Foreign Policy Blogs

The Luck of the Kenyan Irish

We know a few things already about how foreign audiences regard the U.S. election race. In Ireland and Kenya, we know that there's newfound pride in the fact that Obama has roots that can be traced to these two countries. McCain and Hillary Clinton and even Mike Huckabee have their foreign admirers, but not generally based on their ancestry.

What makes Obama different to American voters also makes him different when it comes to those watching the U.S. campaign from afar. That quality may be charisma, which the New York Times ruminated on at length yesterday. Or it may be race. After all, the world is used to female heads of state and government — from India to Israel, Ukraine to Chile, Germany to Liberia.  But where else have we seen such a racial threshold being crossed?

This novelty was clearly highlighted today during President George Bush's visit to Africa — after Bill Clinton, the second American president to visit sub-Saharan Africa while in office. As CNN and others reported, Bush is receiving a very warm welcome throughout his tour, and has gotten deserved praise for the Administration's HIV assistance. Still, today in Tanzania, as elsewhere, thoughts were never very far from Obama's remarkable campaign.  See CNN's photo below.

You might say it's the luck of the Kenyan Irish.




Mark Dillen

Mark Dillen heads Dillen Associates LLC, an international public affairs consultancy based in San Francisco and Croatia. A former Senior Foreign Service Officer with the US State Department, Mark managed political, media and cultural relations for US embassies in Rome, Berlin, Moscow, Sofia and Belgrade, then moved to the private sector. He has degrees from Columbia and Michigan and was a Diplomat-in-Residence at the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies at Johns Hopkins. Mark has also worked for USAID as a media and political advisor and twice served as election observer and organizer for OSCE in Eastern Europe.

Areas of Focus:
US Government; Europe; Diplomacy