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October 21, 2017

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Basketball vs. Barack

How each one’s victory could impact dipolomatic relations

The latest misnomered iteration of the U.S. basketball Dream Team begins practice this weekend in Las Vegas, in preparation for (hopefully) winning gold at the upcoming Beijing Olympics and restoring American hoops supremacy. In case you’re keeping score, NBA-ers haven’t won a gold medal since 2000 and haven’t inspired global dunk-on-your-head, shoot-a-three-in-your-eye fear since 1992’s Bird-Magic-Jordan squad.

Meantime, the American Dream that is Illinois Senator Barack Obama has begun a 50-state assault aimed at returning a Democrat to the White House for the first time in eight years. (To demonstrate our bipartisanship, we acknowledge that some wound-licking Hillary Clinton supporters and many right-wingers—fearful of Obama’s “Muslim-ness” (Middle East Forum director Daniel Pipes’ word, not mine), among other things—think his candidacy is a nightmare.)

Two dreams, but which one would do more for international diplomacy, to lift America’s slipping image? (Three-fourths of 15 countries surveyed by the Pew Research Center in 2006 viewed America unfavorably.)

Obama’s dream scenario: David Vickrey, editor of Dialog International, a blog about German-American relations, politics and culture, thinks an Obama presidency would herald a return to exemplarism. He writes: “President Obama is best suited to bring about the necessary changes, so that the American president is once again welcomed as a symbol of hope and promise on the world stage.”

Obama’s nightmare scenario: Well, scenarios is more like it. Obama’s the conservative’s new political piñata. On, Lee Cary says Obama would wuss-ify America overnight: North Koreans will infiltrate the 38th Parallel, Venezuelan students will invade the U.S. embassy in Caracas, and Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah terrorists will attack new U.S. consulates in Africa.

Dream Team’s dream scenario: This loaded squad—Kobe Bryant, Jason Kidd, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Michael Redd, Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, Tayshaun Prince, Dwight Howard, Carlos Boozer and Chris Bosh—will run the tables, but do so politely, i.e., no bullying or running up the score.

Dream Team’s weaknesses: Kobe’s shooting finger troubles him (and/or he gets horny—bad joke, I know); Carmelo Anthony is allowed behind the wheel on Beijing’s traffic-choked streets (recent DUI arrest and speeding ticket); the group forgets the teamwork that allowed them to romp through last year’s qualifying tournament; poor sportsmanship.

Final score: Obama, 81; USA Dream Team, 65. There’s something imperious about sending multimillionaire basketball players to beat up on glorified club teams (albeit ones with foreign-born NBA stars). Whereas a sea change in the cowboy diplomacy that’s marked the Bush administration could reduce American isolationism, improve our global standing and make us safer.

Or not.

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