In regards to your second statement, you are likely correct. In comparison to McCain/Palin, Obama definitely improved the perception, if not the reality. And I am cynical, because that is the only reasonable response to American politics at this point.
And in regards to the third, so be it. They shouldn't have to worry about how we perceive their leaders. If they do, it's only because we have the world's most powerful military and both Democrat and Republican alike have shown willingness to use it.