Obamamania Infects Germany
Despite being little known to the people of Germany - Barack Obama seems to be their candidate of choice over Hillary Clinton or John Mccain.
By Ralf Beste
Berlin political circles -- both liberal and conservative -- are fawning over US presidential candidate Barack Obama. Many in Germany see him as a cross between John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., but expectations may be exaggerated.
Berlin has been teeming with Obamamania for weeks now. Evenconservatives are taken by the Democrat. After the Bush era, ChancellorAngela Merkel of the conservative Christian Democrats can easilyimagine working together with a liberal Democrat in the White House.And Norbert Röttgen, chief whip for the Christian Democrats inparliament, sees Obama as the messenger of a new wave of politics thatcould also provide a model for Germany.
"Germany is Obamaland," says Karsten Voigt, the German government'scoordinator for trans-Atlantic relations. He says Germans see theAfrican-American senator as a kind of "mixture of John F. Kennedy andMartin Luther King Jr."
People are projecting their hopes and dreams on Obama, addsConstanze Stelzenmüller of the German Marshall Fund in Berlin. He'sperceived here as peace-loving and cooperative, and those are the kindof traits Germans admire in a foreign politician.
Obama's Republican contender John McCain (more...)is viewed with greater skepticism in Berlin, where the 71-year-oldVietnam veteran is considered by many to be a Cold War relic. McCain,for example, announced that he wanted to kick Russia out of the G-8 andinstead found a "League of Democracies" that, in emergencies, couldalso circumvent the United Nations around the world. Those aren't thekind of words that get a warm welcome in Germany.
McCain is not an unknown quantity in Germany, either. As a dyed inthe wool trans-Atlanticist, he regularly participates in the annualMunich Security Conference. The senator has a reputation there for hissharp attacks against German politicians -- his fits of rage are fearedand his political positions are known because of the numerous debateshe has taken part in.
Obama, though, is less known. The best even the most dialled-in USexperts in Berlin have managed is a handshake with the senator. Heroutinely denies requests from members of the German parliament tovisit with him in Washington. Most of the information they have onObama comes either from YouTube films or the papers. "Obama has norelationship with Europe whatsoever," said Hans-Ulrich Klose, theforeign policy spokesman for the center-left Social Democrats.
Still, if Obama becomes president, many Germans are hoping for apolitical honeymoon that lasts for at least a few months. Veterandiplomats believe there will be a "window of opportunity" that willmake new initiatives possible.