Obama in Berlin - and Paris - Macleans.ca

Obama in Berlin — and Paris

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It wasn’t one of his best speeches, but of course it was a good event. Big crowds look great anywhere, and the McCain camp’s reaction seems a little short on oomph. But I want to give you most of today’s Le Monde editorial, just to show that not everyone is wowed by the guy. Le Monde isn’t definitive these days, even in France, if it ever was. This is just one slice from a spectrum of reaction in a bushel of countries whose citizens don’t vote in U.S. elections. And if people listened to editorialists… well, they don’t, is all. And finally, the editorial’s final paragraph makes an argument I really find unfortunate. But I was struck by the brusque, skeptical tone in a newspaper that would, in general, be expected to support Obama over his opponent. This is just a reminder to those who believe the election of an African-American president would change everything: as a rule, not everything changes. My translation:

If Europe knows Barack Obama well, the opposite isn’t true. The Democratic candidate for the U.S. presidency, who begins on Thursday 24 July a short European tour — Berlin, Paris and London — indicated, at the end of 2007, that he had travelled in Europe before, but in the four years he has been a member of the Senate, he has made only one trip to London on the way to Russia. He is frequently criticized for not having convened a meeting of the Senate subcommittee on Europe, which he presides. A few months ago, he had not yet asked to meet the European Union representative in Washington.

According to the polls, the European populations are overwhelmingly pro-Obama, but governments have reason to be more circumspect. On trade the candidate has been protectionist. He nuanced his position after the primaries but Europeans can fear that a majority Democratic Congress might exert more pressure. “Obama may be a ‘global’ candidate, but his positions aren’t at all,’ say many experts, including Reginald Dale, of the Centre for Strategic International Studies….
Finally Europeans can fear the Mr. Obama’s calls for help, especially in Afghanistan. As in 2004, during the Bush-Kerry confrontation, some analysts calculate that John McCain, the Republican candidate, will ask for less war effort from Europeans.