During the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama’s most loyal and affectionate constituency was one that cannot legally vote in U.S. elections: foreigners. His campaign and subsequent election were celebrated in European, Asian, and African capitals. Stamps were issued, posters printed up. Hymns were sung. He was hailed as a bright new John F. Kennedy when he spoke in Berlin, and the Norwegians awarded him the Nobel Peace Prize just for showing up at work for the first couple of months. He visited 20 countries during his first year, a record number, and in China offhandedly declared that, after only a few months of his patented charm, he had “restored America’s standing in the world.”
America’s economic standing in the world has taken a beating since then, as has Obama’s standing in the polls — and now, only two years after sending his hope-and-change pixie dust swirling around the planet like the grit from one of those monster Mongolian dust storms, Obama has decided that foreigners are the enemy. Suddenly, Obama’s world looks less like the United Federation of Planets and more like Mos Eisley, that “wretched hive of scum and villainy,” an exotic collection of gangsters and far-flung ne’er-do-wells, inscrutable enemies with inscrutable motives. Obama is not much focused on the foreigners who want to saw our heads off on jihadi snuff videos, though he has continued fighting the drone wars with at least as much gusto as his predecessor. The foreigners who seem most severely to chap the presidential hide in anno Domini 2010 are those of them who want to sell us goods and services. And what an enemies list Obama has compiled: the entirely fictitious cabal of foreign financiers he blamed for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s criticism of his party’s fiscal incontinence, the “foreign corporations” he insists are bankrolling sundry other political enemies, and, most important, the go-to foreigners American politicians rely on most when an exotic peril must be rustled up in the months before a difficult election: the Chinese.