Der Spiegel Turns on Obama

In July 2008, the leading German newsmagazine Der Spiegel couldn’t contain itself in its reporting on Barack Obama’s speech in Berlin. The coverage was rapturous.

“The people of Berlin experienced the full range of Barack Obama’s charisma on Thursday evening,” it enthused. “At times he was reserved, at others engaging. Sometimes combative, and also demanding.” Der Spiegel called him “the trans-Atlantic bridge builder” who wowed 200,000 Germans as he proved himself a “save the world orator” who would expunge the evils of the unpopular Bush administration. 

My, how times have changed. This week — almost exactly four years later — Der Spiegel is back with a cover story featuring a glum and dejected Obama: “Sad,” the headline reads. “Obama’s Unlucky Presidency.”

The article inside notes that “Obama has not lived up to the high expectations Europeans had of him.” It reads like the kind of plaintive wail about lost opportunities we hear from American liberals.

#more#Der Spiegel’s main source for its conclusions is a new global survey by the Pew Research Center showing approval of Obama’s policies has declined significantly, and especially in Germany: “Germans are disappointed in the U.S. president’s unilaterialism; his use of force, particularly drone strikes; his inaction with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian situation and his lack of effort in curbing climate change.” Still, nine of out of ten Germans want Obama reelected, which just goes to show how left-wing post–Cold War Germany has become and how bad Mitt Romney’s press has been in Deutschland.

Nonetheless, Obama has done nothing to shore up support for American leadership in the world. In fact, he has presided over a decline. The Pew survey found only 52 percent of Germans have a favorable view of the United States. That’s down twelve points since Obama’s election in 2008, with ten points of that drop coming just in the last year. Germans also believe the world has passed America by: Only 13 percent believe the U.S. is the world’s leading economic superpower, while 62 percent accord that status to China.

The reasons for German disappointment with Obama may differ dramatically from those of many Americans, but it’s clear that the bloom is off the Obama rose not only for his domestic admirers but also for the foreigners he so successfully seduced during the era of “hope and change.”