City Journal Winter 2016

Current Issue:

Winter 2016
Table of Contents
Tablet Editions
Click to visit City Journal California

By Guy Sorman

Economics Does Not Lie: A Defense of the Free Market in a Time of Crisis

By Guy Sorman

The Empire of Lies: The Truth about China in the Twenty-First Century

Eye on the News

Guy Sorman
Europe ♥ Obama
For continental elites, the candidate exemplifies “the good American.”
March 6, 2008

Selected Responses:

Sent by Simon Kaye on 03-09-2008:

I'm afraid this article does more to display American stereotypes of Europeans than it does to show up European generalizations about America. Second, I find myself unable to agree with much of your implicit argument. Nobody who saw his 2004 Democratic Convention speech thinks of Obama as "reserved" in his religiosity. The only links between Obama and Farrakhan are constructed by the media. And the vast majority of "elite" Europeans are firm believers in the principles of free trade.

Europeans tend to be more pacifist, yes, and we also tend to be more secular. And we're just as blown away by Obama's rhetoric and oratory as anyone else. But your obvious attempts to diminish a great candidate by rendering him somehow un-American are shameful.

Sent by Laure Paquette on 03-08-2008:

Obama does NOT favor universal health care. Only Hillary favors that. He favors a health-care plan that allows people to buy insurance at affordable rates if they wish, and more stupidly, to buy more insurance if/when they need it. Well, who would buy it up front? Everyone will wait and see.

However, I agree with the rest of the article that Obama is appealing to people outside the U.S. for many reasons.

Sent by Phil Dillon on 03-08-2008:

A couple of points:

1. Europe isn't enamored of all minorities. My wife and I have travelled in Western Europe extensively and have found that anti-Semitism is at a very high level.

2. I wasn't aware that Europe was going to be electing our next president. I don't tell the French, Germans, Italians, Spanish, British, Irish, Poles, Czechs, etc. whom they should vote for. They need to butt out of our business.

3. RE: pacifism. It's easy for Europe to be pacifist given the current state of affairs in the world. All they have to do is say, "Send Americans" when the shooting begins. They'll sit by and call us barbarians while our sons and daughters die on their behalf.

Sent by Christopher on 03-08-2008:

What a remarkable article. As an American who lived in Europe and saw countless examples of racism and simplistic thinking among so-called European intellectuals, this article was very refreshing.

Very well done.

Sent by M. West on 03-08-2008:

There is one more thing that Europeans admire about Obama: he unifies. Unity is necessary for Europeans to compete in a globalized world. Safety within an economic unity may remain no longer elusive to the Europeans who condemn war. Obama and his followers stand for change, as well as for unity and peace that can bring about shared prosperity worldwide.

Sent by Galen on 03-08-2008:

Perhaps the very best reason NOT to elect Obama. Europeans must be on crack.

Sent by W. Marne on 03-08-2008:

It is hardly surprising that Europeans would pick the candidate most likely to capitulate to foreign manipulation. Europeans view the primary purpose of international organizations (i.e., the UN) as hobbling American power, and when it comes to a fight, Europeans are always willing to fight to the last American. A continent of wimps would elect Obama as wimp-in-chief of the United States. What tripe.

Sent by Tony on 03-08-2008:

It's definitely a good thing that Europe doesn't get to elect America's Presidents. Basically your article is saying that Europeans think "good Americans" are those who are exactly like them? Well let's just tear up the Declaration of Independence and put in our application to the EU, then.

Senator Obama's faith seems murky? Based on what--your desire to see it as murky? The man is a self-described devout Christian and invokes the religious language and imagery of black liberation theology consistently. Senator Clinton is much more secular and manages to be socially liberal without sacrificing those attributes that make America unique and praiseworthy.

Sent by davelniraq on 03-08-2008:

Mr. Sorman gets it just about right. Europe has historically been so reflexively anti-American that a big split between Americans and Europeans has been delayed by the wars and tensions of the twentieth century. The demographic change sweeping across Europe is the final nail in the coffin. or the bad guys of the world, this is not necessarily a good thing, because it means that the U.S. will now have more resources to devote to going after them should the need arise. As for the Europeans, well, they had better prepare themselves to handle future crises anywhere in Europe, because NATO is really dead; it’s just that no one has yet summoned the political guts to sign its death certificate.

Sent by Carmen Hoffmeijer-Lavieri on 03-08-2008:

Unfortunately, your article portrays inaccurate facts. what do you mean when you say Sen. Obama's religion is murky? He has been going to the same Christian church for the past 20 years. For Europeans, the Senator's race has nothing to do with his likeability; it is his personality and charisma, not his color. I am really sick of people like you bringing the "race" issue here. Obama has extremely solid ties with the Jewish community in Chicago, where he worked with them. If other Jewish communities don't know him or accept him, it is because of prejudice or ignorance. Finally, Farrakhan expressed his own, unsolicited opinion, about Sen. Obama, saying he would help the world. What is the problem with that? It's his opinion, and America is a free country. About Obama's economic plan, you can read all about it on his website. I just wish people would inform themselves better before spreading misleading information.

Sent by Gene on 03-08-2008:

This is complete nonsense. Europeans remember Clinton years as the golden era, so naturally they prefer Hillary to any other candidate. Barack is unknown and frightens many Europeans for his positive attitude towards undemocratic regimes.

Sent by Vickie on 03-08-2008:

As an American who has lived in Europe for 23 years, I can only say, Spot on!

Europe’s media and left-wing intelligentsia see Barack Obama as the most appealing candidate for the U.S. presidency. He exemplifies what the French leftist magazine Le Nouvel Observateur calls “the America we like.” Most Europeans deny that they’re anti-American; they argue instead that there are two Americas—the good and the bad. Michael Moore is a good American, honored with the Cannes film festival’s highest prize in 2006 for his anti-Bush fantasy documentary Fahrenheit 9/11. Other good Americans include Robert Redford, Mia Farrow, Noam Chomsky, Barbra Streisand, and Philip Roth. Charlton Heston and Billy Graham are bad—as bad as McDonald’s—and so, of course, are President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

Let us understand why, from the European perspective, Obama is good. First, he belongs to a minority. Europeans love minorities—when they live in the U.S. We tend not to like our own minorities, whom we willingly discriminate against on the basis of skin color or religion. Black Americans, however, are popular in Western Europe, since they play good music and revolt against the white establishment. For European leftists, whites in the U.S. are inclined to be Christian, racist, and imperialist. Whites started the war in Iraq. A white U.S. soldier is an imperialist; a black soldier is a victim, fighting in the army only because he is poor.

Not only is Obama black; he is also a pacifist, or nearly so, certainly when compared with the other presidential candidates. A pacifist U.S. leader becomes more than likable; he becomes “one of us.” Opposed to the war in Iraq and uninterested in confronting Iran, Obama is almost an honorary European, more civilized than the white, imperialist, trigger-happy Republicans. Obama has also been linked with Black Muslim leader Louis Farrakhan and former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, which suggests that he is not an unconditional ally of Israel. Israel is less popular than the Palestinians among the European intelligentsia, so Obama scores again.

Obama also favors universal health insurance, another Europe-like move in the right direction to free the bad Americans from their capitalist shackles. On capital punishment, a contentious issue between Europeans and Americans, Obama again strikes the right chord: he is a death-penalty abolitionist. His stance on this issue alone would make him a darling in Europe. But there’s more: Obama’s Christian faith seems murky. In Europe, we love secularism; at least Obama seems reserved about his faith.

The few European pundits who have closely examined Obama’s platform know that he advocates what sounds like protectionism. Economists and the business community in Europe have anxiety about a protectionist agenda, since Europe depends on free trade with the U.S. But European journalists and pundits tend to be anticapitalist and antiglobalist, so for them, Obama stands on the right side. The good American is expected neither to trade nor to fight terrorism. If more Americans were good, in fact, there would be no terrorists, as the Left in both Europe and the U.S. often contends.

Jean-David Levitte, former French ambassador to the U.S. and now foreign affairs advisor to President Nicolas Sarkozy, used to say that the only way for Europeans to influence American policy would be to have their own representative in the U.S. Senate. In fact, many Europeans believe that Europe should have a say in American elections, since the president is de facto leader of the Western world. And if they did have a vote, they would choose Barack Obama in a landslide.

respondrespondTEXT SIZE
If you enjoyed
this article,
why not subscribe
to City Journal? subscribe Get the Free App on iTunes Or sign up for free online updates: