Israel, Britain, and Eastern Europe are not closer allies now than they were in 2008. Iran is still Iran — and may be even a more dangerous adversary after the failed Obama outreach. Putin’s Russia, despite “reset” (a word we no longer much hear), is still Putin’s Russia. China still despises the U.S., and feels in 2011 that it is in a far better position to act on its contempt than it was in 2009. North Korea never got the “hope and change” message. Europe is collapsing, reminding the world where the United States is headed if it does not change course. Outreach didn’t seem to do much for the Castro brothers, Hugo Chávez, or Daniel Ortega. We are helping Mexico to sue our own states, but that does not seem to persuade its leaders to keep their citizens home. Muslim Pakistan went from a duplicitous ally to a veritable enemy. The more we bragged about Turkey, the more we could feel it holds us in contempt. We hope that the Libyan rebels and the Cairo protesters are headed toward democracy, but we privately admit that they seem to have no more interest in establishing it than we have in promoting it. In other words, Professor Obama reminds future presidents that the world will transcend their rhetoric, their pretensions, and their heritage. Other nations always calibrate their relations with the United States either by their own perceived self-interest, or by centuries-old American values and power, or both.
The main job of a President is national defense. Everything else is secondary. Green energy doesn't matter if you can't defend your shores or your borders or your interests abroad. Obamacare is small potatoes if Iran gets the bomb, or if Russia implodes, or if China flexes its newfound muscles. So while we ask the voters in 2012 whether they are better off than they were four years ago, the great Reagan formulation, let's also remember to ask them this:
Is America safer than it was four years ago? Is America stronger or weaker than it was four years ago? Is the world safer?
In a word: No.