After spending less than 36 hours in Europe last week for a G-20 summit of world economic leaders, President Obama may wish he could run on his record for re-election here rather than back home.
The stalled U.S. economy, his biggest political burden, is doing just fine by today’s European standards. His actions in 2009 to stimulate the economy, administer bank bailouts and regulate financial institutions, attacked by Republican opponents, were the subjects of tutorials for European leaders who increasingly must follow his lead.
And his national security record — a full Iraq pullout, the slower planned exodus from Afghanistan, the successful military operation in Libya and especially the killing of terrorists led by Osama bin Laden — is appreciated.
“We need the leadership of Barack Obama,” French President Nicolas Sarkozy gushed just hours after the U.S. president’s arrival here. “He is much loved and much liked here in France.”
By the time Obama left Friday, hundreds of locals who waited in pelting rain to see him at a small plaza commemorating the city’s war dead chanted “O-ba-ma,” with nary a Tea Party protester in sight.
For Obama, it has been this way in Europe since his maiden voyage as a rock-star candidate in 2008, when an estimated 200,000 people turned out to hear him speak in Berlin. His first trip to Europe as president in April 2009 brought accolades, from his initial G-20 summit in London to a roundtable with young people in Istanbul, where a student pronounced him “more popular than Brad Pitt.”
A poll in September by the German Marshall Fund of the United States found 75% of the people in 12 European Union nations approved of Obama’s handling of international affairs. A Pew Research Center global attitudes survey earlier this year found support for the U.S. ranging from 61% to 75% in major European nations.
These days for Obama, some of the glamour has worn off as the gray hair has grown in. Still, his rhetoric and record are well-received by G-20 leaders who control 85% of the global economy.