Elections and the View from Afar

On Tuesday, I was scheduled to visit the U.S. Embassy in Nouakchott to renew my aging passport. The complex is next to the Spanish Embassy. It is heavily guarded, as are most Western embassies and consulates in the city. I passed through a few checkpoints before entering the grounds. When I reached the first building, I was asked for my appointment papers, passport, and to turn over my phone. To my right was the consular services room. It had glass windows on its side. I was told to wait there for the person who would take my application and passport renewal fees.

As I was sitting, I noticed the portraits of Barack Obama and John Kerry hanging beneath the administrator windows. I’ve been abroad for most of President Obama’s tenure. I have experienced very little anti-Americanism in Sierra Leone and Mauritania. I started thinking about the next president’s portrait, hanging in an American embassy in an Islamic republic in West Africa, how awkward this face will appear, looking down on Mauritanians and Americans working for our interests abroad, in diplospeak. How will this president conduct himself on the world stage—with people of color, women, Muslims?

I shuttered at this thought. For all his faults and his foreign policy, President Obama at least conducted himself throughout his eight years with some decorum. I’m not so sure about No. 45.