It's an old term with origins during the Cold War: Leader of the Free World. And it has always meant the president of the United States.
There were three worlds: the Free World, the Communist World, and the Third World (nations not aligned with either of the other two blocs, in case you didn't know the origin of that phrase).
The Free World, the nations aligned against the threat of communism, referred to the United States, Great Britain, France, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, West Germany, and other U. S. allies.
With the fall of the Soviet Union, the Cold War isn't what it used to be. But some of the terminology remains. Including referring to the president of the United States as "Leader of the Free World."
But is that accurate any more?
The Leader of the Free World doesn't bow to other leaders.
Obama has abandoned the role: he is not the Leader of the Free World.
So, who is?
Certainly not the leader of any communist country, or any dictatorship. And, I'm thinking a leader of the Free World should be the leader of a country with a major presence on the world stage.
No offense to our friends in Australia, New Zealand, or Canada, but those countries just aren't major players. Certainly, they are more so than, say, Luxembourg or Iceland, but they're not at the top of the pyramid.
Let's look at the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council: the Unites States, Great Britain, France, Russia, and China.
Obama has already relinquished the title, so the leader of the U.S. is out. Four to go.
China? China is communist. Free World? Just the opposite. Two down, three to go.
Great Britain? They have a queen. A queen? A non-elected monarch? As leader of the Free World? Three down, two to go.
So, who's left?
Russia and France.
Who's the president of Russia? Vladimir Putin? Actually, no. It's Dmitry Medvedev. Former president (and current Prime Minister) Vladimir Putin might be running the show, but Medvedev is president, elected by the people. Forget all the other problems with Russia, the leader isn't the person elected by the people. So, four down, one to go.
That leaves: France.
Yes, France. The president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, is leader of the Free World.
France, despite all the jokes we throw her way, has a long, storied military history. The Franks took Gaul from the Romans, Charlemagne controlled much of Europe and the Mediterranean world, France helped the American colonies win the Revolutionary War, Napoleon led France to nearly conquer the world in the early 19th century...
You get my point, I hope. France isn't a pushover.
The French government, though, has been a problem. It was the French government, not the French people, who were defeated by Germany in World War II. The people, most of them, kept fighting.
And, in recent years, the rise of the left in France has caused the French government to take weak stands against opponents of freedom.
Sarkozy defeated a Socialist Party candidate to assume the presidency in 2007, and has shown himself to be more of a leader on the world stage than Barack Obama.
True, that's not saying a lot. But, for now, the president of France is the Leader of the Free World.
And that's a damned shame.
November 6, 2012 can't get here soon enough.