Foreign Policy Blogs

A Fine Mess

In the interest of improving America's image, someone should have banned coverage of Saturday's meeting of the Democrats’ Rules and Bylaws Committee in Washington. There were insults, snide remarks, grandstanding and pettifoggery during the six-hour meeting — and that was just the participants. The hundreds of partisan onlookers behaved much worse, yelling taunts and threats and destroying any sense of decorum.

As the Washington Post's Dana Millbank aptly recalled, it was the American humorist Will Rogers who once said, “I’m not a member of any organized party — I’m a Democrat.” Not much has changed since Rogers made that quip seventy years ago. The same lack of discipline that created the problem that Saturday's meeting was intended to resolve, made it impossible to reach a solution that all sides could be counted on to respect.

Meanwhile, various pollsters and foreign opinion leaders continue to write about which candidate for President is most popular among various foreign publics. I’m glad that there continues to be grist for this mill, but I worry that once foreigners realize how disorganized and illogical our political process has become, their respect for us will fall as low as George Bush's ratings.

How are we to explain the fact that the final three primaries — supposedly decisive — include a territory where the citizens can't vote for President, and two states (Montana and South Dakota) that are among the least populous (44th and 46th, respectively)?

Foreign publics and pundits have been rather decorous so far. Yesterday, Fareed Zakaria, in his new show on CNN, Global Public Square, queried a panel that included Christianne Amanpour, on foreign opinion on the U.S. election. The consensus? Europe is still quite taken with Obama, and China is now more curious about him. This, of course, as Obama seems to be finally wrapping up the nomination.

There are many more episodes to run in our great national election drama before November. So far, our three contenders have aptly used the Bush Administration and its low international prestige as a foil to project their own competencies. But if the blood-letting among Clinton and Obama partisans continues, foreigners may well conclude that the party that wants to clean up the mess in Washington will first have to clean up the mess in its own ranks.



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