Monday, October 19, 2009

Bono on Obama: The world needs America again


I highly recommend that you not read Bono's op-ed in Saturday's Times on Obama and "Rebranding America."

Actually, no, it's not that bad. It's hard to stomach Bono, I know, but his activism is admirable, particularly with respect to poverty, and he shows a welcome modesty here (false or not, I leave it to you to judge).

So go check it out, if you haven't already. Here are some of the better passages:

So here's why I think the virtual Obama is the real Obama, and why I think the man might deserve the hype. It starts with a quotation from a speech he gave at the United Nations last month:

"We will support the Millennium Development Goals, and approach next year's summit with a global plan to make them a reality. And we will set our sights on the eradication of extreme poverty in our time."

*****

Many have spoken about the need for a rebranding of America. Rebrand, restart, reboot. In my view these 36 words, alongside the administration's approach to fighting nuclear proliferation and climate change, improving relations in the Middle East and, by the way, creating jobs and providing health care at home, are rebranding in action.


These new steps -- and those 36 words -- remind the world that America is not just a country but an idea, a great idea about opportunity for all and responsibility to your fellow man.

*****

In dangerous, clangorous times, the idea of America rings like a bell (see King, M. L., Jr., and Dylan, Bob). It hits a high note and sustains it without wearing on your nerves. (If only we all could.) This was the melody line of the Marshall Plan and it's resonating again. Why? Because the world sees that America might just hold the keys to solving the three greatest threats we face on this planet: extreme poverty, extreme ideology and extreme climate change. The world senses that America, with renewed global support, might be better placed to defeat this axis of extremism with a new model of foreign policy.

*****

The world wants to believe in America again because the world needs to believe in America again. We need your ideas -- your idea -- at a time when the rest of the world is running out of them.

In my more pro-American moments, I think that, too. While I object to American hegemonism, neocon-style, I do believe in America, in the Idea of America, in the American Ideal, in America's ideas and ideals -- and in the possibility of America, the hope of America -- much as Obama himself does.

Sure, I think much of it is hollow rhetoric, however high-falutin', and there is a dark side to America -- a very dark side -- that Bono doesn't mention here -- but with Obama in the White House it is definitely possible to be hopeful again. (I would also add that Bono doesn't mention the areas where Obama has fallen short so far, and where he has been too much like his predecessor: national security and government secrecy, the Afghan War, gay rights, etc. Indeed, Bono credits Obama with putting an excellent foreign policy team together, but, of course, that team is hardly uniformly progressive. Robert Gates and Jim Jones are both establishmentarian types bent on maintaining the status quo, as are Biden and Hillary, more or less. As well, his economic team includes many of the figures, Wall Street and other financial insiders, who contributed to the collapse, notably Larry Summers and Tim Geithner.)

Anyway, I do think Bono is right about why Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize -- and it's why I don't really object to his winning it, or certainly not as vehemently as many others do:

The Nobel Peace Prize is the rest of the world saying, "Don't blow it."

I would go a bit further: The Nobel Peace Prize is the rest of the world, as interpreted by a select few in Oslo, saying, "We believe in America. We have hope in Obama. It is time for America to lead again."

Here's hoping the hope is not misplaced.

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