It's complicated: The public is weary of the U.S. role as the world's policeman, but it also frets about the nation's declining prestige on the global stage and disapproves of both President Obama's foreign policy practices and any attempts at nation building overseas. Yet Americans approve of aggressive participation in the world economy and favor drones in the military arsenal.
A wide-ranging Pew Research Center poll released Tuesday reveals that 53 percent of Americans say the U.S. is "less important and powerful" than it was a decade ago, a sentiment shared by 74 percent of Republicans and 33 percent of Democrats. Another 70 percent say the U.S. is less respected by other countries than in the past; 80 percent of Republicans and 56 percent of Democrats agree.
Few want the U.S. to be a wuss, however; 56 percent say the U.S. should attempt to remain the planet's only "superpower"; 63 percent of Republicans and 50 percent of Democrats agree. And for good measure, more than two-thirds of the public overall say that America remains the world's leading military power, while a mere 14 percent cited China.
But on to further complexities: 52 percent say the U.S. should "mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can"; 53 percent of Republicans and 46 percent of Democrats agree. This is the highest percentage for this critical sentiment, Pew says, in 40 years. Meanwhile, 77 percent of Americans also say that growing trade and business ties globally is "good for the U.S."; 74 percent of Republicans and 83 percent of Democrat agree.
And about those drones: Half of the overall public say military drones have made America safer. And another 53 percent disapprove of Mr. Obama's job performance in foreign policy. See more findings from this 110-page survey in the Poll du Jour at column's end.
MR. MATTHEWS' BIG MOMENT
"MSNBC has announced that Chris Matthews —Barack Obama's most excitable fan — will be interviewing the president on Thursday's 'Hardball.' "Fawning over the liberal politician is incredibly common among journalists, but Matthews has taken it to a whole new level," sighs Scott Whitlock, senior news analyst for the Media Research Center.
He has assembled what he considers Mr. Matthews' top 10, uh, "Obamagasms" — this is the analyst's word — since the 2008 election. Phrases about Mr. Obama from the top three include:
"This guy's done everything right. He's raised his family right He's the perfect father, the perfect husband, the perfect American.
"I've been criticized for saying he inspires me, and to hell with my critics. You know, in the Bible they talk about Jesus serving the good wine last, I think the Democrats did the same.
"It's part of reporting this case, this election, the feeling most people get when they hear Barack Obama's speech. My, I felt this thrill going up my leg. I mean, I don't have that too often."
MR. BROWN'S BIG BROWN EYES
"Ring in the holiday season with U.S. Senator Scott Brown."
— From the New Hampshire Republican Party's invitation to a Dec. 19 reception to be hosted by the former Massachusetts senator, who has just donated $10,000 to the Granite State GOP through his political action committee. Tickets range from $50 to a serious $2,500 each; observers say all of this is a sure sign that Mr. Brown pines to challenge Democratic incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in 2014.
"Sen. Brown is an outstanding leader and a strong voice for fiscally responsible policies," says a cordial Jennifer Horn, chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party.
Relations have not always been so lovey-dovey with Mr. Brown, however. Though the former Cosmopolitan magazine centerfold model has struck many a political posture and offered much policy talk in recent days, he has been coy about whether or not he will run.
"Brown needs to either move here and announce a run or state definitively that he will not be a candidate. The ladies love his flirting, it is true, but the one who loves it the most is Jeanne Shaheen. Every time he bats an eye, she cashes a check. He needs to make his intentions clear or turn his big, brown eyes elsewhere," a recent editorial in The Union-Leader newspaper noted.
THE RULE OF THREE
Advice to political parties and pushy campaign strategists: give voters three glowing points about the candidate in question, then stop. More talking points and those electoral consumers shut down, just like they do when business pitches go overboard. That's when the voters become "cognitively depleted."
So says Kurt Carlson, director of the Georgetown University Institute for Consumer Research, who is a firm believer in "the charm of three." So that means both parties can call their political stars, say, authentic, tough and optimistic. But they should resist the temptation to throw in anything else. Mr. Carlson says the practice also applies to products and services.
"Firms tend to believe their product is the best, which leads to a tendency among practicing marketers to present as many compelling claims as possible," he says. "But there is danger to that as consumers' awareness of persuasive intent will convert into skepticism."
Ah, yes, skepticism. It is epidemic in the voting public at the moment, and for more reasons than marketing sins.
Mr. Carlson will reveal his research, titled "When Three Charms But Four Alarms," in an upcoming Journal of Marketing, an academic publication.
CAPITOL HILL'S GREEK MENU
Yes, why not bring cheerful Greek food to the halls of the melancholy U.S. Congress? Indeed, the Embassy of Greece, six Greek chefs, nutrition experts, health gurus plus Rep. Gus M. Bilirakis, Florida Republican, and Reps. Joseph Crowley and Carolyn B. Maloney, New York Democrats, team up on Capitol Hill to laud the "Greek Mediterranean Diet" at the Rayburn House Office Building on Wednesday.
They're talking up the glories of olive oil, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, cheese, yogurt, seafood and "more white meat than red," the organizers say. The traditional Greek diet, they add, "promotes longevity, boosts the immune system, and reduces the likelihood of obesity and chronic diseases."
Will this mean spanakopita, avgolemono and souvlaki? Only the chefs know for sure.
"Ancient Greeks, including the world's first Olympic athletes, recognized the benefits of healthy eating and exercise," declares Christos Panagopoulos, the Greek ambassador to the U.S. "Their wisdom has lasted through the ages, and on this special occasion a new contemporary twist will be given by some of America's brightest scientists and chefs."
POLL DU JOUR
• 83 percent of Americans say protecting the U.S. from terrorist attacks should be a top foreign policy priority.
• 81 percent say protecting the jobs of American workers is a top policy priority.
• 73 percent say preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction is a top priority.
• 61 percent say reducing dependence on imported energy sources is a top priority.
• 57 percent cite combatting international drug trafficking, 48 percent cite reducing illegal immigration.
• 37 percent cite addressing global climate change, 33 percent cite defending human rights in other countries.
• 23 percent cite improving living standards overseas, 18 percent cite promoting democracy in other nations.
Source: Pew Research Center's "America's Place in the World" survey of 2,003 U.S. adults conducted Oct. 30 to Nov. 6 and released Tuesday.
• Tough talk, maudlin sentiments to jharperwashingtontimes.com.
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