(This article has been written by Christopher Lee, our new regular contributor).
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is safely home in America. There’s little doubt that Europeans would like to see him in the White House. His tour was such a success that the GOP Abroad team are wondering why is it that no one in Europe talks about John McCain? He is, I’m afraid, John Who?
Yes, Europeans exist on foregone conclusions.
There is also a mood that goes beyond the idea of ‘we’ll soon be rid of Bush Junior’. Insofar that the European is politically savvy, there is a recognition of the momentous change in political perceptions an election of Obama would mean, in Europe as well as the United States.
It’s nothing to do with the potential election of a black American. That doesn’t matter to Europeans. It’s more to do with the fact that Europeans don’t throw up their hands in exasperation at the choice before them of a leader of the so-called free world. (Although how an invasion of Iraq launched against public opinion could be called a free word action is difficult to figure).
In foreign policy terms, no one expects of Obama to come up with utterly bewildering Bush type of jokes such as, ‘The trouble with the French, they haven’t got a word for entrepreneur’. Obama is the sort of person many Europeans would vote for and, many have already cottoned on to the other Ms Rice, that is, his foreign policy wonk, Susan Rice. She was never far away from him during the tour and Obama was never far away from the button of what matters in the Middle East and Europe, especially to the Germans and the French.
Maybe it’s the French who best understand Obama. He has style, he has some reserve – so not overtly flesh-pressing political – and what he has to say, he keeps short and clear. Nicolas Sarkozy is reported by le Figaro as saying, ‘Obama? He’s my pal. Unlike my diplomatic advisers, I never believed in Hillary Clinton’s chances. I always said that Obama would be nominated.’ What makes them smile at each other? Apart from Sarkozy betting on a winner, they both understand foreign policy. (Susan Rice is good and Obama’s a quick study).
And in private conversation with Sarkozy et al, Obama portrayed nsights they had not anticipated. The French actually see him as the new JFK (God help him).
Also, the French, the Germans and, to a lesser extent, the British, see him as a man of ideas that stand a chance of becoming successful policies because they will not be seen as zealousness and they will by and large survive an election campaign.
So, Europe (as a generalization) has its fingers crossed for him in November. France has money on him.
There is another aspect we sometimes forget: people talk about McCain’s experience. But what experience?
True, he is a war hero and he has spent a long time in the Senate. But looking back over ten years or so at some of his interventions, there’s nothing original in what he’s said or done. He has the image of wise counsel, but the narrowness of single-minded belief. Out there, they’re still all Commies, I can imagine him thinking.
Grand old men of politics have to be reassuringly wise – publicly at least. Europeans understand this. Think Churchill, De Gaulle, Ardenauer, especially the latter. McCain’s no Ardenauer who was, by the way, 73 when he became Chancellor in 1949.
Incidentally, the Americans were always right about supporting Ardenauer while the British rejected him. Maybe that would explain why the crowds were thin on the ground when Obama came to London. But then it was the start of the weekend. The British don’t do politics at weekends.