The biggest issue facing the next president of the United States is not the economy, even though polls from primary states indicate that issue is at the top of many voters’ lists. It’s true that the economy is in a very challenged position, largely due to unchecked greed (both individual and corporate), along with big-business-friendly government policies and too much dependence on foreign oil.

But that’s not America’s biggest problem.

The thing we should worry about most is America’s standing in the world, where the nation’s once-sterling reputation has been severely tarnished. There’s a fine line between being a cooperative leader and a self-centered bully. While some international friends remain, the global perception of America is strongly skewed to the bully column.

Americans’ preoccupation with homeland security, homeland prosperity, and homeland access to the planet’s oil leaves much of the world feeling unappreciated and “less than.”

For Americans who think beyond their bank accounts, finding a way to restore America’s respected position in the global village has to be at or near the top of the priority list when it comes to selecting the next president.

Of the viable candidates, which one has the greatest potential of getting the international community to warm up to America? It can’t be anyone who thinks the war in Iraq was anything other than an ill-advised boondoggle that has cost far too many lives, made the world considerably less stable, and fueled the cause of extremists.

That eliminates John McCain, leaving Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Although Clinton has traveled extensively, shown a great awareness of global needs, and served on important committees, it seems evident that Obama has the edge. He may not have worked in as many official foreign-policy capacities in Washington, but he has the life-experience of being born to an African father, spending part of his childhood overseas, and being — like the majority of people in the world — a person of color.

If the president is the face of America, Obama’s face is more likely to be perceived as a friendly and acceptable face in the world at large. Democrats living overseas and in closer touch with the international community seem to affirm this view: primary voters among Democrats Abroad gave Obama a nearly two-to-one edge in voting Feb. 5-12, or 65 percent of ballots cast.

That vote didn’t get a lot of play in the media, but it ought to get our attention. It’s not just the economy: it’s the global community, smarty.

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