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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Obama in Europe: All Style, Little Substance

There is no doubt that President Obama is even more of a rock star in Europe than he is in most places in America. His wife, Michelle, may in fact be even more of a rock star. The European press had a field day commenting on the attire of Ms. Obama and Nicholas Sarkozy's model wife. There was also a report that Italian PM Silvio Burlesconi nearly trampled over people in order to get himself into a photo with President Obama. The president did multiple townhall meetings and press conferences and at each he was treated much like royalty. Unlike his predecessor, there is no doubt that those abroad have a genuine affection for him. Now, comes the important question. What does all this genuine affection get the new president? So far, the answer is absolutely nothing. For all his popularity, President Obama can't get anything of substance for it.

For me, the European trip was all sorts of style and very little substance. The president spent the entire campaign complaining that President Bush had alienated the world and as such, we can't get any cooperation. So, he asked for NATO troops in Afghanistan and got a few trainers. North Korea shot off a missile and he went to the UN. Only at the UN, he got absolutely nothing. Furthermore, he suggested in Turkey that Turkey became a part of the EU. This created an immediate rebuke from most of the official EU nations. So, on foreign policy, all the popularity translated into nothing of substance.

Economically, the president got similar results. The rest of the world dismissed out of hand his idea for a world stimulus. Most of the rest of the world simply can't afford that kind of debt. The only agreement to come out of the G20 is an agreement for a world regulatory body. This is an idea championed by Nicholas Sarkozy and he threatened to leave the meeting without it.

It's very easy to tell just how much of a failure the trip was. Just look at how supporters viewed the trip.

It is difficult to see this trip as a failure. He was warmly received--which is not insignificant given the diminished stature of the United States overseas that made it extraordinarily difficult to obtain assistance on international affairs—promises were made to deal with the financial crisis, and Obama was able to open some dialogue in parts of the world where dialogue has been shut down for years. The critics might have something to talk about down the line, but as an opening move this certainly cannot be characterized as a failure.

With nothing of substance to point to, you immediately look at tangential matters. Of course, he was able to open a dialogue. That's what happens when world leaders get together for a week at a time. What kind of a low bar is this? Are we now treating as success the mere fact that our president was able to speak at length with other world leaders? Isn't that what is supposed to happen?

Of course he was warmly received but then denied everything he asked for. Either his supporters are blind or they are hoping the rest of us are. If a warm reception and open dialogue are the standards for success, they have set the bar awfully low for the president.


Anonymous said...

I'm surprised none of his supporters alleged that he didn't get what he asked for because he asked for some of the same things Bush wanted: Turkish membership in the EU and more NATO troops in Afghanistan.

You have to remember that to Obama's supporters, diplomacy isn't a means to an end its an end in itself. The idea that the rhetoric about Old Europe and who doesn't need who gets toned down is, for them, the most important thing. So in that respect they did get what they wanted.

Anonymous said...

The venom that continues to drip from your warped pen each and every week regarding Obama shows tht you are still not able to accept the fact that your Godfather, Bush is out of office and that the GOP is out of power.

There was hardly a peep out of you regarding the criminality, cronyism and in incompetence from Bush and his group of thugs. Bush left office having weaken, disgraced and demoralized our country--and you seem to blame Obama for the current state of affairs.

Nick said...

The real sign of America's decline is the frenzy of insecurity people like you who descend into when their hyper-nationalist egos are not constantly stroked by their leaders.

This kind of overwrought, reaction to reality is a chronic symptom of the far right's siege mentality which is endlessly fed by jingoism that passes for journalism. If you're truly worried about America's decline, take a deep breath, stop hyperventilating, and look in the mirror

mike volpe said...

The blog didn't start until the end of 2007 so I can be excused for not criticizing him until then. Though, outside of the blog I certainly did.

In that piece, I think I was very tough on Bush.

I was certainly very tough on him regarding TARP.

and I have criticized his policies at large...

So, I would say your criticism of me is a bit distorted.