Please: No Global Popularity Contest

John McCain recently told a British newspaper that rebuilding America’s image abroad would be “a top priority” if he were elected President. In this, the veteran GOP senator could hardly be more misguided.

The national and international leadership of an American President cannot and must not hinge on our foreign popularity. McCain’s ill-advised vow to chase such popularity would not only harm the long-term interests of America and the free world but also fail, ultimately, to win us many friends.

In pursuit of global popularity, McCain would have us knuckle under to European sensitivities on two critical issues: our national response to so-called “global warming” and our conduct of the ongoing global war with Islamic terror.

To win friends overseas and cheer homegrown elites from Hollywood to Harvard, McCain would first have us abandon any national skepticism on the highly questionable but increasingly popular one-two view that 1) the planet is heating up and 2) we are causing it.

While there’s no denying the fever sweeping through the ranks of know-it-all professors, performers and politicians eager to tell the rest of us how we should live and what we should drive and how much we should worry, the notion of man-made global warming is nothing more than just that — a notion.

And talk about a global cataclysm. We would wreak certain havoc on the economic futures of millions here and abroad if America were to jump on the bandwagon and begin imposing all manner of restrictions on global economic growth and productivity and prosperity on the flimsy basis of theory, however popular.

Remember: a generation ago, the same crowd was trying to frighten us not with the prospect of a great heat death but a new ice age.

Chasing popularity overseas, McCain would also have us become more halting and circumspect in our pursuit of the twisted, evil bastards still doing everything they can to trump their brothers’ wicked handiwork at the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

Like too many of our faint-hearted allies, McCain is unduly worried about the image of indefinitely incarcerating some of the worst of our sworn enemies at Guantanamo Bay. Instead of trying so hard to make sure hardened terrorists have their undeserved day in U.S. courts, he should focus on making sure his countrymen never have another day like 9-11.

I say let the terrorists rot in Guantanamo until Cuba freezes over. And let the Europeans and “60 Minutes” howl. We need to remain a serious nation, engaged in the serious business of trying to kill, capture and lock up those who remain hell-bent on destroying our civilization.

The next President should be fiercely concerned about avoiding the images of another terror attack on American soil and boldly unapologetic about images of hardcore jihadists stuck bowing to Mecca behind barbed wire in Cuba.

Of course, even if McCain caved on global warming and started waging a softer, gentler war on terror, he would not make us very popular overseas. Why? Because America is ultimately unloved because ours is the most powerful, wealthiest nation on earth.

Which means any real effort to boost our popularity would involve America becoming less powerful, less wealthy or both. Imposing draconian new environmental restrictions and giving constitutional rights to foreign terrorists would be a start — but only a start — down that road to ruin.

America was never more popular, in recent memory, than in the days after Sept. 11. Our great towers lay in rubble, our military headquarters smoldered, and 3,000 innocents had been lost in a single day. As a helpless, hapless victim of terror, America was popular. God forbid we should be that kind of popular ever again.

Instead of trying to jack up America’s planetary poll numbers, the next President should pursue a responsibly skeptical course on climate change that protects the freedom and future of workers and their families worldwide. And he or she must continue to make the kind of tough, often unpopular decisions that have kept our enemies on the run and unable to hit us at home since 2001.

George W. Bush isn’t perfect, but give him credit for knowing you can’t begin to lead America and the greater free world by chasing global public opinion. Our next President should be so smart.


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