In 2008, one of Obama’s highest-profile speeches was delivered not in America but on the streets of Berlin. In front of a crowd of 200,000 starstruck Germans waving American flags, Obama laid out his plans for a new direction in American foreign policy. Unlike his predecessor, he promised, he would revive America’s world image, be attentive and respectful to the views of America’s allies, and make America an involved and committed member of the international community. The crowds in Berlin showered him with praise and adulation.But now the Germans’ enthusiasm for Obama may be fading. At the recent G-20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, where the euro rescue was the primary topic of discussion, many leaders, including President Obama, were upfront with Chancellor Merkel about their opinion that Germany needs to be more active in addressing the needs of troubled Eurozone nations. This attitude was not exactly pleasing to the German press. Der Spiegel International translates a reaction from Handelsblatt:
“It is rather hypocritical when the Americans and the British, whose own mountains of debt have reached a high point, try to lecture the Europeans. One number is sufficient to reveal what a bad tactic this is. At a time when the budget deficits of the US and Great Britain are about 8 percent, the euro-zone members have almost managed to bring their deficits as a whole down to 3 percent.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung agrees:
The G-20 is only as strong as the will of its members to work together cooperatively. That goes for the United States, which is resisting pressure to sort out its finances. That goes for the Europeans who, in the third year of their debt crisis, have still not convinced the financial markets that the euro in its current constellation can survive.
This signals a sea change in Germany’s attitude towards President Obama. In 2008, they loved him. Now his country’s deficits strike them as crazy, and his hectoring of Angela Merkel to underwrite the profligacy of her European partners strikes them as both bad advice and bad manners. After four happy years, the love affair is over.