Foreign Policy Blogs

Overseas Reaction to Obama's Trip: Part II

This is the second installment of an overview of global reactions to Senator Obama's recent travels abroad. In this post I’ll gather some commentary about the European leg of the Senator trip.

First, Peter Schmitz of the German news magazine Der Spiegel describes literally the play-by-play of the Senator's arrival in Berlin and his now famed Brandenburg Gate speech.

“The people of Berlin experienced the full range of Barack Obama's charisma on Thursday evening. At times he was reserved, at others engaging. Sometimes combative, and also demanding. Ultimately, though, the message he delivered at the Siegessaule was meant for audiences back home…”

American news radio broadcaster PRI's “The World” program interviewed both Malte Lehming, the opinion page editor for the Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel, and Stryker McGuire, a contributing editor for Newsweek in London, about the speech. You can listen to these interviews via this page.

Lehming remarked that Obama's speech “electrified the audience” in Berlin and was well received, overall. He said that Obama did seem quite Presidential, as opposed to being “Senatorial.”

McGuire spoke about Europeans’ high expectations for the speech, to the great neglect of Obama's rival, Senator McCain. He did mention that McCain is well-liked in “establishment circles” throughout Europe.

On to a voice from the Arab world: Palestinian Member of Parliament Mustafa Barghouthi spoke with Steve Clemmons of the Washington Note blog after Obama's Berlin speech. He was critical of the speech, saying that while he was on the topic of walls that divide people, he wished that the Senator had spoken about the walls dividing the Israelis and Palestinians.

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German news daily Deutsche Welle reported that after the Senator's “rock star” reception in Berlin, Obama was received just as warmly at his next stop, Paris. French President Nicholas Sarkozy greeted him as a “buddy,” and claimed the he was Obama's first friend in France:

“Obama? That's my buddy,” Sarkozy was quoted as saying in Friday's edition of Le Figaro. “Contrary to my diplomatic advisors, I never thought Hillary Clinton had a chance. I always said Obama would be chosen” as the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party.

“I am the only French person who knows him,” Sarkozy said, recounting that he had met Obama during a visit to the United States in 2006, when he was France's interior minister.”In “Vive la Obama différence!” American online new site investigates why the French are so crazy for Obama. Here's why this Frenchman told Salon he would vote for the presumptive Democratic candidate… if he could:

“I’m not an American … It's your election first,” twenty-two-year-old Samuel Solvit says. “But I am a world citizen, and what you do will affect us … If we see that the U.S. is changing, it's good for all of us.” Solvit also believes it's a Republican thing to say that foreign support is bad. “Everything is moving. He [Obama] is a symbol of this new evolution.”

Salon continues: “A massive throng of cheering French people might have been an image more useful to McCain than the Obama campaign, given the way being “too French” was wielded as a cudgel against the previous Democrat to run for president. Because if anything, the crowds in Paris might have been larger than those in Berlin. In the July 23 Gallup Poll, Obama beat McCain as the preferred U.S. presidential candidate in Britain, France and Germany by lopsided margins. The highest numbers were in France — a stunning 64 to 4 percent.”

The article concludes with a quote from young Solvit: “In France, everyone, of all ages, are for Obama,” Solvit says. “Elite or non-elite, black or white, politically interested or not, people of all different backgrounds. For young people, it's a new way of speaking of world involvement and politics. It's a new American dream.” “You American people, it's your future,” he says. “But it's also our future.”

I’ll be back soon with a culminating look at the American reaction to the overseas reaction to Senator Obama's foreign travels.



Melinda Brouwer

Melinda Brower holds a Masters degree in Global Politics from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She received her bachelor's degree in Political Science and Spanish at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She received a graduate diploma in International Relations from the University of Chile during her tenure as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar. She has worked on Capitol Hill, at the State Department, for Foreign Policy magazine and the American Academy of Diplomacy. She presently works for an internationally focused non-profit research organization in Washington, DC.