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Daily View: President Obama's European tour

Clare Spencer | 09:52 UK time, Monday, 23 May 2011

President Obama and Michelle Obama boarding their plane to Europe


Commentators discuss President Obama's visit to Europe and ask if he is still the most powerful person in the world.

The Independent's editorial says Libya, the Arab spring, Pakistan and the Middle East should be on the agenda but that in reality in the UK one thing will be on British politicians' minds:

"Nothing prompts anxious introspection among the British political classes better than a visit from the world's most powerful leader. Barack Obama will give a speech to both houses of Parliament on Wednesday and already speculation has begun over whether or not the President will use the phrase "special relationship" to describe the United States' partnership with Britain. This is a shame because there are much more important things to talk about with regard to US-British relations... If our leaders do those subjects justice there will be little time for trivial angst about the condition of the special relationship."

In the Daily Mail Peter McKay looks at the deal-making that could go on between Mr Cameron and Mr Obama over forces in Libya, the extradition of British computer hacker Gary McKinnon and human rights issues in Guantanamo Bay and the solitary confinement of Private Manning who is accused of supplying the secret government cables to WikiLeaks. However, in the end McKay says none of these may be discussed:

"Obama doesn't have to give us anything, of course. He knows that merely visiting Britain boosts our Government and head of state, the Queen. Cameron and co can pretend the 'special relationship' still exists. The Crown takes comfort in being honoured by the head of a former colony that chose to fight us for its independence.
"The President's state visit here, followed by France, will provide upbeat media coverage at home and valuable video that his re-election team will use to persuade U.S. voters in 2012 that Obama is loved and respected by leaders world-wide.
"So it's wham, bam, thank you, ma'am. As always."

Gary Younge says in the Guardian that Europe's continued support of President Obama says more about its own weakness than the US president:

"So when he has delivered so little, why do Europeans love him so much? Many of the original reasons still stand. He still isn't George Bush, although how long that negative qualification remains meaningful is a moot point. He also emerged at a moment when European political leadership has been in a particularly parlous state. Europeans don't just love Obama more than Americans do. They love him more than they love the people they have elected themselves. One reason Obama is so popular in Europe is partly because he has emerged at a time when European leadership is in such a parlous state. Less than a third of the Italians and French, respectively, approve of Silvio Berlusconi and Nicolas Sarkozy, only half the Germans find Angela Merkel credible. David Cameron does not fare much better.
"Smart, charismatic, telegenic and unencumbered by sleaze Obama still, by comparison, represents the possibility of a popular form of electoral politics led by intelligent and public-spirited citizens as opposed to opportunists, egomaniacs and sleazemongers. It's as though his proven ability to articulate the source and scope of problems has enabled some people to look past his inability to provide a solution for them."

In his Channel 4 News blog Jon Snow looks at the US's changing influence:

"Obama may be forgiven for sparing a thought for how much longer he's likely to be in what once was regarded as the 'most powerful job in the world'. If the reign of the lone superpower had peaked under George Bush, it has continued its slide under Obama. And it is economic power rather, more than diplomatic and military muscle, that is orchestrating the new world order."

David Miliband argues in the Times that the US is no longer seen as all-powerful across the world and President Obama needs to adapt:

"There is much more than the killing of bin Laden that makes this a moment of special complexity and responsibility. The Arab Spring will not just change the Middle East, setting a new legitimacy bar for the exercise of power, but its relationship with the West. Some ruling elites in the Gulf, who see Iran behind every problem, regard our talk about democratic values as naive. Add in the debate within Islam about its own future and you have a heady brew. With the end of a 200-year resource glut, and the shift of economic power from West to East, you have a global system groaning under the pressure of unresolved tensions and problems.
"In terms of economics and culture the world has become a smaller place; more integrated and interdependent. But the politics of the global village - international co-operation and shared responsibility - is still fragmented.
"There are many consequences of these changes, but one is that the world's time is no longer set according to the US electoral clock. Fatah and Hamas aren't going to wait for November 2012 to play out their agreement to work together. Oil prices are not going to wait for a second Inaugural Address. President Obama has to plot a strategy for governing when others are making history too."

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