims to be ready to cooperate with the US. On the one hand they say they want to work with the US on the Iran nukes problem and on the other hand they want to be friendly to Iran. Ya, that’ll work. But who knows after Pelosi and friends assumed the role of President and went to Syria and other countries to show off. As mentioned earlier Arab countries seem to be having difficulty crafting a coherent strategy on foreign affairs.

North Korea may have figured the Bush efforts would not be successful with other world leaders providing ineffective leadership as well in the matter of nukes there. One expert says NK has weaponized plutonium and no one seems to be making much of it. With nothing concluded on this topic during the Bush years North Korea may be right in expecting more of the same with Obama.

While economic concerns top the agenda, people here will be watching closely to see how the incoming president deals with the Middle East, the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and climate change. A hefty workload for America’s next leader, but a leader who will have a lot of supporters in Europe who will be wishing him every success. One never knows with the EU. That could go for the rest of the world when it comes to opinion on the US. While the US takes a lot of heat from many sources around the world it is interesting how they all await the next move as if their own existence depends on it. Maybe it does. Could it be that in the EU they may oppose the US at times for the same reason those in our own country do? (selfish reasons masquerading as genuine concern)

Beijing says it is ready to work with the Obama administration, but it is also waiting to see how China is treated. The Chinese government has already indicated it considers the Taiwan issue a priority. See, it is no different anywhere. Everyone appraises the US with the same standard…..what have you done for me lately?

Many ordinary Russians have been impressed by Mr. Obama. A journalism student in Moscow named Nastia told VOA that Mr. Obama strikes her as a great speaker. She says his inauguration holds promise for improved U.S.-Russian relations following what she says was a period of neglect under President George Bush. Same problems with the bear as with everyone else when it comes to analyzing the US and forming opinions. What have you done for me lately? There was a period of (Russian) neglect under President George Bush? It is not like Putin and company were cozying up to anyone at the time. One must remember it was not that long ago these two nations ran the planet. And it may have been in Putin’s interest to appear tough on America for his own political purposes at home.

Dear almost former President Bush:
Thanks for keeping us safe. (proof is we haven’t been attacked since 9/11) Like all Presidents some of your work was successful and some was not. Take a well deserved vacation and solace in the fact that as some say once you’ve been away for a while and things calm down your ‘legacy’ will be more favorably reviewed down the road. There will be no review here and now. Well except for that shamnesty thing. there won’t be any. Damn, what were you thinking?

Dear almost President Obama:
You’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do. This blog will treat you in a fashion described regularly by your friend Sean Hannity. When you do something or are responsible for something that finds agreement here you will be applauded and supported. The reverse is also true. You do not have much time to get things right. Even your far left fringe supporters are unsure where you are going and are not happy. The rest of us are sure where you are going and not happy. There may not be a honeymoon.

Stanford Matthews
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