Fading Obamamania Leaves Europeans in a Funk

Europeans now worry that Palin, Tea Partiers will derail Obama presidency.

LONDON, Nov. 3, 2010 — -- President Obama's 2008 election garnered wildly enthusiastic support in Europe, where he drew huge crowds and, for many here, represented hope of guiding world politics back in line with European ideals.

But Tuesday's midterm election results zapped that optimism.

The reaction was one of disappointment and pragmatism as newspapers throughout Europe called for Obama to get to work.

"He has to take the anger of the voters seriously," Gregor Peter Schmitz wrote in the German news magazine Der Spiegel, which ran a scathing, 12-page feature Tuesday declaring that the American dream had become a nightmare for many.

"He may even have to negotiate with Republicans about measures to curb the budget deficit. The political messiah needs to eat a piece of humble pie."

Papers in London offered similar criticism. The midterm election was watched closely here and most of today's front pages splashed news of the results.

"Much of his fate is in his own hands," Jonathan Freedland wrote in the Guardian newspaper.

The Times, of London, wrote that Obama will be "doomed" if he doesn't embrace the center and cautioned that far right politics may soon dominate U.S. politics.

As for the Tea Party, Sarah Palin regularly makes headlines here and most Europeans have a deep sense of mistrust of the emerging movement. While many Americans view the Tea Party with suspicion, the reaction here is far more visceral.

"Most Europeans just have the notion that these are crazy wackos," said Bill Barnard, chairman of Great Britain's Democrats Abroad.

But Barnard said he thinks some of the Tea Party candidates were serious contenders that will challenge Republican unity. "The Republican Party is set up for a continuing struggle for control within the party," he said

Emerging in European papers today was an urge to protect America from a wave of far right Republicans who could gain traction for the next presidential election.

The Times declared that Republicans were now tasked with stopping Palin if they wanted to prevent "their party from spinning unelectably to the right" for 2012.

Hope in the Abstract

"A lot of Europeans do not really understand the Palin phenomenon," said Peter Kurrild-Klitgaard, a political scientist at the University of Copenhagen.

Obama is the most popular U.S. president of all time in Denmark, and that it's hard for Danes to understand how Palin has gained such popularity with such a lack of political experience, Kurrild-Klitgaard said.

Obama will visit Asia next week but, according to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, he may have wished he had jetted off sooner.

Clinton, who is currently in Papua New Guinea on her two-week, Asia-Pacific trip, joked earlier this week about escaping the heat of U.S. soil during the election, saying Obama told her he was "a little envious that I'm here."

U.S. foreign policy goals aren't expected to change after the shift in congressional power, but Obama may find that he's greeted with somewhat less support internationally.

As professor Kurrild-Klitgaard pointed out, "There's a growing understanding that all this talk about hope and change was a little too fluffy and a little to unspecific.

"He was selling sort of an abstract hope."

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