Obama Abroad

President Obama was in Strasbourg earlier today, where he addressed an adoring European crowd at a “town hall” meeting in a local stadium. The news coverage, as with the rest of Obama’s trip, has all been positive. But there was a jarring note that has not been reported, but which I happened to catch on television as I was going out the door this morning.

As the crowd waited for Obama to take the stage and begin speaking, whoever produced the event was playing music. I didn’t see whether it was live or recorded, but the song they were playing was “99 Red Balloons,” an anti-military song by a German group called Nena that was a big hit in 1983. The song choice was undoubtedly intentional, and therefore revealing. “99 Red Balloons” is a pretty song, but it was intended to be anti-war, anti-Ronald Reagan, and anti-NATO. Those were the days, after all, when Reagan was at least as unpopular in Europe as George Bush later became. Here is a sample of the lyrics:

The war machine springs to life
Opens up one eager eye
Focusing it on the sky
As ninety-nine red balloons go by

***
Call out the troops now in a hurry
This is what we’ve waited for
This is it, boys, this is war
The President is on the line
As ninety-nine red balloons go by

Many Europeans cheer Obama because they think he is the anti-Reagan, anti-Bush. What that means, in part, is that they do not believe he is dedicated to defending American interests in the way that those Presidents were.

American news coverage of Obama’s trip has been entirely positive, but it doesn’t appear to have done his stature with voters much good–so far, at least. Today’s Rasmussen survey has Obama’s “approval index”–the difference between those who strongly approve and strongly disapprove of his performance–at only +3, the lowest of his Presidency:

obama_index_april_3_2009.jpg.jpeg

I don’t think that means that the press has failed to convey the intended soft-focus, positive image of Barack and Michelle Obama; I think it means that voters, at this moment, don’t care about much except the economy and therefore are not so easily impressed.

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