Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Obama’s grand European tour hits bumps

Excerpts from Der Spiegel followed by my comments below the star line.

According to Der Spiegel - - -

Barack Obama's visit to Berlin has upset officials in other European capitals who feel the presumptive Democratic Party presidential candidate is slighting their countries. The French and British are feeling neglected.

Barack Obama is making Germany the major focus of his trip to Europe this week, a choice that is being viewed with some displeasure in Paris and London. One day after the Democratic Party's presumptive presidential nominee officially announced his plan to hold a speech at the Siegesäule, or "Victory Column," in Berlin, SPIEGEL ONLINE also obtained information about his preliminary European agenda.

One-on-one meetings for Obama have now been confirmed with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

But so far he is only including time in his stops in Paris and London for French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. A decision still hasn't been made on whether the Democratic candidate will meet with the foreign ministers of those countries.

The source said this had caused additional irritation in government circles in Paris and London.

High-ranking politicians there are already annoyed that the controversy about Obama's desire to hold his speech at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate had distracted attention from the purpose of his European visit -- to outline his vision for trans-Atlantic relations. …

“The French and British feel that Germany is getting too much attention," a source told SPIEGEL ONLINE. This could prove to be a prickly issue considering traditionally close British-American ties. The Brits are also an important part of the US-led alliance in Iraq.

Resentment has been stirred in London because Obama is no longer starting his Europe trip in the British capital as was initially planned.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, for his part, has demonstratively pursued a path of political rapprochement with Washington following years of antagonistic relations between former President Jacque Chirac and George W. Bush.

Obama's team has left no doubts about the fact that it considers German Chancellor Angela Merkel to be the strongest leader in Europe at present. Their reasoning: Sarkozy hasn't been in office long enough yet and Brown has been swept up in a domestic crisis.

US Congressman Robert Wexler, a Democrat, recently spoke on behalf of Obama on Germany's N-TV cable news channel, emphasizing that German-American relations were the "most established."

But not even the Germans are totally satisfied. They are calling for further one-on-one meetings with Obama -- conversations that, according to information obtained by SPIEGEL ONLINE are not very likely to happen. …

The entire report’s here


First off, I’m sure very few of you missed the report’s unspoken message: “Der Spiegel is very happy to be able to tell its German readers the French and Brits are feeling dissed.”

How many times did the mag have to say and then explain why Obama’s grand tour “is being viewed with some displeasure in Paris and London?”

Der Spiegel gets it wrong when it says “the purpose of his European visit [is] to outline his vision for trans-Atlantic relations.”

If that was Sen. Obama’s purpose, he could've accomplished it with a major speech before the Council on Foreign Relations in New York or at an appropriate venue in Washington. In October, 1963 President Kennedy used Washington's American University as the site for one his most important speeches.

If Obama had chosen to speak in either city, Ambassadors and the press from all the European nations could've been invited to witness and hear it.

In years past, that’s how presidential candidates have done things when they wanted to explain just a few months before the election their visions "for trans-Atlantic relations.”

The very presumptive Barack Obama’s grand European tour is, as even most Dems recognize, really a campaign swing.

Perhaps it would help the French and British feel less dissed and clear things up for all our European friends if Obama begins his Berlin speech with the sentence: “Mesdames et Messieurs, Ich bin ein typical politician."


Anonymous said...

Or, "Ich bin ein Beginner".

AMac said...

Well, I don't think I agree. Obama is the likely (or at least very possible) next President. He keeps showing us that he's a very inexperienced politician prone to offering nice-sounding but dopey bromides (e.g. learn-a-language). All to often, he doesn't know what he doesn't know.

Of course the trip is a campaign swing. Everything that Obama or McCain does at this point is.

By going to Afghanistan - Iraq - Europe, he is at least meeting some important and expert people, American and foreign. Obama's a smart guy and a good listener. Maybe he'll pick up a few pointers about the difficult present and future policy choices concerning those regions. I hope that will prompt him to rethink some of his dogma and weigh what he says and what nostrums he signs on to. At least to a degree.

If foreign trips get him to think about balancing the need to satisfy his core hard-left supporters with other views of America's national interest, then I am all for them.

Anonymous said...

John -

Kudos to anon at 4:21 PM. On a more serious note, I observed in my comments yesterday that St. Barack is following in the steps of certain other pre-WWII people who liked to address the masses in stadiums. How fitting it is, then, that he should present himself to Europe at the Brandenburg Gate. America beware.

Jack in Silver Spring

Anonymous said...

Jack in Silver Spring: Good comment, but remember, AH at least served his country in the military unlike a certain junior senator with a god complex.
Tarheel Hawkeye