Friday, November 5, 2010

The New Wave

Some of you may remember that I wrote a paper last year on free information flows and attitudes toward the United States. I was trying to find a relationship between information freedom and successful public diplomacy, but the most influential factor in how countries viewed the United States seemed to be the president. Attitudes about the United States shifted dramatically when Obama replaced Bush.

Chalk it up to frustration with Bush or optimism about Obama--many pundits have. But it's fair to say that opinions of Obama (both foreign and domestic) have also changed over the past two years. Early this week I wondered what effect Republican domination of the House would have on foreign attitudes. While that's not yet clear, it is fair to say that the political shift is already affecting how Obama presents various political issues.

Today the Washington Post reports that Obama is recasting environmental policy to emphasize its economic benefits, and the New York Times notes that Obama's trip to Asia is being reframed to emphasize jobs creation. Both efforts appear to be aimed to appease the new politicians and the constituents who voted them into power, but it's worth noting that no president ever exclusively addresses a domestic or a foreign audience, particularly in the age of international cable, mobile technology and high-speed Internet.

The new M.O. for American politics seems to be domestic growth, but it will be interesting to see how this message plays abroad.

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