Thursday, November 6, 2008

Zut Alors! Is Obama More Like a European Socialist or a Nicolas Sarkozy?

All-night parties cheer Obama in EU capital

By Leigh Phillips and Valentina Pop



EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - EU officials, expats working for the European headquarters of multinational firms, Erasmus students and locals from every quarter of the Belgian capital partied on Tuesday night (4 November) in anticipation of a victory for Barack Obama in the US presidential vote.

Over 2,000 US expats and other international workers crammed into the Brussels Renaissance hotel down the road from the European Parliament for a party organised by the American Chamber of Commerce Belgium and the local chapters of Democrats Abroad and Republicans Abroad. The crowd celebrated as results came in on the huge screens through the night, despite the time zone difference.

The organisers set up a debate between representatives of the Republicans and Democrats. But the audience was clearly in favour of senator Barack Obama, who won 93 percent of the votes cast at a straw poll at the event, with only seven percent favouring his Republican rival, John McCain.

To Matt Graves, a 37-year-old French-speaking Texan who has lived in Belgium for 14 years, the election of senator Obama was a dream come true. Proudly wearing his cowboy hat with the inscription "Texans for Obama," Mr Graves told EUobserver that his home state is not all "red," despite the Texas end result coming out in favour of senator McCain.

"These are historical elections, it's absolutely amazing," he said, convinced that the new president will "greatly improve" relations with the European Union.

Belgian nationals were also present at the celebrations, such as Eric and Micheline Mathay, a couple who had also joined the election party for French President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007.

"Mr Obama is the American Sarkozy," the 52-year-old accountant told this website, noting that Europeans have very high expectations from the newly elected US president in terms of a better dialogue on international affairs. But Mr Obama's popularity was likely to drop after the honeymoon ends, Mr Mathay argued, just as with the French president.

More responsibilities for the EU

An Obama presidency would mean not only more dialogue and involvement with the Europeans on the world stage, but also more responsibilities for the EU countries, argued Jamie Shea, the head of NATO's policy planning unit during the debate ahead of the first results.

The cost of multilateralism, for the EU countries, would soon be felt when "President Obama picks up the phone to Germany and France and tell them to commit more troops for the war in Afghanistan," he said.

In terms of the consequences of the first truly global financial crisis, Mr Shea said that multi-lateralism would also mean that rich countries such as Saudi Arabia and China would soon feel entitled to more voting rights in the International Monetary Fund than, for example, Luxembourg or Belgium, if their contribution is required to stabilise the markets.

This would also pose a challenge for the EU, especially in the context of a US president having to face pressure from a Democratic congress to keep his campaign promises in terms of social programmes and thus increase spending - in turn inflating the country's $33 trillion debt, Mr Shea argued.

To Michael R. Kulbickas, chair of Republicans Abroad Belgium, an Obama presidency would mean lower military spending.

"There is a danger that a reduced defence budget means fewer security guarantees for EU countries, especially eastern European ones," he told EUobserver. In terms of dealing with Russia, Mr Obama would prefer "appeasement" at the expense of countries such as Georgia and Ukraine, the Republican argued.

Meanwhile, on the other side of town

Across the city from the European quarter, outside the cafe at the Maison du Peuple [the people's house] - bedecked in red-white-and-blue bunting and red-white-and-blue Obama posters - a raucous crowd was trying to get into an election party hosted by the Party of European Socialists.

If there was a single McCain supporter amongst the gathered hipsters and immigrants in the student-heavy and working-class neighbourhood of St Gilles, he made himself well-disguised.

The square stretching out from the cafe, built as a house of working class self-education for Belgian trade unionists in the last century, was more packed than could ever be likely for any domestic election.

Zach Ellis, a young backpacker from New York happened across the event having not long got off the train in Brussels, and was dumbstruck that so many Belgians were paying attention to the election.

"It's awesome - the energy, the sympathy of the people in the street. They want somebody who's committed to ending our wars overseas - wars I don't want to fight in."

His new European friend, Martti Kaartinen, a "stagaire" with the Yehudi Menuhin Foundation, said he found out about the party via the internet, adding that the campuses of the francophone Universite Libre de Bruxelles and the Dutch-speaking Vrije Universiteit Brussel were covered in Obama posters.

"All of Europe is behind Obama. He's going to bring back some of the good things we think of about America," he said, while also preparing to be disappointed. "People here see him as a kind of European, but he's an American really, and a politician. Democrats have started wars as well."

Julio Diankenda, who moved to Belgium from the Congo when he was three, said he thought of Obama as a great symbol of hope for immigrants both in the US and in Europe.

"He tells people in Africa they can come from immigrant backgrounds and even be president.

That's important for people to recognise here in Europe too."

European socialists roll out red carpet

Midway through the evening, it was time for the politicians to arrive, slicing their way through the crowds. Elio di Rupo, the president of the Walloon Socialists, was quick to say that Barack Obama was the choice of Belgium and of Europe.

"Obama is the sole candidate that is in accord with Europe. On the financial crisis, climate change - all the essential elements, his is a progressive programme, a humane discourse that is in accord with the grand ensemble of Europe."

He admitted that there were differences between a European Socialist view of the world and that of a free-market American Democrat, however. "We can't demand that he agree 100 percent with Europe. The reality is different in the United States."

His colleague, Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, the president of the European Socialists, agreed that despite ideological differences, Mr Obama was the preferred candidate of the left in the European Parliament.

"The United States is not the same type of welfare state as we have here in Europe, but what is clear is that the overall vision is the same as Socialists, as Europeans," he said.

"[He believes] that the people come first and shouldn't pay for the mistakes of the better off whether in Wall Street or Frankfurt, that markets cannot do it all any longer on their own."

[See The European Socialist Party Publicly Campaigns for Obama (Sept. 1, 2008), at: ].

America's new French connection
Commentary: Sarkozy and Obama prepare combination to save the world -- at least for a while

By David Marsh


Oct. 27, 2008

LONDON (MarketWatch) -- Franco-American presidential combinations have frequently stirred the blood, but they produce a cocktail that has mostly been laced with venom.

Charles de Gaulle challenged John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson over gold; François Mitterrand tried to stand up to Ronald Reagan over Star Wars; Jacques Chirac defied George W. Bush on Iraq.

In the future, such acrimony could all be forgotten. If Barack Obama wins the U.S. presidency, expect an extraordinary love-in with French President Nicolas Sarkozy across a broad range of economic and monetary issues. Franco-American relations may never be the same again.

The ingredients are all in place. The French president swept to power in May 2007, burning with Americanophilia -- and with ill-concealed passion for hyper-active political management.


Sarkozy spent much of his first 15 months in office nursing grievances that the rest of the world was not taking much notice of his demands for high-level measures to improve the international economy.

Since the beginning of October, however, Sarkozy has burst into the headlines with a vengeance.

Presiding over European affairs while France takes its six-month turn in the chair of the European Union, Sarkozy played a leading role in a series of high-profile measures to coordinate the continent's attempt to climb back from the economic abyss.

Provided he wins, Obama seems to be just the man to join a duet with Sarkozy that could complete the French president's transformation.

Problem: Freshly-elected American leader promises to change the world, but lacks any kind of foreign policy experience. Solution: Find a successful and energetic mentor with similar inspirational ideas.

What better candidate than the enfant terrible in the Elysée Palace? Six years Obama's senior, Sarkozy can dispense advice with the aura, by comparison with the Democrat leader, of an elder statesman.

The alternative sources of wisdom for Obama -- the U.K.'s Gordon Brown and Germany's Angela Merkel -- look pale and tired by comparison, and both face difficult elections in the next two years.


The two men's similarities are striking.

Like Obama, Sarkozy has managed to build a brilliant political career that has overcome his "outsider" status as the son of an immigrant father. Like Obama, Sarkozy exudes missionary fervor. Like Obama, Sarkozy presides over ample reserves of innovative thinking. The potential list of issues on which both men would like to spend time could hardly be wider-ranging.

Reforming the International Monetary Fund? Expanding public spending on infrastructure?

Improving coordination between the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank? Establishing new mechanisms for banking supervision? Safeguarding domestic companies against aggressive sovereign wealth funds? Whatever the questions, the Sarkozy & Obama combination can be relied upon to come up with the answers.

All these topics can be expected to make the agenda when Sarkozy attends the planned world economic summit to be convened by George W. Bush and his designated successor on Nov. 14 in Washington. A fine opportunity to put the world to rights.

With the right kind of American at his side, Sarkozy can escape the cares of recession, high unemployment and low competitiveness at home, and open up a new front for an improved transatlantic alliance in a troubled world.


The stuff of dreams -- and there's just a chance that the anticipated new bond between Paris and Washington will last longer than a honeymoon period.

David Marsh is chairman of London and Oxford Capital Markets. The Marsh on Monday column appears in German in the newspaper Handelsblatt.



Beltway Confidential Houston Chronicle Blog

July 25, 2008

"The French love the Americans!" Sarko declared. [???]

Barack Obama and a giddily enthused French President Nicolas Sarkozy had a joint presser in Paris today. Fun!

"I want to say to Barack Obama that the French have been following with passion the election campaign in the United States, because the United States are a great democracy and that it's fascinating to watch what's happening there, and because America, the America that France loves, is an America that is farsighted, that has ambitions, great debates, strong personalities," Sarkzoy said. "We need an America that is present, not absent. We need friends who are independent but who are true friends. And you have to know that here in Europe, here in France, we're watching with great interest what you're doing."

He added, "Of course, it's not up to the French to choose the next president of the United States of America."
Sarkozy's passion for jogging and all things American -- including President Bush -- earned him the not-entirely flattering sobriquet Sarko l'Americain at home. So, perhaps he doesn't speak for all of France. But for Obama, it's enough.

"I'm asking him what he eats so that I can find out how I can always have as much energy as this man beside me," Obama said of Sarkozy. "He is on the move all the time."

The two discussed Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, climate change and more. A reporter from AFP asked Obama whether it wasn't such a positive to be loved by France, noting it did little for John Kerry in 2004, and asked whether that's the reason Obama's visit to France was so brief.

"Well, the -- the truth is that the speech that I gave in Germany was hopefully speaking to a broad European audience, and I hope that some of my friends in France were able to hear my desire for a strengthening relationship between the United States and Europe," Obama said (unconvincingly, we thought)

And, Freedom fries and Freedom toast notwithstanding:

"I think the average American has enormous fondness for the French people. And I think people -- people in France and people throughout Europe should not underestimate how much interest there is in America in seeing the transatlantic relationship improving."

Obama made reference to "my dear friend President Sarkozy" and Sarkozy called him "my dear Barack Obama." Poor Bushie -- already yesterday's international love affair. Obama's the new flame.

Sniffed Sarkozy, "We're entitled to agree, are we not?"



samedi 26 juillet 2008

Les republicaines and Gaullistes en ligne

A l’occasion de la venue de Barack Obama en France, Nicolas Sarkozy a prouvé une fois encore son étonnante capacité à faire feu de tout bois. Le candidat démocrate à la présidence américaine a consacré l’essentiel de sa tournée européenne à l’Allemagne, signe qu’il tient la France pour un partenaire bien secondaire ? Qu’à cela ne tienne, Nicolas Sarkozy n’a eu de cesse de souligner les « convergences » entre les deux côtés de l’Atlantique. Et d’afficher sa préférence pour le sénateur de l’Illinois, lequel ne s’est jamais privé de louer l’énergie et le dynamisme sarkoziens. Ce choix tient de la vile caresse de l’opinion dans le sens du poil, tant la campagne de presse pro-Obama tourne au bourrage de crâne [1]. Petit plaisir supplémentaire pour Sarkobama, cette visite très médiatisée a permis au Président de la République de faire la nique aux socialistes qui, eux, ont été incapables d’organiser une rencontre avec un candidat dont ils se veulent les meilleurs représentants en France... Car si les Démocrates ont plus à voir avec le MoDem qu’avec le PS, il n’en demeure pas moins qu’avec son discours ampoulé, ses multiples changements de position, un positionnement politique indécis, Barack Obama tient plus de Ségolène Royal.
[1] 80% des sondés préfèreraient Obama à John McCain !



Posted by Arthur Goldhammer

French Politics Blog

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Barack Obama has come and gone from Paris, not without exposure to the irrepressible palpations of the French president, whose "energy" evidently impressed the American candidate. "What does he eat, what does he take?" Obama asked. Many French also wonder what their Energizer Bunny may be ingesting but take a rather less benign view of the consequences.

It has been reported that various Socialists sought a meeting with Obama but were eventually spurned, even though he agreed to meet with the opposition in Britain. I wouldn't read too much into this. French politics is largely opaque to Americans (my humble efforts notwithstanding), and to have singled out any particular Socialist pretender would have been to wade into a morass without obvious profit. I note that Obama for President HQ visited the French Politics site in the days before he left on his world tour. I would hate to think that my relatively positive view of Manuel Valls might have inspired the wacky idea of a meeting with the mayor of Evry, which Le Monde seems to think Obama's staff seriously contemplated. Would it be too much to suggest that such a meeting might have been comparable to a Sarko-Kucinich powwow during last summer's visit to Wolfeboro? I like Valls, but still, there are protocols to be observed in international relations. I can't believe this idea went very far.

Posted by Arthur Goldhammer at 12:28 AM


1) Anonymous said...

Actually, a prominent blogger-journalist shared with me in a private email that the real reason is even stupider and more benign that you would expect.

The reason Barack Obama did not meet anybody from the French opposition is because the idea of meeting a "Socialist" was considered too risky in the context of DeLay and co trying to see the idea he is a closet Marxist. The word was a huge roadblock for them. That was one of the considerations at play here although I am sure the fact there is no set leader did not help.
July 26, 2008 1:07 AM

2) Alain Q. said...

In view of above it is both ironic and appropriate that Valls himself has proposed that the PS drop the word " socialist" from its name...
July 26, 2008 1:20 AM

3) alexpri said...

Well, it may be stupid that the Obama team felt he couldn't meet with a socialist, but Obama would have had to have been an idiot to do it. There is no upside to such a meeting and obvious risk: the last thing Obama needs is Fox News talking about how he met with French socialists (while refusing to visit wounded Americans in Germany…).
July 28, 2008 4:46 PM


Obama et Sarkozy affichent leur complicité

Article publié le 25 Juillet 2008

Source : LE MONDE.FR Le, avec AFP et ReutersTaille de l'article : 708 motsExtrait :

Les deux hommes ont tenu une conférence de presse commune pendant un peu moins d'une heure, au cours de laquelle ils ont affiché leur proximité. 18 h 55 : La conférence de presse s'achève, mettant fin à une visite éclair de deux heures de Barack Obama en France. Au-delà de quelques déclarations générales sur les grandes questions internationales, c'est la proximité affichée entre le candidat démocrate à l'élection présidentielle et Nicolas Sarkozy qui aura marqué cette entrevue. Proximité de parcours – ils ont tous deux rappelé être issus de l'immigration – et proximité de vues sur les grandes questions de politique étrangère.


Barack Obama à Paris, le rendez-vous manqué du PS

Article publié le 25 Juillet 2008

Source : LE MONDE.FR Thibaud VuittonTaille de l'article : 402 motsExtrait :

Les ténors de la gauche française avaient contacté l'équipe du candidat démocrate, aucun n'a réussi à s'inscrire sur son agenda européen. Si le système politique américain est bien différent du système français, la proximité entre le Parti démocrate de Barack Obama et l'UMP de Nicolas Sarkozy ne tombe toutefois pas sous le sens. Et même si la classe politique française, dans son ensemble, s'est entichée du sénateur de l'Illinois, les liens auraient pu paraître plus naturels entre le camp démocrate américain et le Parti socialiste français. Certains ténors du PS l'ont d'ailleurs bien compris et entendent s'inspirer de l'"Obamania" pour les échéances à venir.

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