How they see us: America chooses hope and change
It’s been a long time since America inspired us, said David Barroux in France’s Les Echos. But with the elevation of Barack Obama to front-runner status for the Democratic presidential nomination, U.S. voters have managed to rekindle the world’s waning faith in them. Combining “the physique of Tiger Woods and the eloquence of John F. Kennedy,” Obama had but one flaw in the eyes of Americans—“he smoked.” But he renounced that bad habit at the start of his presidential campaign, and his popularity has been soaring. With his rhetoric of hope and change, Obama, born in Honolulu to a Kenyan father and a white American mother, could well be the “symbol of national reconciliation in a post-racial America.” Nobody who hears Obama speak can fail to be impressed. Whether or not he ultimately captures the Democratic nomination, Obama is pursuing a destiny “that could well prove legendary.”
Americans want their country to change just as badly as we do, said Reymer Klüver in Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung. The U.S., as we have, “has had enough of George W. Bush” and his policies of war, secrecy, and divisiveness. If Americans give Obama the chance to lead the nation, they will have “proved to the world that their country can still exert moral power.” Even the Republican pick in the Iowa caucus gives Europeans hope, said Markus Günther in Germany’s Stuttgarter Nachrichten. At first glance, Mike Huckabee would seem to be the antithesis of Obama. Obama is a “liberal urbanite, intellectual and multicultural,” while Huckabee is “an avuncular Baptist conservative from the sticks,” so anti-intellectual that he rejects the idea of evolution. But the two also have “an astonishing amount in common.” Both are outsiders from their party establishment, idealists who exude sincerity. “At the end of the turbulent Bush era” with all its humiliations and betrayals, Americans of all political persuasions “have a wish, indeed a longing for a truly new beginning.”
That Obama made it this far shows that America has entered a new phase, said Gary Younge in Britain’s Guardian. Obama is black, but unlike most other black politicians who have come before him, he is not running merely “to force the issues affecting black communities from the margins to the mainstream.” He is running to represent all Americans—and it looks as if he could really do it. “In the last 50 years the number of white people who said they would not vote for a black presidential candidate has nosedived from 53 percent to just 6 percent.”
Too bad women have not fared as well, said David Aaronovitch in Britain’s Times. Hillary Clinton’s stumbles are not all of her own making. “When it comes to choosing people to rule over us, I have long suspected misogyny was even stronger than racism.” The first Democratic votes happened to be cast in Iowa, which has never elected a woman in any congressional or gubernatorial election. “So sure, you can have the safe, smiley, witty, mixed-race guy, but let’s not go for the scary woman.” And don’t think for a second that it’s just America’s right wing that despises Hillary. In recent debates, even her most articulate and passionate answers were “criticized—no, mocked—for their supposed stridency.” America may be ready for “change.” It’s just not ready for a female president.