As the Vienna Philharmonic finished its annual outdoor program at the Schonbrunn Castle, the guest conductor Daniel Barenboim exclaimed to the 50,000 gathered that he had a new hope because of the speech by the American President Obama on that day. The statement was met with a roar of approval. The next day, every major newspaper in Vienna carried the transcript of the Obama's Cairo speech.
Apparently, they heard the President in Lebanon and Iran as well.
I was in Vienna for a colloquium on Religion, Diplomacy, and International Relations convened by the Liechtenstein Institute on Self Determination at Princeton. In 2004, I attended another track two diplomatic meeting on Iran. Iran was in the midst of an election campaign and a radical candidate was running named Ahmadinejad. Speaking to some of the delegates it was clear that Ahmadinejad's best ally in his hardliner campaign was the American President George Bush. We assured them that George Bush's campaign (and more recently Palin's) felt the same way.
Four years later, President Bush with his Axis of Evil bluster has been replaced by President Obama with his clear diplomatic message of resolve and hope. It seeems as though an American President may be affecting the Iranian elections again, this time positively. From the recent polls it looks like Ahmadinejad is in trouble. His main opponent, Hussein Moussavi, is a reformist who is running an Obama style campaign attracting a huge youth surge. Moussavi stands for equal rights for women and decries Ahmadinejad's foreign policy as "adventurism, illusionism, exhibitionism, extremism and superficiality." In this election, Obama appears to be helping the candidate who is interested in real relations to America. The American President is a role model instead of a straw man.
Likewise in Lebanon. As the New York Times reports, until recently it seemed as though the Iranian backed Hezbollah party would win the majority. Now it looks as though the coalition that is more favorable to America will retain power.
We don't know the exact effect that Obama is having on these elections. But it appears from the 2004 results that the Cheney/Bush presidency bolstered the enemies of America. Four years later it looks like the Obama's presidency may do the opposite.
Americans would do well to remember this four years in the future in our own elections in 2012.
cross posted from Beliefnet's Progressive Revival
Follow Paul Brandeis Raushenbush on Twitter: www.twitter.com/raushenbush