this from the nyt
February 18, 2008
Tanzania Welcomes Bush, but Obama Is Topic No. 1 on the StreetsBy SHERYL GAY STOLBERG
DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania — President Bush has been smothered with affection here, never more so than on Sunday, when he sat at a wooden desk under a sweltering sun with President Jakaya Kikwete by his side and signed a $698 million grant of foreign aid to Tanzania.
But while people here in the capital city of this East African nation are excited about Mr. Bush, another American politician seems to excite them even more — Senator Barack Obama.
Mr. Bush is on a six-day, five-country tour to spotlight American efforts to fight poverty and disease in Africa. Though the president’s face is on billboards all over town, the name Obama is on the lips of Tanzanians — from taxi drivers to city merchants to the artisans who sell wooden Masai warriors in makeshift stalls at a dusty open-air market on the outskirts of town.
Halfway around the world, Mr. Bush cannot escape the race to succeed him.
“It seemed like there was a lot of excitement for me — wait a minute, maybe you missed it!” he said, only half in jest, on Sunday, after Mr. Kikwete was asked about Mr. Obama during their joint news conference here.
To be sure, there is excitement about Mr. Bush. The White House says foreign aid to Africa doubled during his first term and will nearly double again, to $8.7 billion a year by 2010, if his budget proposals are adopted. The $698 million agreement he signed Sunday is the largest grant awarded so far by the Millennium Challenge Corporation, established to assist countries that embrace democracy and fight corruption.
Tanzania also benefits from Mr. Bush’s global AIDS initiative, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, called Pepfar. Mr. Bush visited an AIDS clinic on Sunday to spotlight the program, which is to expire this year.
He called on Congress to reauthorize it and to keep intact a provision that sets aside one-third of money for AIDS prevention on programs that promote abstinence. Critics of that provision, including the independent Institute of Medicine, say it hampers prevention efforts.
“Pepfar is working,” Mr. Bush said at the news conference. “It is a balanced program. It is an A.B.C. program: abstinence, be faithful, and condoms.”
Africa is one corner of the world where, despite the war in Iraq, the image of the United States remains favorable — a point Mr. Kikwete made, ever so gingerly, to Mr. Bush.
“Different people may have different views about your administration and your legacy,” the Tanzanian president said. But Tanzanians, he said, believed that Mr. Bush and his administration “have been good friends of our country and have been good friends of Africa.”
Yet Africans, like many Americans, are already looking ahead to the next president of the United States. And, as in the United States, race and gender play a role in the debate. An unscientific sampling on Sunday turned up little mention of Senator John McCain and his fellow Republicans; but talk of Mr. Obama and his rival, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, was everywhere.
“I hear a lot of people say maybe the Americans are not yet ready to get a lady president or a black president,” said Ndesumbuke Lamtane Merinyo, a batik fabric designer displaying his wares at the upscale Kilimanjaro Hotel Kempinski overlooking the Indian Ocean, where the Bushes are staying. Of Mr. Obama, he said, “Africans feel like they might get more attention from America once America has a black president.” more
here's an excerpt from the atlantic that illustrates that:
What does he offer? First and foremost: his face. Think of it as the most effective potential re-branding of the United States since Reagan. Such a re-branding is not trivial—it’s central to an effective war strategy. The war on Islamist terror, after all, is two-pronged: a function of both hard power and soft power. We have seen the potential of hard power in removing the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. We have also seen its inherent weaknesses in Iraq, and its profound limitations in winning a long war against radical Islam.
The next president has to create a sophisticated and supple blend of soft and hard power to isolate the enemy, to fight where necessary, but also to create an ideological template that works to the West’s advantage over the long haul. There is simply no other candidate with the potential of Obama to do this. Which is where his face comes in. Consider this hypothetical. It’s November 2008.
A young Pakistani Muslim is watching television and sees that this man—Barack Hussein Obama—is the new face of America. In one simple image, America’s soft power has been ratcheted up not a notch, but a logarithm. A brown-skinned man whose father was an African, who grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii, who attended a majority-Muslim school as a boy, is now the alleged enemy. If you wanted the crudest but most effective weapon against the demonization of America that fuels Islamist ideology, Obama’s face gets close.
It proves them wrong about what America is in ways no words can. The other obvious advantage that Obama has in facing the world and our enemies is his record on the Iraq War. He is the only major candidate to have clearly opposed it from the start. Whoever is in office in January 2009 will be tasked with redeploying forces in and out of Iraq, negotiating with neighboring states, engaging America’s estranged allies, tamping down regional violence. Obama’s interlocutors in Iraq and the Middle East would know that he never had suspicious motives toward Iraq, has no interest in occupying it indefinitely, and foresaw more clearly than most Americans the baleful consequences of long-term occupation.