How was President Barack Obama’s speech to the Democrat convention on Thursday viewed around the world? One commentator described it as “more serious and less animated than in 2008”.
While Obama has been criticised at home and abroad for not doing enough to counter the financial crisis, there has been praise for how America’s first black president has evolved the strategy for fighting the war on terror.
Obama told the convention audience in Charlotte, North Carolina: “Four years ago, I promised to end the war in Iraq. We did. I promised to refocus on the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11, and we have. We’ve blunted the Taliban’s momentum in Afghanistan, and in 2014, our longest war will be over. A new tower rises above the New York skyline, al Qaeda is on the path to defeat, and Osama bin Laden is dead.”
After accepting the Democrat nomination to run for a second term, President Obama took a swipe at his rival’s attempts at foreign policy issues after Mitt Romney promised to rein in Moscow in his speech to the Republican convention earlier in the week.
“After all, you don’t call Russia our number one enemy – not al Qaeda, Russia – unless you’re still stuck in a Cold War mind warp. You might not be ready for diplomacy with Beijing if you can not visit the Olympics without insulting our closest ally,” he said, referring to Romney questioning whether London was capable of staging a successful Olympic Games while on a visit to the UK.
In Europe, there is perhaps less interest in the November election than there was four years ago. The continent’s leaders are only too aware that Washington is increasingly oriented towards Asia, leaving Europe with less to play for on the global chessboard.
Amid gloomy American economic and jobs figures, now the Obama and Romney camps will hone their campaigns bent on winning the prize of the top job.
We spoke to Christiane Amanpour, Global Affairs Anchor of ABC News, in New York, about how she saw the effect of the National Conventions.
Adrian Lancashire, euronews: “Now that both the main competing political parties in the US have their conventions behind them, pundits and voters will be digesting their conclusions. Of course, the conventions have also been watched by people abroad, waiting to see if American voters elect a Democrat or a Republican as president this November. So let me ask, what do you think the conventions tell the world about the country today?”
Christiane Amanpour: “Well, I think they tell the world that this is theatre and the presentation of the public face of each candidate. It is all highly scripted. There is nothing that is spontaneous. It is a very theatrical, dramatic presentation. I think what you saw in the recently wrapped-up Democratic Convention is a huge mobilisation of the [party’s political] base.
“Everything that we have heard, particularly those incredible social media markers, show that there was so much involvement and energy throughout the convention. But what you also saw was an absolute, categorical separation by each side of their policies.
“President Obama and the Democrats said ‘we are for continuing our effort to get out of the hole that we were left. No, we have not finished the job, but if you fire us now before it is done, you will just get the same old policies that led to this in the first place’.
“He also talked about not having government be the solution to everything, but how government did need to be able to help those in most desperate need. By the same token, the Republicans had a very different message: that they needed to have a change because the jobless rate is still above eight percent here, the economic recovery is very fragile, and they want to see almost no government play a role.
“So this was really the defining moment between the two conventions. And when it comes to foreign policy, of course, this administration has much more experience. They harped very heavily on their key success – which was the killing of Osama Bin Laden and the killing and capturing of a record number of al Qaeda and Taliban militants over the last four years.”
euronews: “Is bashing Obama the best Romney can do from now till November? Is saying ‘people, be patient’ the best Obama can do?”
Christiane Amanpour: “Well, bashing Obama is definitely what the Republicans are going to do: they are going to bash the idea that they are portraying of a big government/Leviathan/out-of-control spender, when they say that what the world needs and what America needs is stiff cutbacks, tax breaks for what they call ‘job creators’, and as I say stiff spending cuts.
“Obama and the Democrats are saying something completely different, that, yes, they need to have their fiscal house in order. They are not talking about massive spending, they say, but, on the other hand they need to have a level playing field.”
euronews: “At their conventions, how convincing were the Democrats and Republicans – if you bet money on either, would it be safe?”
Christiane Amanpour: “At this particular point, even though President Obama’s traditional markers, or rather the traditional markers [not just his] leading into a presidential vote do not look good for this president. And let us not forget: only two presidents have been elected in the 20th century with a jobless rate above seven percent [Roosevelt and Reagan]. Times are tough, and President Obama did not try to hide that in his speech, nor did any of the Democrats.
“They are hoping… what they say is that the Republicans got the country into this mess in the first place. What they are saying is that we have been able to get you out of this hole, that we have been able to stop this recession from going into a depression, and that if you stop us now, and fire us now, you are going to go back to what the Republicans are promising, which they say is more of the same.”