Enthusiasm for Barack Obama is reaching levels that haven’t been matched here in Europe since the Kennedy years. Celebrations are scheduled tonight to coincide with the inauguration which is being carried live on most European TV channels. It’s not just that Obama is young, intelligent and forward looking. It is also that he looks like the kind of leader that most Europeans wish they had in their own countries. After displaying a photograph of Obama in swimming trunks while on holiday in Hawaii, Geneva’s Le Matin, quipped, “Vladimir Putin can put his clothes back on (as for Nicolas Sarkozy—France’s president—forget it) …”
On a more serious note, the Tribune de Geneve’s Pierre Ruetschi writes that every president wants to leave his mark on history, and Barack Obama, faced with the financial crisis and a host of other challenge, has already succeeded in doing that before being sworn into office.
The French newspaper Le Monde, this morning, predictably launched into an intellectual analysis of “Obamamania.” Le Monde’s conclusion: apart from Obama’s obvious talents, there is a general consensus that the US needs to move in a new direction. Libération, another Paris daily, urged "giving hope a chance." In spite of the fervor that Obama has raised, Libération said, he is only the president of one country, not the world, and he has to respond to the demands of American politics. Still, the paper pointed out, Obama can show in words and deeds that men count more than markets, and that it is possible to work for international cooperation rather than confrontation.
A BBC poll carried out by the Program on International Policy Attitudes reports that 67% of the people questioned in 17 countries think Obama will improve America’s relations abroad. That is a 21% increase in approval over a similar poll six months ago, and it is a good indication that what Obama has said and done as president-elect in the last few weeks has earned him widespread approval.
The fact that Obama had a Kenyan father has created an almost revolutionary sense here that social change really is possible. It has also made many immigrants and minorities here take a second look at the quiet racism and class discrimination that frequently lingers beneath the surface in many countries. In comparison, the US suddenly looks very good.
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