Forget the ratings…renew the series!

It has taken America its entire short history to harvest a good image around the world: a good image as a land of opportunity; a good image as a nation of laws; and, a good image as a fair, if imperfect, neighbor in the world community. Not so much an America to be envied, economically, but rather an America to be trusted.

One would think that an image so sculpted of these United States would not erode so quickly. But it did. Undiluted arrogance and diplomatic malfeasance possess the social chemistry that can eat away fast and furiously. America lost the confidence of trusted friends who saw the United States pursue a unilateralist foreign policy; and also lost the respect of those nations that saw nothing judicious in the approach taken by a powerful nation to the situation in Iraq. An already poor image of America in the Muslim world, turned dismal, perhaps irreversibly so.

The results from the Pew Global Attitudes Project poll released earlier this week point to the quantification of things qualitatively known by those who have followed this president’s adventure in Iraq via the media coverage outside these United States . If Americans find themselves surprised by the survey tallies, perhaps they need to thank the domestic media, and how, by art or by design, they helped create such state of ignorance.

To me, the only surprise came in the form of a statement made by Madeleine Albright during her press conference unveiling the survey results. She said to be surprised, and “very preoccupied,” with the fact that people throughout the world are afraid of American power. The globetrotting former Secretary of State… surprised? Where has she been these last few months?

Things have changed since her departure three years ago. Dramatically! Not so much as a result of what happened on September 11, 2001, but ratheron January 20, earlier in the year. But those changes were evidenced in the foreign relations continuum that follows a change in administration. And there has been mounting evidence during this past year that the image of America as a benign, trustworthy colossus is easily disappearing, if it has not entirely disappeared. (Earlier in the year, as the Iraqui campaign waited to be launched, a much-publicized poll of Asian businessmen indicated America ’s hegemony as their greater concern, or perceived danger, and not Iraq or any other world situation.)

As damaging as Bush’s brand is proving to be on American foreign policy, his imprint on the domestic economy is likely to be felt for many years to come, assuming the fiscal changes put in place, plus other changes that those are likely to breed, are not reversed by future legislation. But Bush’s team may have a perfect market intelligence reading on us. Are we a nation of short term consumers, short term politicians, short term CEOs, short term results… or are we concerned with the future and the legacy we may leave to those who will follow us?

So the image of America is tarnished! Do we really care? After all, who is passing judgment on us…foreigners? “It’s our country, and nobody is going to tell us what’s in our best interest… not the UN, nobody!” (Does it have a familiar ring?) But perhaps we should care. As G.K. Chesterton stated, “My country, right or wrong” is like saying, “My mother, drunk or sober.”

A part-time liar sooner or later is found out, and often pays the price. A dedicated, full time liar has a much better chance of success. As an observer, one can easily conclude that the present White House has been engagingly successful in both foreign and domestic fronts. That is, successful with the home crowd. With much of the media wearing blinders, if not on a jingoistic rampage, full time lying continues to be effective. But deceit also has a biological half-life. There should be enough truth seekers in the media, to force the process of eliminating half of the lies from the body of deceit, and to do so in short order.

The ratings may be out, but there is a good chance that the American public could care less. Without the need for a sponsor, it looks as if the series, “Bush, Imperator," will be renewed in 2004. But there is a need for a sponsor, if it be Truth. Then, and only then, will Americans care.