In Obama’s America, foreign officials often disrespect top U.S. leaders.
Last week, NBC foreign correspondent Richard Engel said he would be “hard pressed” to come up with a single country where America’s relations have improved since President Barack Obama took office in 2009.
In terms of how America is viewed by citizens of foreign countries under Obama, polling doesn’t quite yet reflect that America is viewed worse under Obama than George W. Bush, but one suspects that it might shortly. While a 2013 Pew global attitudes poll showed most countries viewing Obama’s America more favorably than Bush’s, it also revealed that America’s image in the world has been falling steadily in a majority of countries surveyed since the euphoria of Obama’s first year in office. In some countries — perhaps most hilariously Kenya — Obama’s America in 2013 was viewed less favorably than Bush’s America at the end of his term in 2008.
As for the world’s confidence in Obama, the 2013 Pew poll showed it as relatively high in most countries, but in decline since 2009.
Since Pew’s poll was released last July, America’s image in the world and the world’s confidence in Obama have likely declined further. We won’t know for sure until Pew releases its 2014 poll, but just think of all that’s occurred in the last 12 months — from Obama sucking his thumb as Bashar Assad’s Syria brazenly crossed Obama’s redline to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s usurpation of Crimea despite Obama’s protestations — and it’s hard to imagine the next Pew poll won’t be damning for a president who once placed improving America’s image in the world on such a pedestal.
But you don’t need a new Pew poll to see that America’s prestige is in a free fall. America’s declining image can be seen in the small acts of disrespect top American officials have been subjected to just since Obama’s re-election in 2012. Here are just three examples:
1.) Karzai refused to meet with Obama
President Obama made a surprise trip to Afghanistan over Memorial Day Weekend, but despite being commander-in-chief of the world’s only superpower, he couldn’t secure a meeting with the country’s outgoing leader, Hamid Karzai, according to reports.
The ungrateful Afghan leader is currently at loggerheads with the Obama administration, so far refusing to sign a bilateral agreement that would allow a contingent of American forces to remain in the country past 2014.
The Obama administration unconvincingly tried to rationalize the sleight to the press.
“As we said, we weren’t planning for a bilateral meeting with President Karzai or a trip to the palace, as this trip is focused on thanking our troops,” a U.S. official told Agence France-Presse. “We did offer him the opportunity to come to Bagram, but we’re not surprised that it didn’t work on short notice.”
2.) Russia wouldn’t return our defense secretary’s phone calls
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel couldn’t get his phone call returned by his counterpart in Russia in April during the Crimea showdown.
“We have made it clear to the Russians that Secretary Hagel is available for a phone call anytime,” a Pentagon spokesman told the press at the end of April. “We have reached out to them and made it very clear to them that he is willing to speak with his counterpart. …We have not heard back.”
3.) Russia wouldn’t return our secretary of state’s phone calls either!
Before Hagel got the Russian silent treatment, John Kerry did.
“As you head off for your Presidents’ Day weekend, The Cable would just like to note that it’s now been over 72 hours since Secretary of State John Kerry reached out to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov — without getting a call back,” Foreign Policy magazine reported soon after Kerry assumed his role as secretary of state in February 2013.
Kerry wanted to talk to his Russian counterpart about the recent North Korean nuclear test.
“Well, first of all, let me say that we are relaxed. The secretary is relaxed about this,” a State Department spokesman rationalized the humiliation at the time. “From our perspective, the secretary would like to talk to him. It’s up to him whether he wants to take that opportunity.”
Foreign Policy pointed out that even State Department reporters were aghast by Russia’s insult.
“I mean, this is getting kind of ridiculous, isn’t it?” one reporter said at a State Department briefing.