A Cambodian’s Perspective on American Politics

Earlier today I had a slightly serious, slightly humorous, but mostly enlightening conversation with a Cambodian man who’s been generous enough to spend the past two days teaching me about rural economic development here. Here’s what he had to say about American political history:

He really likes John McCain and John Kerry because they fought communists.

He thinks Bill Clinton won the presidency because he’s good looking and all the American women must have voted for him. But he’s glad that Clinton won, because he’s a good man and the economy grew while he was in office.

He believes Ronald Reagan was a bit old to be President. In fact, he thinks John McCain is too old to be president too, but had he won, it would’ve been okay because he fought communists.

He thinks JFK earned his name in history by giving his “ask not what your country can do for you” speech, and because in the end, he dealt well with Khruschev.

He finds it funny, yet tragic, that both Bush’s went to war with the same country. He likes that they were both tough, and thinks they scared many unstable powers.

He thinks Sarah Palin blew the election for John McCain.

He told me that Obama is too docile. When pressed on what he meant by docile, he said that Obama is too peaceful and accommodating, and as a result, North Korea is going to take advantage of him. I asked him if he thinks an American president should seek peace, and he said that peace is very important and should be a top priority.

In all seriousness, given Cambodia’s tragic recent history, it’s not entirely surprising that he overwhelmingly favors leaders that have demonstrated the will to take action against the types of forces that oppressed his country for so many years. He very clearly wants peace, but fears complacency. And it’s apparent that there’s no partisan influence coming into play here, even though it was obvious to me that he understands our political system very well. I always find it fascinating to reevaluate history from someone else’s perspective.