Is America more or less respected in the Age of Obama? The issue has arisen in the presidential campaign. Donald Trump has said that America is less respected. The Pew Research Center believed that the question could only be answered by taking a poll. The results suggested that America is widely respected around the world today.
To obscure the question a reporter compared it all to brand loyalty. The American brand, he says, is like the Apple brand. The more people like you the more they buy your products.
But, is this about respect or popularity? And do the majority of people around the world respect America more because it is standing tall and proud or do they like it because it has diminished and demeaned itself. Do the world’s people like America more because it has been weakened or because it is stronger?
Just this morning, President Obama defended Colin Kaepernick’s right to disrespect the country. He suggested that we need to have yet another conversation about race… as if we had been talking about anything else for the past eight or so years.
In a brilliant column Claudia Rosett shows that America has been profoundly disrespected and even damaged by the Obama presidency. She describes in detail what happened in China at the G-20 meetings. The world, and especially China, said good-bye to Barack Obama by treating him like a defeated enemy.
It began with a gross insult:
President Obama took office in 2009 promising that his brand of engagement would yield global respect for the United States. We've since had more than seven years of leading from behind, standing "shoulder to shoulder" with the "international community," snubbing of allies, appeasing of enemies and cutting America down to size. As Obama makes what will likely be his final official visit to China, how's it going?
Well, China, as host of the current G-20 summit, rolled out the red carpet -- or at least the red-carpeted airplane stairs -- for the arriving leaders of such countries as Britain, Australia, Germany and Russia.
For President Obama, arriving yesterday on Air Force One, there was no such dignified reception. Instead, there was a shoving match with the press and a confrontation with National Security Adviser Susan Rice, in which a Chinese official shouted "This is our country. This is our airport." For lack of any portable stairs rolled to the front door of the presidential plane, Obama was left to jog down the aircraft's own stairs at the back.
Obama downplayed the insult, telling reporters "not to over-crank the significance."
Perhaps Obama did not want to make too much of a case about it, but, in trying to laugh it off he was saying that he accepted a diminished status, not only for him but for the nation.
Maybe that makes sense in the bubble-world of the Ben-Rhodes-foreign-policy narrative, where the tide of war is forever receding, the arc of history bends toward justice, the oceans rise and fall at the command of Obama's pen and phone, and the echo chamber, on cue, applauds.
But China's reception was an insult, pure and simple. No one need study the tea leaves to understand that this was a gesture of gross disrespect, seen around the world, putting the American president in his place -- especially as compared with the warm reception for Russia's President Vladimir Putin.
Symbolic gestures matter. They matter more than you think. They matter even more when they reflect shifting geopolitical realities.
In Rosett’s words:
While the missing red-carpeted staircase is mainly symbolic, the realities behind it are increasingly dangerous. Among them are China's territorial grabs at sea, provocations toward the U.S. Navy, cyber attacks, military exercises with Russia and evident tolerance -- despite United Nations sanctions -- of illicit traffic that enables North Korea's continuing nuclear missile program.
We will not even mention how much Russia now respects the United States. Or about the Obama record in Syria and the Middle East.
Were you listening to Obama and media reports you would have thought that he accomplished a great thing by getting China to agree to a climate change agreement. We know that the agreement was not a treaty because the administration chose not to call it a treaty— just as ransom by any other name is not ransom—because that would have required Senate ratification. There was no chance that that was going to happen.
So the "ratification" document Obama brought with him to China was the product of one of his pen-and-phone executive actions, offering to the UN secretary-general a commitment Obama was not entitled to make, and which American voters had never agreed to.
Obama was acting in an extra-constitutional fashion, thus disrespecting the Constitution. He has, Rosett argues, diminished American democracy:
Following such stunts as the Iran nuclear deal (which Obama hustled to the UN for approval, but never submitted to the Senate as a treaty), this is becoming a new norm that is, in itself, profoundly dangerous to the foundations of the American republic. Obama's job, summed up in the oath he swore when taking office (twice), is to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." The Constitution requires that a president make treaties only with the "Advice and Consent of the Senate," where a two-thirds majority is required for ratification.
Of course, everyone loves Obama because, Rosett explains, he is kowtowing to the world. The world, especially Russia and China, like to see America on its knees in a submissive posture:
It's a good bet that to the rulers of China -- and Russia, and a great many others -- Obama's "ratification" of the Paris climate deal looks not like leadership, but like a kowtow.
In her words:
All the more so because in practice, this deal amounts to Americans paying tribute. Let's set aside for the moment the valid question -- in a debate not remotely "settled" -- of whether the climate of the planet can actually be fine-tuned, as the Paris accord proposes, to within two degrees celsius over coming decades by central planning to control carbon emissions. Whatever the science, the economic aspect of this deal amounts to an expanding web of regulations and wealth transfers, coordinated by a mix of international and federal bureaucrats.
For Americans, as Obama races during his final months in office to entrench this Paris deal (with pen-and-phone) in the domestic system, the result will be to increase the regulatory strictures already strangling an economy now growing at a dismal 1%. You, the American consumer, taxpayer, shunted-aside voter, will pay.
How one-sided was the deal?
For China, the cost is far less clear. As the state-controlled China Daily summarizes the arrangements, China has pledged to "peak" carbon emissions by 2030. Obama, by contrast, has promised that America will cut emissions by 28% by 2025, as compared to the year 2005.
In other words, small wonder China is happy to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Obama on this deal. Basically, especially with Obama in the cockpit, America starts paying now. China has 14 years to play around before the deal starts to bite. Plus, under China's despotic system, coupled with a treaty in which governments are effectively held accountable only by their own citizens, the rulers in Beijing have plenty of room to toss their international commitments right out the window.
It is not going to be easy to undo all of the damage Obama has caused.