January 2009


Germany & Obama

The best German newspaper!

The best German newspaper!

Judging by the cover of yesterday’s Bild, one would think that Germany is ready for Michelle Obama to be first lady.

It’s not difficult German, but for those of you unable to translate “So sexy ist die neue First Lady”, let me provide a quick and dirty translation: “How sexy is the new First Lady”!

Obama’s introduction to the world has been quite well received. His campaign rhetoric has been followed by strong early actions—envoys for trouble spots, plans to close secret CIA prisons, and to close Guantánamo Bay’s notoriously awful prison camp. The non-Americans I’ve talked to are impressed and happy so far—it’s concrete action that speaks volumes.

There’s also a certain amount of relief that Bush is gone—the bumbling idiot who made it difficult, if not impossible, to love America is finally gone—off to his exile in suburban Dallas.

It’s that relief that Bush is finally gone that makes me a little cautious in deciding how excited the non-Americans are about Obama—there is a palpable sense of relief and excitement at the mere departure of Bush—excitement that I believe would have existed even had McCain been the incoming president (although that would have been severely tempered by the Palin problem).

Therefore the excitement about regime change consists of two components: excitement at Bush’s departure and excitement at Obama’s arrival.

For me, it’s humbling to have a president that can speak in full sentences, accept that science is a good thing, and understand that one can speak softly whilst carrying an otherwise unused big stick. America has many great opportunities in the next few years to restore its moral authority—something that, for all intents and purposes, vanished under George W Bush. Whist restoring moral authority, the US can protect its interests in far off places—displays of soft power will help stop the advance of a morally suspect Chinese influence in war torn regions of Africa. The US can also restore moral authority simply by respecting the major EU powers: Germany, France, and Spain should not be treated like petulant children when they raise objections to US behavior.

Meanwhile, via Norway’s Texpatriate, there was an excellent satirical column back in early 2001, published by The Onion:

WASHINGTON, DC–Mere days from assuming the presidency and closing the door on eight years of Bill Clinton, president-elect George W. Bush assured the nation in a televised address Tuesday that “our long national nightmare of peace and prosperity is finally over.”

“You better believe we’re going to mix it up with somebody at some point during my administration,” said Bush, who plans a 250 percent boost in military spending. “Unlike my predecessor, I am fully committed to putting soldiers in battle situations. Otherwise, what is the point of even having a military?”

On the economic side, Bush vowed to bring back economic stagnation by implementing substantial tax cuts, which would lead to a recession, which would necessitate a tax hike, which would lead to a drop in consumer spending, which would lead to layoffs, which would deepen the recession even further.

5 comments to Germany & Obama

  • That Onion piece was eerily prescient and prophetic!

  • koko

    I was surprised at the amount of Obama articles in Germany. From the talks with my family, I knew it was a big deal…but I didn’t realize it was *that* big.

  • am i the only person that is looking forward to see what michelle wears during her firstladyship? i have never had someone young and beautiful in the ‘house since i have been alive.

  • @koko: Sometimes its stunning how much foreign news makes headlines here–far more than in the US. The presidential campaign made a lot of headlines, and not just on Bild.

    @dave.: I think Michelle might be the first First Lady to care about fashion since Nancy Reagan. I think that Barbara Bush never gave a damn, Hillary was pretty pedestrian in her choices, and I can’t ever remember anybody talking about Laura Bush’s clothing.