Europe Becomes Obama’s Re-Election Campaign ‘Prop’
Obama’s six-day trip to Europe — high on style but low on substance — was far more about creating photo opportunities than it was about strengthening the transatlantic relationship.
May 31, 2011 - 12:13 am
Obama, who is widely viewed as the least Anglophile of recent presidents, received a standing ovation from star-struck British MPs after he announced a new, more sensitive U.S. foreign policy, one in which America would follow rather than lead a changing world. “We will proceed with humility and the knowledge that we cannot dictate outcomes abroad,” Obama told an enraptured audience. One Member of Parliament described the scene of fawning British politicians eager to capture some of Obama’s stardust as “political Beatlemania.”
Obama then teamed up with British Prime Minister David Cameron to challenge students at London’s Globe Academy to a ping-pong match. Obama also co-penned an essay with Cameron for the Times of London, which states that the bond between America and Britain is not just a special relationship but “an essential relationship — for us and for the world.” The same article says — without a hint of irony — that bilateral relations under Obama are closer than those between former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and former President Ronald Reagan, whose partnership helped end the Cold War.
Never mind that just six months ago, at a White House photo opportunity with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Obama gave the “essential relationship” honor to France. On January 10, 2011, Obama said: “We don’t have a stronger friend and stronger ally than Nicolas Sarkozy, and the French people.”
As the British historian Niall Ferguson said in an interview on BBC Radio 4: “The British think they’re in a special relationship, but the Americans have quite a few special relationships and I don’t think that we’re the most special.”
Ferguson also said that Obama had been “mugged by reality” and was now pursuing a surprisingly neo-conservative position. “Actually, the differences between these two presidents [Obama and Bush] are remarkably small on foreign policy, which is deeply ironic when you consider how many Europeans thought the Messiah had arrived to redeem America after the wickedness of the Bush years.”
Obama’s next stop on the campaign trail was France, where he attended the two-day Group of Eight Summit in Deauville. After signing the Patriot Act by autopen just minutes before a midnight deadline, Obama won the only two foreign policy achievements of his entire six days in Europe: The leaders of the G8 gave “strong support” to Obama’s insistence that Israel must return to its pre-1967 borders. They also adopted a unified position that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi must go.
Meanwhile, Obama pledged $40 billion to promote democracy in the oil-rich Muslim world, this despite having led the United States close to bankruptcy.
Obama’s final campaign stop was Poland. After having sold out the Poles in a failed effort to appease Russia — which had objected to American plans to build a missile defense site close to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad – Obama said he would send U.S. F-16s and C-130s to train in Poland. It is a consolation prize Obama’s campaign managers hope will appease the 10 million potential U.S. voters of Polish origin.
Not all Poles were willing to play Obama’s game. Former Polish President Lech Walesa cancelled a meeting with Obama because he did not want to be part of a photo opportunity. Walesa, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983 for his role in helping to bring down communism, told Poland’s TVN24: “It’s difficult to tell journalists what you’d like to say to the president of a superpower. This time I won’t tell him, I won’t meet him, it doesn’t suit me.”
Not surprisingly, Obama ended his campaign stop at the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial, where he tried to convince American Jewish voters as well as a group of Holocaust survivors that “I will always be there for Israel.” This just one week after Obama threw Israel under the bus to appease the Palestinians.
Washington Post columnist George Will, speaking on ABC News, said Obama suffered a major strategic defeat while he was in Europe. Will said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demonstrated that he has more of a grasp on foreign policy than Obama with the U.S. Congress.
“While the president was overseas, Netanyahu speaks to a joint session of Congress,” Will said. “At the end of which you could ask the question whose Middle East policy has more support in the Congress of the United States — the president’s, or the prime minister of Israel’s? The answer is the prime minister of Israel’s policy.”
Obama did, however, achieve his goal of creating video for his 2012 campaign ads. As the presidential campaign gears up, Americans can expect to see lots of footage of Obama with the royal family as well as images of the visits to Ireland and Poland, coupled with public compliments from European leaders about the successful operation that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, all packaged to reinforce Obama’s national security credentials.
At a news conference in Poland, Obama said: “Even at a time where I spend most of my day thinking about our economy and how to put folks back to work and how to make sure that we’re reducing gas prices and how we stabilize the housing market and how we innovate and adapt and change so that we are fully competitive in the 21st century and maintain our economic leadership, I want the American people to understand we’ve got to leave room for us to continue our tradition of providing leadership when it comes to freedom, democracy, human rights.” One remaining question: Is Obama for real?