Can Barack Obama still pretend to be champion of the liberal dream even though we all know he isn’t? Yes he can! Can a President who rides roughshod over civil liberties, orders illegal drone strikes that kill innocent people, and snoops on citizens still present himself as a harbinger of world peace? Yes he can! Will lefties continue to delude themselves that the man they worshipped as saviour in 2008 is still their man in 2013? Er, maybe not.
Obama-love is not what it was. The man who just spoke against nuclear proliferation at the Brandenburg Gate today is quite obviously not the avatar of progress who appeared before adoring crowds near the same spot in 2008. Today’s much-hyped speech turns out to have been something of a damp squib. Five years ago, 200, 000 Germans came to see him; this year, only five or six thousand turned up. “The crowds weren’t as large or as loving as last time,” reports The Atlantic, with some understatement. The global news machine, for its part, seems more interested in the royal baby than anything the President has to say against nuclear weapons.
The optimism of five years ago has been replaced by cynicism. For many on the left today, Obama has morphed from hero to villain. Mehdi Hasan, for instance, has suggested that, on civil liberties and aspects of foreign policy, Obama may well be worse than George W. Bush — and many Americans on the right and left feel the same way.
And yet and yet, Obama still tries to present himself as a 21st century Camelot. His rhetoric has been toned down: today he looked and sounded more like a dreary American technocrat than a citizen of the world. But he continues to pose as a global dove and utters lofty phrases about creating a “world of peace with justice.” It’s just he sounds like he doesn’t believe it anymore — and, increasingly, neither do we.
Europeans still like him, it’s true. Eighty eight per cent of Germans believe he will ‘do the right thing in the world affairs’. (Only 14 per cent said the same of George W. Bush.) But in America, the presidential approval ratings are fast turning against him — especially in the wake of the latest snooping scandal. In Europe, too, it seems, Obamamania is a distant memory.
More Spectator for less. Stay informed leading up to the EU referendum and in the aftermath. Subscribe and receive 15 issues delivered for just £15, with full web and app access. Join us.