Saturday, March 15, 2008

Presidential Politics in Jordan

A few days ago I saw a short report on CNN discussing the views on the presidential race in the United States from people in various countries around the world. I can't remember all the countries from which CNN reported, but the theme was the same in each: the reporters believed most of the people in the country wanted either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama to win, and they also didn't really know who John McCain was.

I found this report interesting because it exactly mirrored the opinions of everyone--and I do mean everyone--I know or have discussed the election with here. All of these people want Clinton to win--although they would accept an Obama victory--and very few know much about the Republican nominee or even know his name.

From the conversations I have had, this overwhelming affinity for Hillary Clinton and the Democrats in general seems to stem from two reasons. First, most of the people here really like Hillary's husband, Bill Clinton. Exactly why this is I am not sure, but it probably has something to do with his push to find a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Most of this occurred late in his presidency, but I think most people here believe that his approach to the issue was more evenhanded than is George Bush's approach. Although one can debate the specifics of this point, it is at least a reasonable position to hold, unlike the position of one particular friend of mine, who told me he likes Bill Clinton because when he was president, "there were no wars in the world." Of course this position is not just debatable, it is not true.

This does bring me, though, to the second reason that Jordanians support Hillary Clinton for president, would accept an Obama victory and know next to nothing about John McCain. They know that Clinton is a Democrat, and that her main challenger in the general election will be a Republican, the same party as George W. Bush, whom they do not like. Most Jordanians see Bush as one who has created chaos in their part of the world with invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, supported oppression by maintaining strong ties with Israel and yet is still perhaps willing to cause more chaos in the general region by invading Iran. He does not have a good name here, and as a result neither does his party. I supported decisions other than what the president made and continues to make regarding these issues, so I can agree with a lot of what people say here and believe that many of their opinions are again at least reasonable, debatable positions to hold. However, people here can be lead by their dislike of the president to hold some unreasonable and irrational positions and attribute too many of the problems in the world to him, such as my same friend, who believes all of the wars and war-like violent conflicts in the world currently being waged are the fault of the president--somehow even, he said, the war in Darfur, Sudan in which a Muslim government is fighting Muslim rebels and killing Muslim civilians.

Whatever their reasons--reasonable to me or not--the Jordanians I know hope Hillary Clinton is the next President of the United States. If she loses the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama, though, I'm sure they will then hope for an Obama victory. I'm also sure that over these next few months as election day in the United States nears, a lot of Jordanians will be almost as interested as I am to see what the outcome will be, and what that means for American policy in this part of the world.

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