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Obama From Abroad

12/01/08 5:55PM By Olin Robison
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(HOST) Commentator Olin Robison has been thinking about the international dimension of the Obama election.

(ROBISON) I have been abroad since the Presidential election, and I have found it absolutely amazing just how much buzz and excitement there is virtually everywhere over the election of Barack Obama.

Everywhere I have been there has been an assumption that his election is going to bring the United States back to some previous time.....just where on the historical time spectrum depends on who is doing the talking.  Expectations are unreasonably high.....higher, in fact, than could possibly be met by any one person.

Back in the 1980's I wrote a piece for a national newspaper.  The piece was written shortly after I had returned from the Soviet Union, but not long before a U.S. Presidential election.  In it I said that most Russians seem to believe that they should have a vote in U.S. elections  One now gets the impression that it isn't just the Russians.  It is almost everyone everywhere.

It is doubtful to me that the United States could have done anything else than what it did to improve dramatically the international image of the United States in one bold stroke.  That will no doubt change yet again, but right now we're riding high.  Perhaps too high; but definitely high.

The odd bit for me is that there has long been a persistent anti-Americanism abroad.  It has long been a push-pull sort of thing; attraction on the one hand, aversion on the other.  It began some 300 years ago, as Europeans were warned that the New World was mostly marshy and might sink into the ocean at any time....plus these two disturbing facts: 1) that men who went there would become impotent, and 2) that dogs sent to the New World would no longer bark.  Really.  I didn't make that up.

Just how far into this new administration we will be before this sort of anti-Americanism surfaces again is of course impossible to say.  But it will come.  You can count on it.

There is abroad both an attraction to our beloved county and a need to see its flaws. And of course there are plenty of flaws.

I recall, for instance, during the Cold War years, listening to Russians complain about the inaccuracies of the American press.  It did not seem to help much when I tried to explain that no one had ever promised an accurate press, only  a free one.  Nor did it help much either then or now when I said that I have a longer list of America's flaws than they have.

There was back then - and there will be again - a sort of "Can you top this" sport among America's critics.  I have repeatedly wanted to say that I could top their lists... but just what good would that do?
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