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An International Businessman's Perspective on the Popular Mr. Obama

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Just had an interesting conversation with an international businessman about our President-elect.

Adam Ginsberg, author of How to Buy, Sell and Profit on E-Bay, conducts training seminars and sells software that helps people to create and market their own web sites and internet-based businesses.

He travels around the world, including to England, Ireland, Malaysia, Singapore, and Australia, hosting seminars and selling products. A McCain supporter in the general election, Ginsberg maintains that politicians "should be less interested in creating jobs, more interested in creating opportunities."

But in recent months, his view that the election of Barack Obama was an unfavorable outcome has shifted. The reason? Based on his experiences lately speaking to large crowds about becoming internet entrepreneurs, he believes Obama's election has spurred the masses, not only in the U.S. but around the world, to regain their faith in the U.S. and, more importantly, in their own potential.

"When I get up in Indonesia and Malaysia and Singapore and Australia and say, 'Yes we can,' people go wild," he says.

Traveling around the world, he also finds audiences much more positive towards the United States than he did before Mr. Obama's election.

"People outside the U.S. look at us as leaders, and for whatever reasons, the world doesn't like George Bush," he says. "It could be Bush is just a scapegoat. But I think the world looks at the U.S. as a bully. But since [Obama's election] they think of the U.S. as a leader. You need a leader to be someone you can look up to, and relate to, and they relate to Barack Obama."

Part of what is interesting about Ginsberg's observations is his acknowledgment that much of the hatred of George W. Bush may be irrational and reflect an oversimplification of the problems our current president had to deal with, as well as media bias.

Nevertheless he believes that many ordinary people around the world have renewed faith in the U.S. and in their abilities, as individuals, to achieve great things, that this attitudinal shift can be traced to Obama's election, and that it will be good for the U.S. He says it's been good for his business, too.

All of this is lovely; still, it seems to me somewhat concerning in the way the more over-the-top anger and even hatred of Mr. Bush was, in that it seems, like that hatred, to be based on subjective perceptions and the emotions they create rather than on a deep grasp of complex issues. Like him or not, one of President Bush's defining qualities was his ability to stand firm against the current of public opinion both nationally and internationally.

Some would argue that this quality led to poor policy. But in at least two cases (the successful surge strategy in Iraq and support for Israel's decision to build a security fence that has saved countless lives), it has enabled Bush to show strong and effective leadership.

Soon President-elect Obama will face problems similar to those faced by President Bush. Problems like international terrorism directed against Americans and others, and Iran's push for nuclear capability, will require tough decisions that are likely to produce problematic, possibly messy outcomes. Let's hope Mr. Obama's international popularity will survive the reality of his responsibilities as leader of the free world.

But even more importantly, let's remember what most of us learned around the time we left high school: popularity is not everything. It is neither proof nor disproof of character or ability. Like anything, it can be a tool for good or ill. Let's support Mr. Obama and hope he has the inner strength to do what is right for our country, whether or not it happens to be popular.