Euro Election Reax

It’s Obama! Let’s take a broad range of European editorial responses to his historic presidential victory and look at each briefly in turn – using what we could even call the Andrew Sullivan format, but with translation.

I like to start with France, a civilization which naturally is the implacable enemy of every true “real American” cultural warrior – oooh la la Gov. Palin!

From Sylvain Cypel, New York correspondent for Le Monde (Guantanamo, financial crisis, Iraq . . .: The dossiers that await the president):

The new president intends, as he has repeated, to take during the first year of his term a series of “spectacular” decisions and initiatives. He should therefore, within the first 100 days after 20 January, give an “address to the Islamic world” designed to improve current relations and to scotch any idea of a “clash of civilizations.” But his decisions will be squeezed in a vise of, on the one side, the impact of the economic crisis and, on the other, the need to put into effect several costly [election] promises, while the American public deficit approaches $1 trillion.

And he adds about Guantanamo (a subject of interest among Europeans, you can be sure, and for quite a while):

Closing Guantanamo poses a logistical problem of unprecedented scope. Whom to set free, whom to keep in detention? Knowing that the material under secret seal held by the prosecution includes tens of thousands of pages, although one suspects that a number of the confessions have been obtained through torture. Where to place the prisoners, and on what basis to judge them equitably?

From Laurent Joffrin of Libération (It’s time):

It’s time, in fact. [Il est temps, en effet.] . . .

It’s time, in fact, to put an end to a brutal, mendacious and dogmatic foreign policy that has dug a ditch between rich and poor nations. It’s time to finish an Iraq war which has resuscitated the specter of colonialism. It’s time to stop a social policy defined by the rich, for the rich. It’s time to claim back from finance the monopoly that it had arrogated to itself on the course of globalization. It’s time to return to the citizens of the United States, through means of their elected representatives, a certain minimum influence on their economic destiny – that is, on their destiny, period. It’s time that America cooperated with the common efforts for safeguarding the planet. It’s time, finally, that the greatest democracy be incarnated not by a senator coming out of a dominating Western conservatism that is sure of itself, but by a man of the new century, of mixed culture, open to differences.

Now to Germany. From Torsten Krauel, Washington correspondent of Die Welt (What’s awaiting the new president):

Today in [US] domestic policy there are three great tasks – the stifling of the financial crisis, the transformation of the welfare state, the general refurbishment of infrastructure including ecological measures. All three areas cost a lot of money. The budget situation after the financial aid [i.e. bailout] package is so dire that the new president will have to decide immediately which of the three tasks will have to be temporarily put off to the side. The struggle about this will mark the first half of 2009. A strong faction of Democrats wishes to immediately address climate change, a just-as-strong Republican faction wants energy-autarky for the US. An even stronger faction from both parties wants to introduce national health insurance, the Democrats somewhat more insistent than the Republicans. And all politicians, Democrats as well as Republicans, want to save the credit and real estate markets right away. It’s this last that will become first priority, at the cost of climate-change and maybe even of the health system.

We can’t neglect Die Zeit, of course. Here is Andrea Böhm (The white-black president, and datelined on 6 November 08 – but then, the Die Zeit paper edition is a weekly):

Now America has its first black president, who in reality is a white-black president. And the world has, at least for a moment, “its” America back: from George W. Bush to Obama, from Saul to Paul, from the war-making superpower to the leader of the ecological transformation. About whether and how Obama will fulfill these enormous expectations, one in the next few months can certainly doubt. Right now, though, the symbolic impact of this victory takes one’s breath away.

Never before has a presidential election had so much to do, in such a dramatic way, with the myth of resurrection – that quintessentially American belief, according to which everyone, even a whole nation, after falling into the bottomless pit, can pull one/itself together and invent one/itself anew. To put it in the prosaic words of American TV comic Sarah Silverman: America has, within one election night, transformed itself from “asshole of the universe” [that’s given in the original English] into a land of the politically-enthused with a “world president.” That is the global effect of this electoral victory, that might soon just dissipate – but that goes much deeper in inner-American reality.

And then from Munich’s Süddeutsche Zeitung, their Washington correspondent Reymer Klüver (Arising from ruins):

The election of Barack Obama was for America an act of self-liberation, indeed, of self-cleansing.

Forty-five years after a black preacher spoke on the white marble steps of the Lincoln Memorial of his dream of an America without racial barriers, this land has shown once more that that can come to maturity. It has overcome hundred-year-old prejudices. Forty-five years after Martin Luther King’s great address, the Americans have made a black their president. . . .

All of this gives motivation to the justified hope that he in fact has the capabilities to lead the land in a superior and considered way – other than the case with the president still there in office. That he possesses the capacity and the will to build bridges over the moats that his predecessor wantonly has torn open and which have so deeply divided not only US society but the entire world. That he can restore to a land that in recent years has lost its direction a new confidence in its own capabilities and values.

Now to the Netherlands and Juurd Eijsvoogel (you can tell from that name that we’re not in Germany anymore, no?) of the NRC Handelsblad (America chooses a world-citizen):

After eight years of Bush, in which superpower America first was hit in the heart and then frittered away much regard and authority in the world, American voters have now opened the way for the recovery of their land’s reputation.

Yesterday they not only chose a new president, they also – although they weren’t meaning to – gave a signal to the world. With Barack Obama they have made a world-citizen their leader.

And that did not slip by the world’s attention. Did not Obama himself say, when this summer he addressed a crowd of 200,000 in Berlin, that he was not only “a proud citizen of the United States” but also “a fellow citizen of the world”? That sounded much different from: who isn’t with us, is against us. Not only Americans were yearning for change, after eight years of Bush – a big part of the world was, too.

Now to Denmark: the lead-editorial from Berlingske Tidende is entitled A victory for the USA:

It’s almost too banal to say that it was a landslide victory. It was a victory that was national and that far exceeded what is normal for a presidential election – a land divided in two. . . .

The war against terror has cost much in the way of both human and economic resources. The fight has also split the rest of the world. The USA is far from alone in this fight. But the Americans have also gained a long series of new enemies, which it will cost just as many resources to fight in the future. Also, the lands allied with the USA, which normally could be counted upon to be among the USA’s friends, have begun to hesitate before the war against terror. Not because they don’t believe in it, but because the present president George W. Bush no longer has much to offer. Obama will be able to put things in the right direction again. He represents more than any other president in recent times a unified USA. This imposes both national and international obligations. The expectations for him are therefore sky-high.

By the way, you can see here an embedded interview with Berlingske’s US correspondent, about how all this US election stuff has been playing in Denmark. Of course, the actual name Berlingske Tidende is no where to be seen on the post, and is only heard out of the mouth of the Danish reporter, Karl Erik Stougaard, because such a name as that is too confusing for American ears to be captured and accurately transcribed.

Then we head across a chilly November’s Copenhagen to the edge of the Rådhusplads and the daily newspaper Politiken; foreign editor Michael Jariner’s analysis is entitled America writes history:

The election of Barack Obama does not mean that there is no longer a division between black and white, for the poverty and criminality statistics show with all clarity that there is.

But Americans have moved closer to the realization of that dream that the black civil rights activist Martin Luther King formulated 45 years ago in his famous I have a dream speech. . . .

For the night’s voting [Copenhagen time] blacks and Latinos put themselves together as a voting-group that can decide elections, and this will unavoidably rub off on the composition of the many thousand of political and administrative positions which now must be filled. It potentially has wide-ranging implications for the whole of American society.

And then to Poland, to the “election newspaper,” of course, Gazeta Wyborcza. Witold Gadomski demands that Obama must remember his promises:

The president-elect has carefully avoided answering questions about who will finance all these gifts [this refers to the many programs involving new spending cited in the previous paragraph that Gadomski claims Obama promised during his campaign – national health insurance, aid to defaulting homeowners, etc.]. To be sure, he has announced a rise in taxes, but only for the 5% best-paid Americans. He also has not occupied himself with those problems whose solution will be neither easy not pleasant for Americans – the hole in public finances and the galloping indebtedness of America, the wasteful administration of public institutions established in the last half-century for addressing the standard of living of the poorest Americans, such as Medicare, Medicaid and the “sponsored enterprises” to assist housing construction.

By the way, that Gazeta article also has a great picture of Obama at his local Chicago polling-place, looking straight at the camera in a determined, even defiant, manner and holding up his ballot. The picture is credited to Reuters, but I hadn’t seen it anywhere else; you should click through to check it out, even if all those funny letters of the Polish language somehow intimidate you.

That’s about all I can do for now – I know, I neglected Belgium, the Czech Republic, Uncle Tom Dooley, and some other countries as well, but that’s just the way it is. By the way, comments are certainly welcome via e-mail on this Andrew Sullivan format: to a great degree, I feel, it’s rather superficial, since almost all of the articles from which I took these extracts had other sections that deserved mention too. Plus, I generally like to think that some accompanying analysis from yours truly is in order – for instance, did you catch that one citation where it was clear that the correspondent didn’t know what he was talking about regarding American politics? In a nutshell – and as all long-standing €S followers (if there are any – Hi Mom!) already know – I like to go mostly with deeper but narrower coverage, rather than this more-extensive but shallower reporting.

Of course, ideally I would go with extensive and deep coverage, but certain restrictions of time, space, and finance preclude that for now. On this same subject, let me voice my suspicion that we actually have Andrew Sullivan’s editorial assisant (a certain Patrick Appel) to thank for the Election Reax post and that extract-anthology “Andrew Sullivan blog-post format” generally. I’m afraid we can’t afford editorial assistants here at EuroSavant.

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