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The Obamedia Effect

June 19, 2009

There’s much to love about Italy and this quote is among it:

Luigi Mattirolo, an Italian civil servant in Rome, said it isn’t specifically books or movies that he likes most about American culture, but the country’s ethic of initiative and free enterprise.

The American “way of thinking makes it possible for the people who really believe in something to achieve their goals. At least [in the U.S.] it happens more frequently than in Europe,” Mr. Mattirolo said.

From the survey results described in the above-linked article the French Cowboy would like to address the fact that the majority of Europeans polled are optimistic about America’s “political influence” to change for the better thanks to Obama. Monsieur Hofman from the Gfk which ran the survey calls it the “Obama effect”. So the Obama effect is that Europeans think that the USA’s foreign policy influence will improve because of Obama being the president. Chouette. But that would mean that by this definition the Obama effect is not important at all. It really is as if we were in a popularity contest in which the judges are focused on superficial qualities of the sort beauty queens are tested on. (No offence to beauty queens.)

Anyone with eyes to see – no, let me correct that: anyone with the ability to acquire and to process information about politics can see (in the figurative sense) that Obama is a shallow politician. His words hardly ever match with his actions and his actions are not showing positive effects so far and reasonable people doubt they ever will. Besides, not to become too personal, but please, the President of the United States sometimes comes across as a big crybaby who keeps on talking about “bushdidits” and that evil TV station that’s out to destroy him, boo hoo. How is one supposed to respect such traits of character let alone admire the person who has them? We’re not talking about just anyone. You can forgive an ordinary man almost anything. But from someone who has successfully sought a position as powerful and laden with responsibility as the US presidency you would set the bar a bit higher.

Many have argued that regardless of his politics the mere fact that Obama is so popular around the world is good for the US. And the French Cowboy agrees. And yet, what’s the good of it if this doesn’t translate into genuine advantages for America or to anyone else for that matter? So far, Obama doesn’t seem to be very adept in harnessing his popularity in order to get some results out of it. North Korea is more defiant than ever, Iran doesn’t really appreciate Obama’s ‘discreetness’ on the protests, and of the only two places in which people agreed to take the least threatening Gitmo detainees one has been bribed and the other is thrown into political instability as a result. And remember Obama’s trip to Europe: what diplomatic successes did Obama carry away from the G20 summit? Maybe this is why we Europeans like Obama so much.

And, of course, there is the other aspect: not all Europeans read NRO – and that’s, of course, an understatement. Just today the French Cowboy has noticed the headline of the German Die Zeit that read concerning the unrest in Iran “Mit Obamas Hilfe” – with Obama’s help. Well, the headline “Without Obama’s Help” would’ve pointed more into the direction of the truth, don’t you think? The author of the article, Jan Ross, gushes over the wisdom and ingenuity of Obama’s handling of the situation:

Barack Obama hat in nicht einmal fünf Monaten mehr für den Wandel in Iran getan als der Kreuzzügler George W. Bush in acht Jahren.

Which roughly translates to “Bush is the devil, Obama is the saviour” “Within less than five months Obama has done more in favour of change in Iran than the crusader Bush.”

Monsieur Ross goes on to say:

Die ausdrückliche Forderung nach weltweiter Demokratie und Demokratisierung hat Barack Obama bislang eher gemieden. Das ist verständlich; die Begriffe sind durch die militärisch-missionarische Befreiungspolitik von George W. Bush schwer belastet.

Which is a bushdidit Obama himself hasn’t used so far, I believe. In English it roughly means: “So far Obama has avoided direct demands for worldwide democracy and democratisation. That’s understandable [sic]; those expressions are strongly tainted because of Bush’s militaristic, evangelical freedom agenda. [sic]” You see, because of President Bush, calls for democracy are no longer what the good guys can do because it makes them sound like Bush. Tough luck.

So you can see that with press coverage like this – and there are really no equivalences to Fox News or The Weekly Standard or what have you here on the vieux continent – it is hardly a surprise when everyone thinks nothing but the best of Obama. As Monsieur Ross might put it: That’s understandable. And yet in this light you have to wonder why Obama’s international approval ratings aren’t even higher than they are. Cue Lincoln’s adage: You can fool all of the people some of the time and some people all of the time, but you can’t fool them all all of the time.

And just to clear up a point: the Gfk survey says that the French dislike American food most among all Europeans. Let it be known that the French Cowboy loves US cuisine. Except maybe for the cheese.

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