Britons, French, Germans Solidly Back Obama
Senator Obama With U.S. Troops in Kuwait
Obama Meets Afghan Leaders, Makes Stop in Kuwait
Obama Meets With Iraqi PM in Baghdad
Obama's Soaring Popularity in Germany
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Obama sets off on world tour
Obama to Deliver Address in Berlin Thursday
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Substantial majorities of citizens of France, Germany, and the United Kingdom say that they would like to see Democratic Sen. Barack Obama rather than Republican Sen. John McCain elected U.S. president, and also that it makes a difference to their country who is elected.
Obama on tour to prove he is a man of the world
Barack Obama, the Democrat candidate in the US presidential elections, meets Lieutenant Rich Henderson, 24, from Elgin, and Highlander Williams, 24, from Edinburgh, yesterday Picture: PA
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By Chris Stephen
in New York
BARACK Obama arrives in Europe later this week, carrying the hopes of the continent on his shoulders.
The crowds expected to turn out to meet him in Germany, France and the UK are unprecedented for an American presidential candidate, and one who is by no means certain to triumph in November.
Beginning tomorrow at a rally at Berlin's Tempelhof airport, he moves on to Paris the next day before arriving in London on Saturday, to meet Gordon Brown and David Cameron for the final date of his eight-nation tour.
The order of his European visit is important, as is the list of countries he is missing out – a left-wing Spanish government and the morally dubious Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, are seen as undesirable photo opportunities.
The highlight will be his speech at Tempelhof, chosen after Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, said it would be unseemly for a man who is still just a candidate to stand before the Berlin Wall, where former US presidents John F Kennedy and Ronald Reagan made famous speeches.
But the airport has its own significance, as the site of the Berlin airlift when western Europe, led by the United States, kept open a supply corridor to the city after the Soviet Union closed the border.
By appearing here, Mr Obama hopes to convey to Europeans that he stands for a new, listening US to replace the go-it-alone policy of the current Bush administration.
"Americans don't feel proud, they are worried about America's standing in the world," says Marc Ambinder, a columnist with the monthly magazine Atlantic.
"Obama's trying to say, 'I'm the president who is going to make you proud of being American'."
It is a message that Europeans want to hear. In popularity polls across the continent he beats not just his rival, John McCain, but most of Europe's own politicians.
The reasons are not hard to find; with powers such as China and Russia viewed by many Europeans as potential enemies, the return of a benign Uncle Sam to offer protection is gratefully accepted.
Given Europe's troubled history with its own minorities, Obamamania may be an expedient way for some Europeans to convince themselves they are racially tolerant while brushing aside ethnic tensions at home.
"It's a vicarious thrill," said Reginald Dale, a senior fellow at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies' Europe programme. "After they've switched off their TV screens they're not going to find a black candidate to put forward to lead their own country."
Mr Obama has been careful to hit all the right notes with his European fans: In place of the Bush administration's sabre- rattling rhetoric on Iran's nuclear programme, he promises talks "without preconditions".
And his campaign has been a strong backer of climate-change legislation, offering the hope that the US will support agreements that limit greenhouse gases.
Mr Obama's campaign staff hope that they can take advantage of the "two Americas" that exist in the minds of Europeans. One is the bullying self-confident champion of big business, identified by many with George Bush, and the other a country priding itself on the rule of law, on its generosity and its dynamism.
But the real purpose of the trip remains that of impressing audiences back home. Polls in the US show his gap with Mr McCain narrowing to anything between zero and four points.
And Mr McCain gets higher scores among independent voters when asked who they trust on foreign policy.
"He wants to burnish his image as knowing something about foreign affairs," said Bill McPherson, a Washington journalist. "He's supposed to be weak about foreign affairs.
"It will contrast dramatically with Bush's reception."
Yet Mr Obama may be raising expectations to unrealistic levels. His message of "change" offers the hope of combining the left and right of politics, compassion with the "personal responsibility". The danger is that instead of spanning the left-right divide, he will fall through the gap.
Back home, the recession and ballooning national debt mean that the spending promises he and Mr McCain are now tossing out will be hard to realise.
But abroad, multi-lateralism is an easier promise to follow-through on.
As to who among the Europeans stands to gain the most were Mr Obama to get to the White House, opinion is divided. The fact that his major speech takes place in Germany leads many to think that an Obama White House will be looking to the Franco-German axis as its chief ally in Europe. But others think that Britain, despite following Mr Bush into a war that Mr Obama opposed, will be an early recipient of the US's desire to reach out to the world.
"Berlin has the attention, but it will be much more important to restore the primacy of the Anglo-American relationship," said Mr Ambinder. "Obama will go out of his way to cement the Anglo-American relationship."
ON 26 JUNE, 1963, President John F Kennedy gave a speech in West Berlin in which he declared "Ich bin ein Berliner" – "I am a Berliner", in a powerful demonstration of American support for the country following the erection of the Berlin Wall as a barrier to prevent movement between East and West.
There are commemorative sites to Kennedy in Berlin, such as the John F Kennedy German-American School and the John F Kennedy Institute for North American Studies at the Free University of Berlin. Also, the public square in front of the Rathaus Schöneberg – where Kennedy made the famous speech – has been named John-F-Kennedy-Platz and there is a small plaque dedicated to Kennedy near the entrance of the building.
As such, Mr Obama's choice of Templehof Airport for a visit and also his intention to give a major speech in Berlin itself are loaded with historical significance.
It is already rumoured that his campaign team intends to use footage of the Berlin speech in election adverts.
If it's the morning … it must be Iraq
YESTERDAY morning was Iraq, Jordan the afternoon and Israel last night. France, Germany and Britain lie ahead. Barrack Obama's brief international tour is nothing if not hectic.
He even found time to speak to soldiers of 4th Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Scotland, deployed to Basra.
But for someone who is not even president, by and large those receiving him all hold rank more in keeping with a visit from the US Commander-in-Chief. From King Abdullah of Jordan to the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, and the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, important figures in the Middle East peace process were more than pleased to receive him.
Now it's the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, Britain's Gordon Brown and even David Cameron – all keen for some of that Obama star power to rub off.
The stately nature of the trip has made Mr Obama's own people a little defensive. Asked about the nature of the speech he will give in Germany, a senior foreign-policy adviser said: "He is going to talk about the issues as an individual… not a candidate."