Feature

Europe forging Obama’s fate

While President Obama’s shining promise “has been a bit dimmed,” a solid majority of Europeans want to see him re-elected.

President Obama’s shining promise “has been a bit dimmed,” said Mathis Vogel in the Hamburger Abendblatt (Germany). When he was elected in 2008, Europe saw Obama “as the great hope,” the one who could restore America to a leading role in the world after the catastrophic presidency of the despised George W. Bush. Today, Europeans still like him, but less passionately. The latest Pew poll puts European support for Obama’s foreign policy at 63 percent, down from 78 percent in 2009. Most of us oppose his drone war against suspected terrorists, which kills so many civilians in Pakistan and Yemen. Still, a solid majority of Europeans want to see him re-elected.

Yet it is largely the fault of us Europeans that his return to office is no sure thing, said Rita Siza in the Público (Portugal). There is an “umbilical connection between the sovereign debt crisis hovering over Europe and the outcome of the American presidential election.” Not a single incumbent in Europe has won re-election since the financial crisis erupted, in 2008. Some may argue that the U.S. is different, since it did not impose unpopular austerity measures but chose instead to inject money into its economy with a stimulus, “saving businesses and increasing job opportunities.” How can Obama be blamed, they ask, if Europe’s bad policies hammer the U.S. economy? Well, in all fairness, he can’t—but who ever said the American public was fair?

You have to recognize the scale of the crisis in the U.S., said Mariusz Zawadzki in the Gazeta Wyborcza (Poland). Europeans assume that we got the worst of the financial crisis because the euro is on life support and our unemployment is so high. An unemployment rate of just over 8 percent, like that of the U.S., “would be a sign of prosperity, not stagnation, in many EU countries.” But we’re looking at the wrong indicators. The average U.S. middle-class family lost a staggering 40 percent of its net worth during the downturn. That impoverishment of the middle class is the main reason for the huge inequality gap, “which is now at the same level as it was prior to the Great Depression in the 1930s.” No wonder Americans want a change.

And no wonder Obama is suddenly paying attention to Europe, said F.E. Müller in the NZZ am Sonntag (Switzerland). When he was elected, remember, he portrayed himself as “the Pacific president,” raised in Hawaii and Indonesia, oriented toward Asia. He focused his trade policy on Asia and “regarded Europe as a has-been.” What a difference a little euro crisis makes! These days, Obama is our new best friend, glad-handing European leaders and taking every opportunity to huddle for a chat with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. It’s “quite a comeback” for a region that was so recently written off as unimportant. “Obama’s destiny is in European hands”—and he knows it.

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