Does it matter how Obama is received in Europe?

British journalist Jonathan Freedland writes in the Guardian "if Europeans really want to help Obama they should repress their enthusiasm and stay home. Ensure those crowds are thin and lethargic; maybe even offer the odd heckle... Let the travelling US press report that Obama is not so popular with foreigners after all: nothing will endear him more to the American public." He explains his contrarian argument: "There will be much jostling for position in the chancelleries of Europe and the Middle East this week, as political types from London to Jerusalem compete for the hottest ticket of 2008: the chance to sit down with Barack Obama... The US media is assuming that we'll be turning out in massive numbers, all but throwing street parades for the new American saviour... Obviously a warm reception can only be good for the Illinois senator. But maybe not that warm. After all, one of the hoariest Republican attack lines deployed against Democratic opponents is that they are vaguely foreign, somehow more comfortable abroad."

There is a grain of truth in this opinion, but here at TWWO we have a more optimistic view about American voters. A few may indeed delight in asserting their seperateness by voting against a Presidential candidate who has the overwhelming international backing, but most of those people would never have voted for Obama anyway, for other reasons. Instead, we believe the majority of Americans recognise that the Bush years have badly damaged the US' reputation and its international relationships, even with traditional allies. They know it needs a President who can undo the damage and engage in the kind of positive international collaboration that is desperately needed to tackle the global economic, political and environmental challenges that we all face together.

Gary Younge adds, in an oped in the same paper, "Obama's arrival gives Europeans a chance to be passionate about politics - a feeling they have not had for a long time. In Obama, they pine for something they have singularly failed to produce - a politician who inspires them and a politics of hope.... Most Europeans see him not just as Bush's likely successor but as his absolute negation - the anti-Bush. Where the current president is belligerent, parochial, indifferent and oafish, Obama is conciliatory, worldly, curious and refined."


Victoria said...

It makes me happy that we have produced a politician that Europeans can believe in and find inspiring, as we do, but I'm also sad that Europe herself "has failed to produce" a statesman or woman of this sort. I believe that Europe (and other places) should take their cue from Senator Obama, and if they are dissatisfied with their own politicians at home, they should try hard to solve this problem. I hope that the world's love and support for Obama does not lead them to ignore their own domestic politics, but inspire them to make change in their own countries, if they so choose. Despite the snide and nasty comments from the British journalist about the "American savior" (which he, predictably, blames on the American media as opposed to his own), I DO feel that the world is particularly interested in this American election, and it is clear that many Europeans are unhappy with both their own politicians and their own media. As a Democrat, I can say that we are trying to make some real changes, and with Obama it will help, although I'm not sure we have an entirely filibuster proof senate yet...