Europe’s crush on Obama is so over.
The press made much of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s visit to the United States, describing it as fence-mending, and saying that Obama finally granted the French president the special gesture he craved: a meal for the French first couple in Obama’s family dining room. Sarkozy, the most pro-American French president in a long time, had felt miffed because the Obamas had chosen to eat at a left bank restaurant instead of in the Elysee Palace.
The hurt feelings go deeper than the perceived sins of Blair. Obama has been criticized for returning the borrowed bust of Churchill that Bush had displayed in the Oval Office. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was criticized for reiterating what has been American policy since 1948: that the United States hopes Britain and Argentina can settle their Falkland differences themselves. Ronald Reagan helped Britain in its recapture of the Falklands, but that seemed less important than the fact than some in Reagan’s cabinet had unduly worried about Latin American relations.
To an American this all seems a bit silly. For the first time in generations there is no crisis in Europe requiring America’s attention, no issue that deeply divides. Europe has troops fighting bamaeside Americans in Afghanistan, albeit not as many as America would like. Historical and cultural ties remain strong.
But, as British author and journalist William Shawcross points out, Britons feel Obama does not sufficiently appreciate their contribution in Afghanistan. “We’ve lost a lot of people.’’ The Poles and Czechs, too, feel aggrieved that Obama withdrew a promised missile shield as a gesture to please Russia. “Obama seems kinder to his enemies than his friends,’’ Shawcross said.
He’s got a point.