International Perceptions of Obama’s Second Term (Italy, Poland, The Netherlands, France, Switzerland, China, Brazil, Mexico)
The global reaction to Obama’s second inaugural has been markedly less emotional and more analytical, perhaps reflecting the fact that the president is now a known quantity – as are the limits of his influence over American and global affairs. This is a sampling of what we’ve found so far from Italy’s La Stampa, Poland’s Rzeczpospolita, De Volkskrant of The Netherlands, Le Figaro of France, Switzerland’s Neue Zuercher Zeitung, China’s Xinhau, Brazil’s Folha and El Universal of Mexico.
For Italy’s La Stampa, columnist Gianni Riotta, in an article headlined, Second Term Trials will Reveal Mettle of ‘Enigmatic’ Obama, writes that President Obama is headed into four of the most intense years of decision imaginable, both in domestic affairs and foreign policy. And he writes that the issues are so daunting, any one or two of them could easily take up Obama’s entire second term.
Of all the choices that await Obama II and the judgment of history, a return to fiscal balance in Washington is the most important. … High spending and low taxes, as George W. Bush so catastrophically demonstrated, leads to ruin.
His second main agenda item concerns China. Prepared to overtake the United States economically sometime between 2017 and 2018, China fears a demographic crisis – too few births and too few girls – which would weaken the country beginning in 2030. That leaves ten crucial years for hegemony over the Pacific, and for this reason, Beijing is launching a naval fleet and its first aircraft carrier, and is quarrelling with Japan over the Senkaku Islands [aka/the Diaoyu Islands]. China’s new leader, Xi Jinping, must choose whether to hold a dialogue with Obama, slip into a cold war, or launch a military conflict.
An American fiscal collapse and a strategic conflict with China would be more than enough fill the second term of any president. Yet Obama also has to deal with the old Middle East, where there is no sign of progress between Israel and the Palestinians; the new face of the Muslim world after the Arab Spring; Iranian extortion over its nuclear program; a Putin weakened by a drop in oil prices but determined to hold on to power; and the need to revitalize relations with Europe.
As many may recall, Poland’s government and media appeared to openly favor a Mitt Romney presidency. That said – should President Obama take a page from Mitt Romney’s policy book and pay more deference to Europe? For Poland’s Rzeczpospolita, in an article headlined, Obama Must Be Told: Europe is No Less Important than Asia, columnist Piotr Koscinski suggests that by ‘pivoting’ to Asia at Europe’s expense, the United States may be making a tremendous mistake.
It is very hard to say what Europe can expect from Barack Obama during his second term. In fact, one might even suggest that the president profit from the program of his electoral rival, Mitt Romney. Someone should put it to him that the Old Continent is no less important than Asia. Obama should learn the lesson of the failure of the “reset” in U.S.-Russian relations, as well as understanding – finally – the security needs of Central Europe, including Poland.
But is there anyone who can do it? Will politicians of the European Union muster the courage? Unfortunately, this is unlikely.
Whether or not one believes President Obama will be able to accomplish everything he outlined in his inaugural address, Dutch columnist Bert Wagendorp of De Volkskrant, in an article headlined, Betting on Obama to Quickly Show His Greatness, asserts that the very fact that the world’s most powerful man could put out such a ‘positive progressive agenda’ is something Americans should be proud of. But he warns, if his agenda is to succeed, he had better get on the stick, because his power is already waning fast.
When you’re the only man in the world mightier than Angela Merkel, and the most promise-laden president in history, one must measure the time left to fulfill those high expectations in months. … An American president during his first term is mainly concerned with securing a second, and of his second four years, he has about 23 months to blossom into a great president – or a failure. … To be very well aware of that, and to come out with a speech like Obama’s on Monday: one has to be a tough cookie and an incorrigible optimist, too.
Le Figaro columnist Jean-Sebastien Stehli, in an article headlined Obama Version II Ready to Return Blow for Blow!, does nothing to disguise his glee that President Barack Obama came out fighting for the progressive cause in his second inaugural address. Stehli writes that Obama, liberated from ever standing for office again, is now ready to take it to the ‘obstructionist’ Republican Party.
This is a moment to savor. … After completing Herculean tasks, Obama can focus on his values. That is the meaning of his inaugural speech. … The program for Barack Obama’s second term will soon be put forward in his State of the Union speech. The president who always sought compromise with Republicans and was guided by one objective – his own defeat – has been replaced by a White House resident determined to return blow for blow. Finally!
Does a second term for President Obama signal a more cautious, self-absorbed America? For Switzerland’s Neue Zuercher Zeitung, in an article headlined, Obama II: Prepare for America’s New Danger-Averse Global Course, columnist Andreas Ruesch warns Europeans that from now on – as the recent French invasion of Mali and the hostage crisis in Algeria show – ‘If there is more at stake for other countries, the Americans won’t be pulling their chestnuts out of the fire.’
“Weakened by years of partisan bickering but freed of the pressure of having to face popular election again, Barack Obama will on Sunday begin his second term as leader of the United States. … With their passivity in the face of the French intervention in Mali, the Americans have signaled that they intend to exercise extreme caution before being drawn into another war. … There will be no more large-scale operations like those in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pressure on the Pentagon to economize will continue to grow. Land forces, in particular, will have to justify their existence. Faced with the choice of trimming the social welfare state or the military budget, Obama will no doubt choose the latter.”
This was an odd little editorial from China’s state-run Xinhua headlined, Barack Obama: Handsome and Young to Hoary and Old, which delves into the question: Is there any hope that President Obama will regain the youthfulness he has lost after four years in the the Oval Office?’ The editorial examines the causes of Obama’s rapid aging, and predicts that he will never recover from the wear and tear encountered at the White House.
Apparently, the sad moments overshadowed the happy ones in Obama’s first term, since the number of things he cannot do is far greater than those he can. Even his own doctor admitted that Obama looks eight years older than he did four years ago. … Whether the next four years will be easier remains a mystery, but one thing is for sure: constantly up to his neck in problems at home and abroad, he will never look any younger.
From Brazil’s Folha, this editorial headlined, Obama’s Legacy Depends Most on U.S. Energy Transition examines what President Obama must do to be judged one of America’s greatest leaders. The newspaper assesses that it won’t be whether he can negotiate gun control or the debt limit with Republicans, but how he manages the emerging energy revolution in the United States, which promises to bring tremendous opportunity for labor and inject liquidity into the domestic economy for decades to come.
The U.S. is undergoing a remarkable change in the domestic production of energy – gas and oil extracted from metamorphic rock – which is lowering the cost of production in the country. … Battles in Congress tend to galvanize public attention. But Barack Obama’s future in the history books may depend much more on the actions of his government in accelerating, and not hindering, the economic transition that is now underway.
And finally, With Obama at the height of his political and personal power and his debt to Latinos fresh in everyone’s minds, is it time for the undocumented to press their case? This editorial from Mexico’s El Universal headlined, Influential U.S. Latinos Must ‘Exploit Unprecedented Moment, urges U.S. Latinos to press for an amnesty for undocumented immigrants now, before the people of the United States forget how pivitol they were in the 2012 election.
The 2012 Latino vote is a juncture of unprecedented importance that could lose its novelty on the public agenda. … Another unexpected event may occur that quickly causes U.S. people to close off the possibility of an ‘amnesty’ for illegal immigrants. The best course would be to exploit the current situation. … With these new favorable winds, it’s time for Hispanic civic organizations and nationals in general, to come out of the shadows.
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