'Obamamania' Felt Across Europe

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PARIS and BRUSSELS - (Editors note: The views expressed in this piece by Anne-Elisabeth Moutet are her analysis of the election coverage in the French and European media.

They are not her views.)

The presidential race may be close here in the U.S., but it's close to a landslide in Europe.

Europe is Obama country. If Europe could vote in the U.S. presidential election, Barack Obama would not just win; he would dominate in many nations.

Click play to hear Pat Robertson's comments following CBN News Reporter Dale Hurd's report.

Polls show Obama is favored by at least 10 to one over John McCain in Switzerland, France and Germany, and by large majorities in Belgium and Britain.

Source: London Guardian, London Telegraph

CBN News' informal interviews on the streets of Paris showed the same results.

Germany's Morning Post calls Obama "The New Kennedy." And in the Netherlands, De Volkskrant says "Obama has the authenticity that the Dutch electorate craves."

Anne-Elisabeth Moutet, who analyzes U.S. news for French TV news programs, explains Obama's appeal to Europeans: "He's young, he's left-wing, he looks progressive"

Young, Left-Wing, Progressive

Moutet says the European vision of the U.S. presidential campaign is "…One: George Bush is evil. Two: Obama is the Messiah, almost; Obama is wonderful, he's intelligent, he will win. Three: McCain is old, past it, and has really nothing interesting to say."

Dominique Fosse, the news chief for Radio France Overseas TV News, says, "Obama has ideas, he personifies youth, new politics and especially, in the middle of the financial crisis, he is the one who stands out."

Eleonore Abou Ez-Colombain is an anchor at Radio France TV.

"I think that Obama is popular in the world because he embodies big change, not just in words, but change from George Bush. He is young, of an African father and a white mother, from the middle class, a self-made successful man. He embodies the 21st century family man," she said.

Palin Seen as Incompetent, Dangerous

So far, Sarah Palin, on the other hand, is more likely to be described as incompetent or dangerous.

Soeren Kern, a Senior Analyst for Transatlantic Relations at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos, has tracked European coverage of the campaign.

The French newspaper Le Point calls Palin "the fanatic of the American heartland." The British Economist calls her "The woman from nowhere" and the Irish Times says if McCain is elected, America will be "Just a heartbeat away from the biggest half-baked Alaskan nightmare."

A lot of criticism is directed at Palin's faith. Moutet says the French media messages about Palin are largely that "she's ignorant, she's dogmatic, she is narrow minded, she is unqualified, she's a creationist, an extremist, she represents the great unwashed American masses. You name it."

The Rest of the World Should Vote

There is fear that Americans will elect the man who Europe views as the wrong choice: John McCain. And a growing number here believe that since America creates so many problems for the rest of the world, non-Americans should have an actual vote.

The Standaard in Belgium writes, "American presidential elections are not 'home affairs.' American decisions have repercussions all over the globe. The American mortgage crisis affects banks in Europe. The insatiable American demand for oil makes the Arabian sheiks rich. The American refusal to care for the environment causes the North Pole ice to melt and coastal areas in Asia to flood. A weakened dollar and an immense budget deficit affect the global economy. Hence, the world should be given the right to vote."

And what will the European media say about Americans if they elect John McCain instead of Barack Obama?

"That they're hopeless, that you can't count on the Americans, that 'they were afraid,'" Moutet said. "I can practically write the article the following day: 'Fear Triumphed,' 'Selfishness Triumphed.'"

In one of the more bizarre stories about the election, a German newspaper said if Obama wins, the White House will become "Uncle Barack's Cabin," a reference to the Harriett Beecher Stowe anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin, suggesting the irony that, if elected, Obama would be the first black president of a racist nation.

It's widely believed in Europe that America is still very racist, even though Moutet and other experts we talked to contend that few European nations would elect their own "Obama."

"We would not elect a black president I would say in some time, so we're very happy that you guys might be doing it. It sort of sidesteps neatly our own failings," Moutet said.

Obama or not, transatlantic relations have hit a rough patch. A poll this year among our allies showed that more people in Britain, France and Germany now think the U.S. is a force for evil rather than a force for good.

U.S.:  Force for Evil?
Evil Good
Britain 35 33
France 40 26
Germany 39 25

Source: YouGov, London Daily Telegraph

Some would say those numbers are a legacy of Bush and the Iraq War. But it's also about core American values that bug many Europeans, like America's deep faith and patriotism. Luc Van Braekel is one of Belgium's most influential political bloggers:

"What drives European media and intellectuals crazy is American patriotism. Americans have deep respect for the flag; it's hard to understand for many Europeans."

Van Braekel also believes Obama is so popular in Europe because many have the wrong idea about him.

"European intellectuals in general think that Obama is a pacifist, which is not the case. Maybe he's a little less hawkish than the Republicans, but still he will not neglect the interests of the United States. "

Former London Financial Times Brussels bureau Chief John Wyles, now with the consulting firm GPlus, says Europe will work with whoever is elected.

"Clearly a McCain victory would not encourage street parties in Europe. But nonetheless, elites, governments and diplomats know that Europe has to work with the United States."

Europe is clearly hoping a President Obama will heal the rift between America and Europe, essentially by acting more European.

In fact, if you sum up what many Europeans want out of this election, it's for America to become more like Europe.

*Originally aired on October 23, 2008.

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Dale Hurd

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