Sunday, February 15, 2009

Global Pols Eye Obama

Along with the economic crisis, a political preoccupation around the world is trying to figure out what to make of the new American president.

Hamid Karzai joins the list today. Asked by CNN's Fareed Zakaria about Obama's statement that the Afghan leader has a "bunker mentality" and "seems detached" from what is happening in his country, Karzai attempts condescension:

"I was surprised to hear that statement. Perhaps it's because the administration has not yet put itself together. Perhaps they have not been given the information yet. And I hope as they settle down, as they learn more, we will see better judgment."

Back in this hemisphere, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, better known for invective, is trying soft soap. “Any day is propitious for talking with President Barack Obama,” he says while trying for another referendum this weekend to keep himself in power forever.

This marks a change from Chavez's assessment last month that Obama has "the same stench" as George W. Bush after the new president expressed concern about Venezuelan support of guerillas in Columbia.

Meanwhile, the noisiest tinpot pol of all, Mamoud Ahmadinejad, also in trouble back home, has been running through the demagogue's handbook, at first claiming Obama's willingness to talk a victory for Iran but is now trying on a statesman's costume.

"Right now, the world is entering the era of dialogue," Ahmadinejad told crowds celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Islamic revolution. "It's quite clear that real change should be fundamental, not just a tactical change, and it is quite clear that the Iranian nation will greet real a fair atmosphere with mutual respect."

According to a New York Times analysis, "Allies as well as regimes at odds with the United States are scoping out the new president, trying to anticipate his opening moves, and then positioning themselves for advantage."

But foreign policy alone won't determine how world leaders react to Obama. His director of national intelligence, Dennis Blair, told the Senate last week that other nations blame America for setting off the worldwide financial crisis, which has led to “increased questioning of U.S. stewardship of the global economy.”

As much as Obama tries to bring Change to the world scene, the success of his efforts to save the domestic economy will play a major part there as well.

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