Senator Barack Obama is in Paris today. Yesterday he was greeted by 200,000 cheering fans that went to Tiergarten Park by the Victory Column in Berlin to hear him call for the world to tear down walls of division and hate.
His visit to Paris will be a little different – there, he will make no public appearances except for a press conference after meeting President Nicolas Sarkozy before he heads for London.
Still, Obama’s arrival in Paris has sparked much excitement in France, where polls reflect those across Europe and shows overwhelmingly that he is the candidate most people want to succeed President George W. Bush in the November vote.
“Obamania” is the front-page headline today in Paris’ Liberation newspaper, which said that “the Democratic candidate fascinates the world and shows he has the makings of a president.”
Last year’s election of rightwing pro-America Sarkozy greatly improved U.S.-French relations, which were soured by France’s staunch opposition to the 2003 US invasion of Iraq under then president Jacques Chirac.
On Friday Sarkozy told a French newspaper that Obama, whom he met in 2006 in Washington, was a “friend.”
“Unlike my diplomatic advisors I never believed in Hillary Clinton’s chances. I always believed that Obama would be nominated,” he added.
Obama’s national security spokeswoman Wendy Morigi said: “President Sarkozy has made the bilateral Franco-American relationship and the transatlantic alliance a centerpiece of his presidency, and Senator Obama looks forward to discussing how to build on these important initiatives.”
Repairing relations between the US and Europe — strained over the Iraq war — was a theme of Obama’s Berlin speech, where he said that “the walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand.”
“The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down,” he said, echoing former U.S. president Ronald Reagan’s 1987 call to tear down the Berlin Wall.
The Berlin event took the White House race abroad in a way never seen before and confirms Obama as a global political phenomenon.
Europeans strongly support Obama’s foreign policy goals including closing the Guantanamo Bay lock-up for terror suspects, fighting nuclear proliferation and facing up to climate change with an EU-style emissions cap-and-trade plan.
European’s know that with an Obama presidency, they will be held accountable to help the people of Afghanistan and Iraq. Le Monde newspaper wrote on Thursday, “Europeans can fear appeals for aid from Mr. Obama,” particularly a stronger military commitment in Afghanistan.