David Rothkopf

10 reasons why our Obama is not Eurobama

If you believe the American press, this is going to be the best week of Barack Obama’s life. Not because his G20 and NATO meetings are predicted to be easy but because he is going to be in the land of his intellectual and spiritual roots, Europe. Here, among like-minded brie-loving, chardonnay-sipping, socialist fellow-travelers, he will be ...

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If you believe the American press, this is going to be the best week of Barack Obama's life. Not because his G20 and NATO meetings are predicted to be easy but because he is going to be in the land of his intellectual and spiritual roots, Europe. Here, among like-minded brie-loving, chardonnay-sipping, socialist fellow-travelers, he will be able to laugh at American gun-owners and Glenn Beck watchers with impunity. Perhaps, if the worst stories are to be believed, he will secretly fall into French during conversations, showing other leaders how he is more like them than he is like Sarah Palin by sharing a Gitane out in the alley behind his hotel (so Michelle doesn't see) or by giving them a glimpse of his non-U.S. birth certificate or reminding the Brits that his father and other ancestors were born (and beaten) in the Commonwealth.

Of course, not only is all this the province of snarky rumors being produced in the basement of the summer house Roger Ailes shares with his long-time secret lover Karl Rove, but also virtually all of it is untrue.  (I can't speak to what types of cheese the President likes or whether he, in a tip of the hat to European depravity, prefers his cheeses warm and crawling with bacteria.) But, there are plenty of ways the Europeans will be able to tell Barack Obama is not one of them. 

If you believe the American press, this is going to be the best week of Barack Obama’s life. Not because his G20 and NATO meetings are predicted to be easy but because he is going to be in the land of his intellectual and spiritual roots, Europe. Here, among like-minded brie-loving, chardonnay-sipping, socialist fellow-travelers, he will be able to laugh at American gun-owners and Glenn Beck watchers with impunity. Perhaps, if the worst stories are to be believed, he will secretly fall into French during conversations, showing other leaders how he is more like them than he is like Sarah Palin by sharing a Gitane out in the alley behind his hotel (so Michelle doesn’t see) or by giving them a glimpse of his non-U.S. birth certificate or reminding the Brits that his father and other ancestors were born (and beaten) in the Commonwealth.

Of course, not only is all this the province of snarky rumors being produced in the basement of the summer house Roger Ailes shares with his long-time secret lover Karl Rove, but also virtually all of it is untrue.  (I can’t speak to what types of cheese the President likes or whether he, in a tip of the hat to European depravity, prefers his cheeses warm and crawling with bacteria.) But, there are plenty of ways the Europeans will be able to tell Barack Obama is not one of them. 

Here are 10:

  1. Americans don’t let their car companies go belly up. Instead, they commit the U.S. government to switch their full faith and credit guarantees away from something that is now dubious, like U.S. Treasuries, to something that needs to be rock solid, like warranties on Chevy Suburbans.
  1. Americans stimulate. Europeans simulate. I speak of responses to the economic crisis, of course.
  1. Americans may create enormous global problems, but then we actually feel some obligation to try to help solve them. Whereas Europeans, who used to create most of the world’s problems, don’t even do that anymore…and when it comes to solving problems, c’est pour les Americains, non?
  1. Americans actually have a foreign policy.
  1. Americans rock. Europeans technopop. We produce the music of this era, the continent of Mozart produces the elevator music of this era. (Johnny Depp’s love of Vanessa Paradis notwithstanding.) Check out the playlist on Air Force One if you don’t believe me.
  1. Americans don’t actually eat snails and rabbits and Swiss chard. Which is why Obama has brought his own chef and his own supply of organic arugula and free-range tofu. We also don’t drive small cars or tolerate being condescended to by Euro waiters. Which is why the President is bringing his own car and his own waiters. (This is how every American would travel if they could.)
  1. Americans don’t let friends’ banks go belly up. That’s why the Treasury funneled so much money to European banks through AIG. You don’t see European governments rushing to bailout Citigroup do you?
  1. Americans love immigrants (see how we are even open to changing our minds about those whose asylum claims we once rejected…like Obama’s Kenyan aunt, currently residing in public housing in Boston). Well, okay, we used to love immigrants (see all those stories about sending troops to the Mexican border). About the only thing the Europeans can agree on anymore is their long-standing hatred of immigrants. Oh and their hatred of carbon. But we hate carbon too, now. Which is a good thing. Although it does raise the whole specter of the self-hating carbon life form thing.
  1. Americans don’t actually speak other languages. We only speak American languages like English and Spanish.
  1. Americans don’t threaten to walk out of summit meetings before they have even begun…Mr. Sarkozy. But then, we wouldn’t have left Carla home alone either. How do we avoid such walkouts? Well, generally, at meetings we just don’t pay that much attention to what others are saying. It helps us stay “on message” as they say here in Washington.

Oh yes, and also, as we have mentioned before, he is a member of a racial minority group who has actually had the opportunity to reach the top in our society. Which would never ever happen in Europe.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

David Rothkopf is visiting professor at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs and visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His latest book is The Great Questions of Tomorrow. He has been a longtime contributor to Foreign Policy and was CEO and editor of the FP Group from 2012 to May 2017. Twitter: @djrothkopf

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