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Obama: When Race Rears its Ugly Head

Categories: Americas, East Asia, Eastern & Central Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, Western Europe, Canada, France, Haiti, Kenya, Slovakia, Thailand, Trinidad & Tobago, United Kingdom, Democratic Party, Republican Party, Civil Rights & Ethnicity, Government & Politics, International Relations, Religion

With a little less than two hours to go before the two US presidential candidates flex their muscles at their first televised debate, bloggers from around the world are busy registering their impressions on the candidates. Here's a reflection from international bloggers on Democratic nominee Barack Obama.

England for Obama [1] lauds the manner in which the Democratic candidate handled McCain's hesitation:

Nicely handled, Barack. You stuck to your guns, you expressed equal concern about what’s good for the country – can’t let McCain have the upper hand on that one, now, can we? – and you’ve come out of this smelling of roses. That’s our boy. Not that we expected any less of you, of course…

Jotman [2] draws our attention to the Economist‘s Global Electoral College, where Obama is ahead in the the international polls – not that they can vote, but never mind.

Check out this interactive map [3] at the Economist called the “Global Electoral College”. Almost every country on the map is “strong Obama.” Thailand — which I blog a lot about — is 97% for Obama. Several other countries, such as France (90% Obama) and Canada (87% Obama) are not far behind. At this hour, only Slovakia (52% Obama) remains hotly contested.

And how far are Obama's international supporters willing to reach out? Sky is the limit for Gisèle, from France, who has even started a Pray for Obama [4] blog. Her reasoning?

“The next President of the United States of America will make decisions that will affect the lives of billions of people worldwide. We citizens of the world cannot vote but we can support and pray for the man we believe will best serve not only the American people, but also the rest of the world.

Les décisions du prochain président des Etats-Unis d'Amérique auront un impact non seulement sur la vie des américains mais aussi sur le reste du monde. En tant que citoyens du monde nous ne pouvons pas voter à ces éléctions mais nous pouvons apporter notre soutien à l'homme que nous considérons plus à même de servir non seulement les intérêts du peuple américain mais qui pourra aussi dialoguer avec le reste du monde.

From the United Kingdom, writing for OpenUSA [5], Kanishk Tharoor describes how Obama's race is once again rearing its ugly head into the campaign – not that it ever went away.

Earlier this week, conservative radio pundit Rush Limbaugh [6] played a terrifying game of racial semantics. He insisted that Barack Obama  was not, in fact, African-American, but rather “Arab”. Limbaugh mused: “Do you know he has not one shred of African-American blood? He's Arab. You know, he's from Africa. He's from Arab parts of Africa. … [H]e's not African-American. The last thing that he is is African-American.” Nevermind that Kenya – Obama's fatherland – is hardly an “Arab” part of Africa. Nevermind the implied assertion that it's unacceptable to be Arab.

Tharoor continues:

Of course, America's tormented relationship with race has never lurked too far from the surface of the election campaign. The irony is that Obama himself must continue to row through the waters as if there was very little roiling below. Obama's opponents flippantly and indelicately invoke race; Obama must steer clear.

Speaking of Obama's race, The Haitian Blogger [7] writes:

Race is the “elephant” in the election and a subject that Barack Obama has been avoiding whenever possible, but which he has addressed masterfully [8] when necessary. Race is also why John McCain is running so close in the polls to Barack Obama, in spite of his blunders [9], ineptitude [10], temperament [11] and incoherence [12]. It's true that Obama has eked a small lead [13], but not what you would expect.

Finally, from Trinidad and Tobago, Notes from Port of Spain [14]observes:

It looks to me as if Obama peaked too early, and that America is reassessing him, and rather fancying McCain. Of course a lot can happen in six weeks. And maybe Obama has a plan. Maybe even a good plan.

But events are running against him. Pundits say the present financial crisis won't make much difference. But I think it makes people nervous and afraid, and that's when they want to play safe, not take risks.