The New Republic has a pretty good article up explaining European misconceptions of America. The article especially looks at Obama's recent German rallies and how those rallies feed European misconceptions.
Europe's favorite dream: a post-Bush America cut down to size and chastened, a meeker and more modest America, a more "European" (that is, a more social-democratic) America, which at last casts off some of its nastier capitalist habits. An America that is a lot more like us Europeans who have forgone power politics and sovereignty in favor of communitarian politics and integration.Josef Joffe (the author of the TNR piece - ed.) is publisher-editor of the German weekly Die Zeit, as well as a fellow of the Institute for International Studies and the Hoover Institution, both at Stanford.
This is the canvas Europeans have been painting with wildly enthusiastic brush strokes. If Obama wins, the reality will be different. Sure, President Obama would speak more softly than did Mr. Bush in his first term, but he would still be carrying the biggest stick on earth. He will preside over an America that is still No. 1 and not part of a multipolar chorus populated by Russia, China, India, and the E.U.
Germans should have read the foreign-policy chapter in Obama's The Audacity of Hope. There are passages in there which read like pure Bush--on unilateralist action, on the right of pre-emption, on playing the world's "sheriff." Obama's upshot: "This will not change--nor should it." This doesn't mean more Bushism if Obama is elected. But it is a useful reminder that the U.S. plays in a league of its own--with global interest, with global military means, and with the willingness to use them.
In Berlin, hundreds of thousands will cheer a projection rather than a flesh-and-blood Obama on Thursday. After Inauguration Day, alas, Europe and the world will not face a Dreamworks president, but the leader of a superpower. Whether McCain or Obama, the 44th president will speak more nicely than did W. in his first term. He will also pay more attention to the "decent opinions of mankind." But he will still preside over the world's largest military, economic, and cultural power.
This vast power differential is what Germans and Europeans don't quite fathom in their infatuation with Obama. Their problem was not Mr. Bush, but Mr. Big--America as Behemoth Among the Nations, unwilling to succumb to the dictates of goodness that animate post-heroic, post-imperial, and post-sovereign Europe.
The fact that the Germans rallied for Obama is not a big selling point in these United States. In fact it could be a a negative point. Note to Obama - large French rallies are a less threatening image than huge rallies in Berlin. You would think Mr. Image would be able to get this. If not him, his staff. He seems to have a really tin ear for this stuff. It didn't help Kerry any to be identified with Europe. Well France any way - Kerry was ridiculed for aligning himself with "surrender monkeys". Obama will be ridiculed for aligning himself with a nation we had to beat into a bloody pulp to get them to behave. Of course that is all history now. Except for the funny guy with a mustache who, even now, gets a lot of unwanted press. Europe is a no win situation for any American politician stumping for President. Did Obama think that by giving a speech in Germany he could do a Kerry without getting all stigmatized by it? Some one needs to explain that it is not any particular country, but Europe itself that is the problem. Being President insulates you from all that (its just business). Being a candidate does not.
So how could he have gotten away with it? Go to Britain. Except that the Labor Government there is falling apart. That is not a good image to project for a person who is on the far left of practical American politics (i.e. not on the lunatic fringe - but close).
In any case the differential between American growth rates and European growth rates is going to widen the divide. What can the Europeans do? Become more like Americans. In that sense his speech shows that Obama is going in the wrong direction. Americans do not want to join the European league (the phrase in America is bush league - har). He should at the very least be thinking of dragging Europe our way, rather than making efforts to drag America to theirs. That might have mitigated what will, I predict, be the downfall of the Obama campaign.
I'm told Obama has rented a stadium for his Convention acceptance speech. Wrong direction Barry. We are going to see more of those pictures juxtaposing him with that German guy with the funny mustache. Barry, what are you thinking? For a man whose campaign is image over substance, he has to be very careful not to tarnish his image, because once that his gone he has nothing.
Cross Posted at Classical Values