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Europeans React to Pummeling of Dems in Midterm Elections

European media elites are almost unanimous in their assessment of the outcome: the much-ballyhooed Barack Obama — and his efforts to remake America in Europe’s image — is in trouble.

by
Soeren Kern

Bio

November 5, 2010 - 12:00 am

Leading newspapers and magazines across Europe have all published front-page stories about the outcome of the American midterm elections and the negative implications for U.S. President Barack Obama’s future. The intensity of the European media focus on the 2010 elections has been similar to that of the saturation coverage of the 2008 presidential elections, the only difference being that the Tea Party movement has replaced George W Bush as the new focus of European ire.

Although most European elites no longer elevate Obama to cult-of-personality status as they did just two years ago, in general terms, most reporting about the 44th president of the United States from both the left and the right remains highly sympathetic.

In general, left-leaning publications across the continent have expressed varying degrees of anger and contempt over the setback the Tea Party has dealt to Obama’s efforts to Europeanize the United States. Many left-wing commentators have openly ridiculed the U.S. electorate for not being sufficiently sophisticated to comprehend why Obama’s social policies are in America’s best interests.

By contrast, many (but certainly not all) right-leaning publications have taken the position that Obama has only himself to blame for failing to dedicate sufficient time and energy to turning around the ailing U.S. economy. A number of conservative commentators have also admitted, astonishingly, that a movement similar to the Tea Party would be good for Europe.

In any case, the vast majority of European newspaper editorials express concern that the election outcome ultimately will produce gridlock in Washington until the next elections in 2012, and that this will impede economic recovery in the United States.

What follows is a brief summary of some European media coverage of this year’s midterm elections.

In Britain, the left-wing Guardian, in an article titled “GOP and Democrats Gear up for All-Out Combat,” writes:

Voters want both parties to work together, but incoming Tea Partiers in Congress are set to throw a spanner in the works. … Behind the scenes, Republicans and Democrats are preparing for all-out political combat on a scale not witnessed in Washington for decades.

Another article titled “US Midterm Election Results Herald New Political Era” asserts:

Republicans will now be able to use their position of power to wage a guerrilla war against Obama in the remaining two years of his presidential term – the next 24 months are likely to be marked by rancorous partisan bickering and little in the way of new legislation.

A Guardian commentary titled “The Fight Obama Now Faces” advises:

With an uncompromising Republican Party back in the game after strong election results, the president has to play hardball. … Republicans will pick fights, and they’ll think they can roll him [Obama]. And they will hold a constant parade of hearings investigating the administration, trying to snare some big administration fish (maybe Obama himself?) in a perjury or obstruction of justice trap. Republicans play for keeps. And now, Obama is going to have to, too.

The left-leaning Independent, in an article titled “Did Obama Forget He’s in Charge?,” writes:

The easy view to adopt would be that we’re back to normal, and Americans are just mental. Because the people leading the hatred of Obama are characters such as Glenn Beck, spokesman for the Tea Party. Beck hosts a TV show in which during the last 18 months he’s likened Obama to Hitler 349 times. Every night he must tell viewers that Hitler started out with a health-care plan, then things spun out of control so he invaded France. … But the collapse in Obama’s support can only partly be explained by the vitriol of the Tea Party. … Most of those who supported him have lost the enthusiasm that brought him to power. This is probably because so much of the change he promised has been abandoned almost without a fight. … Obama could have listened to the health [insurance] companies, then said: “That’s all fascinating, but the thing is, I was elected President and you weren’t, so piss off.” Otherwise what’s the point of having an election at all?

The center-right Telegraph, in an essay titled “Obama’s Problem is that He’s Not Black Enough,” asserts:

The upshot is that Obama no longer seems “black enough.” … It’s not just African-American voters who have stayed at home. White liberals, too, haven’t been nearly as evangelical in their support of Obama as they were two years ago. … The phrase “glacial elitist” is interesting — code, perhaps, for not black enough? And this complaint is echoed across the liberal media. His left-wing supporters were expecting Obama to be a more quick-tempered president, more visceral, more macho. Is it too much of a stretch to interpret that as a complaint that Obama hasn’t conformed to their idea of how a black man should behave when someone tries to pick a fight with him? It’s as if they were hoping for an adrenalin shot of Negro authenticity, something like the moment in 48 Hours when Eddie Murphy takes down the crackers in the all-white bar. He’s too cerebral, too much of a policy wimp — too white. In the absence of Obama being willing to serve it up during the midterms, liberals have had to turn to Bill Clinton for a dose of streetfighter machismo and it’s worth noting that Clinton has many of the attributes of Norman Mailer’s “white negro.”

In France, the center-right Le Figaro, in an opinion article titled “Tea Party: An American Fever,” writes:

For months people have spoken of nothing else. It’s the Tea Party, a collection of people who believe in creationism but deny the reality of global warming; who decry an overly-intrusive state, but dig into the government archives to track and publicly denounce those they accuse of being on American territory illegally; and those who constantly refer to the Founding Fathers, yet violate the spirit of the republic desired by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison and the rest. These bigots with their oversized waists and gas-guzzling 4x4s have taken center stage when in reality they represent only themselves – which it must be said is not very much. … The Tea Party is nothing but an obsessional crisis seen regularly in America. Whether it’s the witch trials of Salem or the witch hunts of Joseph McCarthy, the impeachment process of Bill Clinton, Prohibition or the rhetoric of Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America, a pact that would pave the way for a Republican majority that evaporated two years later, America loves these obsessions. That’s the fever of the Puritans. They love to see the fever rise so they can delight in the repentance that follows. … The new Tea Party representatives will undoubtedly arrive in Congress where one will hear of them for a few months. And like all of those who preceded them, they will eventually disappear, victims of their own incompetence, after voters regain their senses. Not too late, one hopes.

Germany’s international broadcaster, Deutsche Welle, in an article titled “German Politicians Predict US Elections will Impact World Politics,” writes:

German politicians believe Tuesday’s congressional elections in the United States will change the landscape of foreign policy. The elections represent a major threat to U.S. President Barack Obama’s power at home … conflicts within American politics could weaken the U.S.’s leading position in worldwide diplomacy. …Germany and Europe would have to take a stronger position in global diplomacy if the U.S. were to take a step back, especially in matters such as the Mideast conflict, Russian-American relations and China’s ascent to the world stage.

The left-wing magazine Der Spiegel, in an article titled “Frustration Nation,” writes:

Republicans are exulting in their victory, a triumph which is entirely due to protest voters. The United States is dominated by malcontents. Not visionaries or people with clear political objectives.

Elsewhere, a Spiegel analysis titled “Superpower at a Standstill” asks:

What will be the outcome of this election? They call it gridlock: a halt, a traffic jam. It is a term that originated on the highway and now describes the clogged policy in Washington. The 112th U.S. Congress is facing huge challenges. Economic slowdown, unemployment, climate change, tax and immigration reform, drastic austerity. And rarely has an election pushed solutions so far away. … Tea Partiers have declared Obama’s policies to be a failure, but they have presented no conclusive counter-concepts. Blockade works fine if you are in the minority. But if you are in the majority, you need solutions, something hardly anyone in the Tea Party has.

The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine, in a commentary titled “‘Yes We Can’ is History,” writes:

The results of the congressional elections are bitter for the president and his party. … The losses of the Democrats in the congressional elections are much worse than a setback. The extent of this defeat is far from normal: the full force of the political pendulum has swung back to the right. It is the pendulum of an angry, insecure and frustrated people of a polarized country. Even in historical terms, the Republican Party, on which many would not have bet a cent two years ago, has won a spectacular success. … What is truly astonishing is the extent and the speed with which the public mood has turned. Something similar is only to be found in the New Testament.

The center-left Die Zeit, in an article titled “America is Deeply Divided,” writes:

The defeat of the Democrats is dramatic – even more dramatic than in 1994. At that time under Bill Clinton, Democrats lost 52 seats in the mid-term election. This time it will be even more. … Shared power: to the president on the one hand, to the Congress on the other. In America that is the rule. But now there is a double shared power: the Congress itself is split between a Republican House of Representatives and a Democratic Senate. This is rather rare. This new political situation suggests that America will not emerge from its political impasse. … Three of the major lessons to be learned from this election: First, the voters have voted against the Democrats and against President Barack Obama – and not for the Republicans. Secondly, America continues to be deeply divided over the right path to take in the future. And third, this choice says nothing about the possible outcome of the 2012 presidential election. New game, new luck.

In Ireland, the center-right Irish Independent, in an article titled “Jumbo Sized Drubbing is no Republican Endorsement,” writes:

It has been easy this year to present the American mid-term elections as exhibit one in the case that the country has gone crazy. … But widespread hilarity – inside the country, as well as beyond its shores – about a supposed “Idiot America” obscures the fact that at the heart of these elections have been big, serious philosophical questions about what government is and what it should do. … Democrats [have] suffered a historic drubbing at the polls today. But the vote is not an endorsement of the Republican Party or its leaders. Washington will be largely divided between advocates of two competing and fiercely held notions about the role of government. After today, and with the 2012 presidential election campaign approaching, expect acrimony and gridlock in Washington.

From another Irish Independent article titled “Democrats Want Heads to Roll in Obama’s Inner Circle”:

Leading Democratic figures started baying for blood among the most prominent members of President Barack Obama’s inner circle. Convinced that the White House could have limited the heavy losses expected in the mid-term elections, there was frustration and anger at the confused messages sent out during a long and brutal campaign for Democrats. … Some Democrats are furious at what they see as Mr Obama’s betrayal of his party and greater interest in his own 2012 re-election than the welfare of fellow Democrats this year.

In Italy, the center-left La Repubblica, in an analysis titled “Now Begins Obama 2,” writes:

The Republicans must avoid becoming intoxicated by this victory. Of course, the Tea Party is the big news of the moment. This movement has perfected the “Obama model” by mobilizing civil society to undermine the party establishment. It’s an insurgency and insurrection of civil society that wants to regain its sovereignty. But these protest flare-ups may be short-lived if they are removed from the traditional political class. Between now and 2012, the economy will decide everything. If Obama cannot find the right therapy to accompany America towards a recovery that will create jobs, his image as leader will be associated with a decline and impoverishment of the nation. As for the populist right, it dreams about limited government and drastic cuts in public spending, such as proposed by David Cameron in Britain. A doctrinaire view that is likely to aggravate the crisis plunging America into a new depression.

In Spain, the left-wing El País, in an “analysis” titled “The Vote of a Tantrum is not the Last Word,” laments the “conversion of the United States into Absurdistan”:

What can be said about the fact that millions of Americans believe that Obama is Muslim and communist, that climate change does not exist, and that the rich and corporations pay too much tax? Definitely, America is “a country of believers.” Suffice it to say that many Americans believe that Elvis lives, that Martians appeared in Roswell (New Mexico) and that the theory of creation of the Bible is absolutely true. No wonder they are created as the Tea Party.

Another El País article titled “Obama’s Failure” asserts that:

[T]he flood of money poured by Karl Rove to undermine the achievements of the [Obama] presidency is one of the explanations for the results last night.

The center-right ABC, in a column titled “Obama in Prose,” writes:

The impression one gets of these faltering two years of Obamaism is that the president still does not have a grip on the complex control panel of the White House. He has pushed some buttons like a novice pilot, but the airplane is not on a steady course.

Soeren Kern is Senior Analyst for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook.
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