Euronews wanted a European analysis of Barack Obama’s speech to Congress, one that was very much focussed on the economy and in particular, jobs. We spoke to Paris-based political historian and specialist in American affairs, Nicole Bacharan.
She told us: “He is a president who is in difficulty right now who was making his first State of the Union address. The political atmosphere is not what it was just after his election when he first came to power and the priority is indeed the job market. That is what he will be judged on. More than 10 per cent of Americans are unemployed and so Obama is concentrating on jobs. He says more than one million jobs were saved thanks to the stimulus plan. He also underlined that public investment, notably in energy infrastructure, will create jobs and that tax breaks for small and medium-sized companies will allow them to develop production and consequently employment.”
Obama spoke a lot about jobs but he also repeated his attacks on the banks and certain people in Wall Street. Bacharan believes this was on behalf of the ordinary working American.
“This desire to regulate the banks does not just apply to Obama; we see it in Europe as well. It is a question of Obama wanting to show that he is close to ordinary people. It is a populist concern to show that there are, on the one hand, people in great difficulty who are losing their jobs and on the other hand the banks which are prospering thanks to public money, public bailouts even and that that is unacceptable.
“That was one of the signs of discontent shown by the voters in Massachusetts where the Democrats lost and where Obama lost.”
While the focus was on domestic issues, the president also touched on American foreign policy and on combatting terrorism as well as on Iraq.
“It is normal that the focus was on the domestic agenda because he was elected to take care of the American people and the state of the economy. The relatively small amount of time given to foreign policy shows where his priorities lie, at least when it comes to the message he is sending to voters.
“But he can’t forget, and he doesn’t, that he is also commander-in-chief of a country that is at war…in two wars. He has shown that the gradual pullout from Iraq is going as planned. He reminded people of the even bigger involvement in Afghanistan. He reminded people of the successes against al Qaeda, increased US involvement in Pakistan, in Yemen, in Somalia. He is showing that, in any case, he is not a president who is bringing peace.”