As seen from the left, both in the United States and in Europe, Barack Obama’s recent trip was a signal failure.
What, it may be asked, did the left expect of him?
They expected a clear repudiation of President George Bush’s war policy. But Obama is subtle, and it is too much – especially in the midst of a presidential campaign – to expect clarity of him. The left has already chosen sides: Palestinians against Israel; peace, almost at any price, against war; anti-Americanism against pro-Europeanism.
When Obama returned to the United States, American reporters reminded him that he was so warmly greeted in Europe because he was the anybody-but-Bush candidate, and Bush is loathed in Europe.
Obama went on to explain that he had been selling unity in Germany, England and France. He had been harsh on the terrorists. He was calling upon Europeans to embrace the horror, the United States, in unity, one of the reasons he was so generously endorsed by Carla Bruni’s husband, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose hot spot is all things American.
Obama? He's my pal," the president told Le Figaro. "Unlike my diplomatic advisers, I never believed in Hillary Clinton's chances. I always said that Obama would be nominated."
Sarkozy said an Obama victory "would validate" his strategy of reconciliation with the United States.
“Barack Obama's adventure is an adventure that rings true in the hearts and minds of Americans and Europeans.”
Obama told reporters his message was not one much of Europe wanted to hear.
The American left and their anti-Sarkozy counterparts in Europe “got it” and rejected Obama’s message almost immediately. They are convinced that were Obama to familiarize himself with real life in Palestine, he would change his view of Israel; that Muqtada al-Sadr, whose military component in Baghdad has been severely compromised, may win the Basra election; that U.S. Rep and Bush scourge Dennis Kucinich is right to press for the president’s impeachment; that Christian Zionists are targeting Iran; that Sen. Joe Lieberman is not a mench; that Obama during his tour called for more troops in Afghanistan, and you can’t win the hearts and minds of Afghans with ground troops and bombers.
That Obama may still be laboring under the influence of former President Jack Kennedy has produced a weary sigh of resignation among the European left, perfectly represented by Gore Vidal, the self expatriated American author who believes that the United States has been in a war economy ever since the administration of President Harry Truman. Americans, Vidal says, have been kept by their government in a perpetual state of fear since the end of World War II, when really, there was nothing to fear but fear itself. The Cold War against the Soviet Union was unnecessary; the war against radical Islam is unnecessary.
So the left dreams and dreams its expatriate dreams -- and never has a nightmare.
On both sides of the ideological divide, broader than the Pacific, the question is not: What has Obama said? One can detect guideposts in his messaging. The question is: Does he mean anything he says?
Even columnist Richard Cohen, who believes that Jimmy Carter was a better president than Ronald Reagan and in whom there is no stain of neo-conservativism, has his doubts: “I know that Barack Obama is a near-perfect political package. I'm still not sure, though, what's in it.”