Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Obama's Europe Trip is About More Than Drinking Guinness
Why Europe and not Asia to where the focus of his foreign policy has shifted? Easy, Obama, despite his efforts to fulfill his election promises, has not done too well, especially regarding the economy. His satisfaction rating at home hovers around 50%- not high enough to inspire too much confidence in his re-election team. But in Europe, we love him; his popularity ratings soar to 70%, ensuring huge crowds will flock to see him and provide wonderful news footage back home.
His visit with Cameron won't be all bonding and syrupy speeches though; he has tough topics to discuss. Will he, as some predict, give the green light to UK and France equipping Libyan rebels to have a chance of toppling the stubborn Gadaffi? We'll see. No doubt he'll try to encourage European nations to step up and contribute a bit more to the Afghanistan war; few of them, apart from us, seem inclined to do so.
And I daresay he'll also give the nod to Christine Lagarde's candidacy to replace the woman chasing Dominique Strauss-Kahn at the IMF. That Cameron should do his best to veto Gordon Brown's chances of getting the job- when he is enormously experienced and respected within such circles, exposes the fact that under that smooth exterior there is much calculation and precious little magnanimity.
Patient, clever, careful, polite, a polyglot (I wouldn't know she was French just by listening to her) and an internationalist, who has run the French economy with far greater distinction than any equivalent Briton can boast of our own economy, she is one impressive individual. To be sure, there is a bit of a question mark over some of her current political/business dealings, but no more so than for most other potential candidates (and Brown doesn't exactly have a perfect regard in that regard either).
Brown, on the other hand, is arrogant, aggressive and so far as anyone has ever determined speaks only one language really well. Moreover, he left us with a debt a fifth larger than he started with, despite presiding over the longest period of sustained growth in our history.
Perhaps he is 'respected' in such circles - but I personally think he is not only unqualified for the post by character and track record, but is left trailing in Lagarde's wake in terms of training and ability.
Take a look at Larry Elliott's article in Guardian yesterday and you'll see the case for Gordon is not a weak one. I too dislike the man and see him as over-rated, especially by himself, but Elliott points out the ten years he spent chairing a key committee for IMF and his key role in 2008 when he moved swiftly to reflate the banks and save them for UK at least.
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