Mixed reception for Obama Euro tour

Germans go wild, but French, Brits reserved

Barack Obama used the capitals of Europe as a stage for some potent political theater this weekend.

But while there were the obligatory "Obamamania" headlines on broadsheets across the continent, it was only in Germany that the Democratic presidential hopeful created a media frenzy.

Obama received a rock-star reception at the German capital, with hundreds of thousands coming out to hear him speak in front of Berlin's Victory Column and 5 million more tuning in to watch the speech live on public television.

"I've never seen anything like it, especially not for a presidential nominee," John Kornblum, former U.S. ambassador to Germany told German TV.

Several commentators noted Obama's strategic choice of Berlin for the one speech on his European tour. The city where John F. Kennedy declared "Ich bin ein Berliner" and Ronald Reagan called on Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall" lent symbolic heft to a first-term junior senator from Illinois with no real international experience.

In fact, since Kennedy, no U.S. president, much less an unelected hopeful, has received such a raucous welcome in Berlin.

The German media played along, giving mostly fawning coverage of Obama's visit. Newsweekly Der Spiegel called him a "superstar." "He is a universal icon," gushed an editorial in leading daily the Suddeutsche Zeitung.

The French and British media were more reserved.

The Paris press corps probably outnumbered the small crowd that gathered behind the barriers outside the Elysee Palace to catch a glimpse of the U.S. presidential candidate during his five-hour stop in the French capital. And they were less than enthusiastic following a joint news conference between Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in which the two men said they'd found common ground on many issues including Afghanistan, Iran and climate change.

A beaming Sarkozy paid many compliments to his "friend" Obama, who reciprocated. The pair were "like two old ladies complimenting each other on their hairdos," commented newspaper Liberation.

In Britain, the political woes of Prime Minister Gordon Brown overshadowed the U.K. leg of Obama's European tour. Brown's Labour party lost a major by-election less than 48 hours before Obama's arrival, knocking the visit off the top spot in print, radio and TV coverage and proving the old mantra that all politics are local.

"It's safe to say you might not have known Obama was (in the U.K.)," said one political commentator there. "Because he didn't come here to make a speech in Hyde Park or wherever, it meant it wasn't that big a deal."

But Obama's real audience wasn't in Hyde Park, on Potsdamer Platz or the Champs-Elysees.

It was the crowd on his tour jet, where Brian Williams, Charles Gibson and Katie Couric, the respective evening news anchors of NBC, ABC and CBS, had come along for the trip.

The whirlwind Euro-tour, with its meetings with heads of state, picturesque sites and crowds of young Europeans screaming, "Yes, you can!" was in the end just a handy backdrop for the political showdown being played out stateside between Obama and Senator John McCain.

Scott Roxborough reported from Cologne, Germany; Stuart Kemp reported from London. Charles Masters in Paris contributed to this report.
comments powered by Disqus