Right-wing media are trying to breathe new life into the never-dormant right-wing mantra that President Obama is the "apologist in chief" in order to argue that Obama has "diminished" America's standing in the world -- an argument that is contradicted by America's actual standing in the world.
After Obama apologized to Afghanistan for the actions of U.S. military personnel posted there, conservative media figures lambasted him for "constantly bending over backwards" and "showing weakness ... in Afghanistan and elsewhere around the globe." Fox News' Sean Hannity, one of the greatest purveyors of the "apology tour" myth, has even claimed that this is proof of just how much Obama has damaged America's standing in the world.
But all of this -- from Obama "constantly" apologizing for America to his hurting U.S. image abroad -- is a lot of nonsense.
First, let's cue Hannity, who devoted two separate segments on his two different platforms to pushing this meme:
On his radio show, he accused Obama of having "effectively undermined any moral claim that America might have to world leadership." He went on to say that "we see -- what's happening is that America is ceding that ground" and that "[w]e have a president that's more inclined to apologize for America than defend America's greatness."
On his Fox News show, Hannity said: "With the president again apologizing for America, we are reminded just how much our standing in the world has diminished under his watch." Guest Brigitte Gabriel -- whose credibility as an expert in Middle Eastern affairs is in dispute -- chimed in by saying that Obama is "denigrating this country and he is denigrating the reputation of greatness of America." She added: "He is not only 'apologist in chief,' he is America's first 'denigrator in chief.' "
In fact, here's what the Pew Research Center reported in September 2011:
For America's global image, 2008 was a pivotal year for two reasons. First, the election of Barack Obama led to dramatically higher ratings for the U.S. in many nations. This was especially true in Western Europe, where the new president received astronomical ratings - in 2009 for example, 93% of Germans expressed confidence in Obama's leadership, as did 91% in France.
But the improvement was not limited to Western Europe. Obama was seen much more positively than his predecessor in the Americas, Africa, and Asia as well, and ratings for the U.S. rose significantly in nations such as Mexico, Argentina, Canada, Nigeria, and Japan.
The 2010 and 2011 Pew surveys showed that the Obama bounce had staying power, as views toward the U.S. and Obama remained mostly positive across much of the world.
In its 2011 survey, Pew concluded: "Overall, the U.S. president continues to inspire more confidence than any of the other world leaders tested in the survey."
A 2011 BBC World Service poll arrived at the same conclusion:
Views of the US continued their overall improvement in 2011, according to the annual BBC World Service Country Rating Poll of 27 countries around the world.
Of the countries surveyed, 18 hold predominantly positive views of the US, seven hold negative views and two are divided. On average , 49 per cent of people have positive views of US influence in the world--up four points from 2010--and 31 per cent hold negative views. The poll, conducted by GlobeScan/PIPA, asked a total of 28,619 people to rate the influence in the world of 16 major nations, plus the European Union.
In 2007 a slight majority (54%) had a negative view of the United States and only close to three in ten (28%) had a positive view; America was among the countries with the lowest ratings. Views began to rise in 2008, with positive views rising to 32% on average, and now the USA is in a middle tier position, ranking substantially higher than China.
The Middle East -- which has historically given America and U.S. presidents less favorable ratings -- is still the only region where Obama and the United States are viewed in less favorable terms. According to a 2011 Zogby poll, "the policies of Iran are viewed more favorably than the policies of the United States" and where the "killing of bin Laden only worsened attitudes toward the U.S." In his analysis, James Zogby wrote that the "continuing occupation of Palestinian lands and U.S. interference in the Arab world are held to be the greatest obstacles to peace and stability in the Middle East."
The right-wing claim that Obama apologized for America is "ridiculous," says PolitiFact. The Associated Press, The Washington Post, all have warned that the claim "is not borne out by the facts" and that Obama has issued "no formal -- or informal -- apology. No saying 'sorry' on behalf of America."