Romney, Obama and
the Future of Europe (Die Welt, Germany)
In the eyes of the
European public, Obama has mutated from a shining figure to a lesser light. And
it turns out that there is only thing worse than aggressive leadership by the
United States: the absence of such leadership. … The good news for Europeans is
also the bad news: it won’t make much of a difference who wins.”
Now that the tragicomedy of the Republican primaries is
over, the real election campaign for the most powerful office on Earth has
finally begun: Mitt Romney versus Barack Obama. Ideologues in both parties will
depict the battle as a showdown between a right-wing, anti-populist,
reactionary capitalist on the one side, and a left-wing, Islam-pandering,
anti-church social revolutionary on the other.
But the reality is an awful bore: In the race for the
Republicans is a candidate that is pragmatic to the point of having no
principles at all, and for the Democrats, the hope of leftist-liberals to whom
reality has issued several swift kicks. Romney is a wooden speaker, but a
competent manager. Obama is a gifted orator, but lacks an agenda and so far
good fortune. If Obama is less reminiscent of the great reformer Lyndon B.
Johnson than of John F. Kennedy - who was said to be more form than substance -
then Romney is more of a George Bush Sr. than a Ronald Reagan.
The Tea Party will be tamer
The first lesson drawn from Romney’s victory in the
primaries is: The Tea Party revolution against the establishment is over. If one
bears in mind those who were at times considered favorites - among them a
businessman whose program consisted solely of a nine percent flat tax, and a
Catholic fundamentalist who questioned the separation of church and state -
then Romney, despite his right turn on health care reform and tax cuts, seems
like a return to “business as usual.”
Romney might win - if present trends continue, but at best with
a slim majority.And if he does, he, too,
will have to deal with a Congress that is politically-paralyzed by the
intransigence of both parties, and would only have hope of accomplishing anything
as a centrist. And while Barack Obama may resort to left-wing rhetoric as a
candidate, as president he would continue to pursue a policy of the center.
“Yes, we can” and “Change we can believe in” have turned into a campaign of the
lesser evil, similar to Gerhard
Schroeder’s campaign against Edmund Stoiber in 2002,
after the euphoria surrounding the Red-Green “renewal” evaporated.
But let us not forget: after Schroeder’s victory came Agenda 2010.
[Editor’s Note: Agenda 2010 was bitterly
opposed by large sectors of the German body politic, and was reported to be the
largest cut in Germany’s social welfare system since World War II.]
Spend and save simultaneously
Something similar is needed by the United States. Four years
after the crash, the economy remains in the doldrums. Growth rates are below
par and the national debt is higher than the total debt of the euro zone. Both
Obama and Romney advocate forms of Keynesianism: Romney
wants to stimulate the economy through tax cuts, Obama through investment.
But given the debt, both Romney and Obama will have to
square the circle: economize strategically to prepare the country for the
future and make tactical investments to keep the nation from slipping into
recession. No matter who inhabits the White House in 2013, he will have to
touch at least two sacred cows: Medicare, the free and absurdly expensive
health care program for the elderly; and lavish health care provided military
forces. It is true that Romney promises to spend four percent of the gross
national product on defense every year. But that is hardly realistic. Once the
imperial adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan are over, the military will have to
provide - in the words of Dwight D. Eisenhower- more “bang for the buck.”
What does all this mean for Europe?
What does all this mean for Europe? When George W. Bush - elected
as the advocate of a “humble” foreign policy - announced after 9/11 an agenda that
would use America’s position as sole superpower to bring peace to the world
through democracy, continental Europeans were appalled. Many longed for a
multi-polar world in which the E.U. would have
Under Obama the U.S. has been much more cautious - so reticent,
in fact, that the president had to put up with
European criticism for being late in supporting the Iranian protest movement,
the “Arab Spring” and the Libyan rebels. From North Korea to Iran and all the
way to Syria and the Sudan, China and Russia are lining up to oppose U.S.
policies without having to pay a price.
Posted by Worldmeets.US
Obama himself has declared his disinterest for the Middle
and Near East, which has something to do with the fact that America - unlike
Europe - no longer needs the region’s oil. On the other hand, the E.U. has capitalized on the leading power’s weakness to plunge
itself into crisis over the euro and global insignificance as a result of a
host of disagreements.
Europe is disappointed in Obama
instinctive anti-Americanism continues, although “neo-liberals” and
“neo-cons” have been replaced by “neo-Keynesians” as the target of criticism. In
line with this, we are embracing - admittedly controversially - a Thatcheresque regimen of economic austerity that also damages
American exports and puts Obama’s reelection at risk. “It’s the economy,
stupid!” also applies in 2012.
In the eyes of the European public, Obama has mutated from a
shining figure to a lesser light. And it turns out that there is only thing worse
than aggressive leadership by the United States: the absence of such
leadership. Might Romney succeed where Obama has been denied? Could he, like
Reagan after the “malaise” noted by Jimmy Carter, infuse America with new confidence
and help it gain new global importance? Could Obama accomplish this in a second
It’s doubtful on both counts. Whoever leads America during
the next four years must above all try and get the economy back on its feet,
reform the welfare system and end the bomb-throwing in the domestic political trenches.
In foreign policy, the greatest challenge remains relations with the second
most powerful country in the world - China. The good news for Europeans is also
the bad news: it won’t make much of a difference who wins the 2102 election. Either way, we’re home alone, and not only must we get our
house in order, but we have to pay more attention to the neighborhood than ever
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