Big Crowds, Few Promises

Obama wows crowds in Europe but comes back largely empty-handed.

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President Obama spent the last few days speechifying, something he does pretty well. That’s not to say his European tour has been an unmitigated success. Powerful oratory mixed with a rejection of American policies adds up to a 27 on the Change-o-Meter.

Addressing Turkey’s Grand National Assembly, Obama stressed that America “is not and never will be at war with Islam” and said he supports Turkey’s bid to become part of the European Union. The ‘Meter will get to that in a moment, but not before it notes Obama’s decision to avoid condemning the Armenian genocide of 1915, which is still the cause for a lot of tension in Turkish politics. As Christopher Hitchens notes today in Slate, Obama’s view of this issue used to be much less ambivalent: In 2006, he wrote a letter to the State Department “roundly stating that the occurrence of the Armenian genocide in 1915 ‘is not an allegation, a personal opinion, or a point of view, but rather a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of historical evidence.’ ” The truth costs Obama five points on the Change-o-Meter.

Yet the Turkish public was largely pleased with and supportive of Obama. (For evidence, look no further than the baker who emblazoned a giant baklava with Obama’s image.) After eight years of stony relations between Turkey and the United States, that’s not insignificant. Americans are pretty happy with the president’s efforts to patch up relations with Muslim populations, even if their feelings about the religion itself are less generous. The ‘Meter awards 30 points for the cause.

Obama didn’t do so badly in the Czech Republic, either. The nation whose prime minister called Obama’s economic recovery plan “the way to hell” just last week found itself “transfixed” by Obama’s oratory, reports the New York Times. That’s all fine and good, but it probably still won’t get the United States that missile base it wanted in the country. But the ‘Meter will award five points for making nice with a key player in the world’s biggest trading bloc.

Speaking before NATO, Obama failed to rally major European allies, such as France and Germany, to pledge troop support in Afghanistan. Last week, individual countries at the G20 summit were also loath to pledge more stimulus money than they already had. The revelation that Obama is not a diplomatic Jesus steals 15 points from the ‘Meter.

Back at the ranch, Rasmussen Reports found that 57 percent of Americans support a military response to North Korea’s weekend missile launch. Sorry, America, but since most experts say North Korea’s nuclear capabilities are years away from being truly developed, the ‘Meter is going to have to side with Obama on this one. His promise to aggressively pursue nuclear disarmament is by no means guaranteed to foil North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear capabilities, especially if Obama’s diplomatically challenged predecessor’s efforts are any indication. But coupled with his pledge to reduce America’s own cache of nukes, the absence of a knee-jerk military reaction to a bum missile launch pleases the ‘Meter. Ten points for Obama. What say you now, Hillary?

Bonus ‘Meter points: Obama worked some “flawless” Czech and Turkish into his speeches—and so far has escaped charges that he accidentally called himself a doughnut. Two points.

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