US presidential candidate Barack Obama has swept Europe, that’s
obvious. He presents an impressive image of himself and America, and he
carries a great overarching message of peace and goodwill. Is anybody
looking deeper….or is that impression enough?

The New York Times says it in this headline, the senator is pleasing to crowds but vague on issues.

On Thursday evening in a glittering Berlin, Mr. Obama delivered a tone poem to American and European ideals and shared history.

But he was vague on crucial issues of trade, defense and foreign
policy that currently divide Washington from Europe and are likely to
continue to do so even if he becomes president — issues ranging from
Russia, Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan to new refueling tankers and
chlorinated chickens, the focus of an 11-year European ban on American
poultry imports.

Now that’s probing into some issues.

Eberhard Sandschneider of the German Council on Foreign
Relations said, “The Obama who spoke tonight did not put all his cards
on the table.” Mr. Obama “tried to use all the symbolism of Berlin to
indicate that as president he would reach out to Europe,” Mr.
Sandschneider said. “But between the lines he said very clearly that
Europe needs to do more,” especially on Afghanistan and Iraq.

This piece reveals some contradictions. Like this, among others…

Mr. Obama in his address spoke of the need for Europeans
and Americans to recognize common challenges in an easily traveled
world of radical Islam, nuclear proliferation, carbon emissions,
violence, poverty and genocide.

But he offered more tepid support for free trade, even as
negotiators in Geneva, including Mr. Mandelson, try to break an impasse
that has dogged global trade talks for seven years. He said he wanted
to “build on the wealth that open markets have created” but only if
trade agreements were “free and fair for all,” a phrase that suggests
fidelity to the trade-wary stance of one wing of the Democratic Party.

The
News Hour with Jim Lehrer on PBS had an interesting discussion with a
group of European journalists, Margaret Warner hosting.
French news woman Christine Ockrent remarked that France had “really succumbed to Obama-mania”.

However, she had a pretty balanced review of the Berlin speech.

First of all, there is a hope of a sort of resurgence of
the American dream, which to us Europeans and to the French has really
sort of been deflated for the past few years.

And then the fact that the senator embodies a sort of multicultural,
multiracial approach to the world, it’s really some hope for a kind of
reconciliation.

Now, that may be a very sentimental, superficial approach, but I
think it accounts a great deal for the impact that he’s had, even if
his speech was very carefully worded, was in a way very mild, a bit
Pollyannaish, you know, about wanting to address all the evils of the
world.

But at the same time it was very clever, because what mattered most,
of course, was the picture. And the picture of that huge crowd, you
know, waving and cheering, that was really worth his while.

And at least for the moment, Europeans seem to like America again.
French president Nicholas Sarkozy started off their joint press
conference in Paris exulting that the French love the Americans. No
applause erupted in the crowd. But they were mostly media.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....