EDITORIAL: Obama should remember who friends are around world

The Obama presidency was supposed to revive America’s image in the eyes of the world, but results on that score have been mixed at best. Recent blunders show the White House struggling to manage relationships with our closest allies.

Speaking in the coal-producing Australian state of Queensland [in November] during the G-20 Brisbane economic summit, Obama made what Greg Sheriden, foreign editor of The Australian, called “a bizarre decision to attack and damage his closest ally in Asia, and one of the most committed supporters of U.S. foreign policy.”

According to Sheriden, “the longest passage was an extraordinary riff on climate change that contained astonishing criticism — implied, but unmistakable — of the government led by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.” Obama congratulated himself for signing a climate change agreement with China and urged Australia to take similar measures, repeatedly invoking the threat he says global warming poses to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Prime Minister Abbott is a moderate conservative who has been an unflagging supporter of American strategic interests in Asia and the Middle East. On environmental issues, Abbott believes that climate change is a problem, and he has maintained his more liberal predecessor’s commitment to cut Australia’s carbon emissions.

But Abbot also kept a campaign promise to repeal an unpopular carbon tax. Apparently that deviation from environmentalist orthodoxy was enough to merit a swipe from America’s climate-warrior-in-chief.

“Barack Obama was rude to an ally, hypocritical and wildly misinformed,” wrote Andrew Bolt, an influential Australian political columnist, during the resulting furor. Some Queensland leaders were so insulted by Obama’s remarks that they’ve threatened to lodge a formal complaint.

Closer to home, the President insulted Canada recently while discussing the proposed Keystone XL pipeline: “Understand what this project is,” Obama said. “It is providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the Gulf, where it will be sold everywhere else. It doesn’t have an impact on U.S. gas prices.”

Not only was his characterization of Keystone incorrect — the Washington Post fact-checker gave it three Pinocchios — the statement was offensively dismissive of Canadian interests, and economically illiterate to boot.

“Sometimes we wonder if President Obama has even the vaguest idea how a private economy works,” wrote the editors of the Wall Street Journal.

The president has two years to get his foreign policy back on track. Perhaps he should start by remembering who America’s friends are, and treating them accordingly.

Updated: 
12/03/2014 - 1:56pm

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