How Did Obama Do In Europe?

Barack Obama has ended a foreign tour that included stops in Berlin, Paris and London. Bronwen Maddox, the foreign editor of The Times of London, says the crowds Obama drew in Europe are a reaction to President Bush, Iraq and the desire for change.

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ROBERT SMITH, host:

Let's go to the other side of the pond now where Europeans woke up this morning to a continent without Barack Obama. It can be tough. To see how they're coping, we have Bronwen Maddox, chief foreign commentator of The Times of London. Welcome.

Ms. BRONWEN MADDOX (Foreign Editor, The Times, London): Thank you.

SMITH: So Paris and Berlin went a little nuts for Obama.

Ms. MADDOX: They're in mourning now.

SMITH: They're in mourning. It was like the second coming of Charles Lindbergh over there. But the British have a healthy skepticism of politicians, shall we say. Did Londoners react any more coolly to Obama?

Ms. MADDOX: A little bit more coolly. But, of course, they weren't as passionately against George Bush perhaps as the French and Germans have been. But still there's a sense that, yeah, if Britain could elect a president of the United States or even a British prime minister tomorrow, they might pick Barack Obama.

SMITH: Do you think that this is a reaction to Barack Obama himself, or is this simply a negative reaction to Republican policies in the United States and George Bush?

Ms. MADDOX: Very good question. I think it's mainly the second of those. It's a reaction to George Bush and to Iraq, even though Iraq is now going a bit better. And it's a desire for a big change, a fresh sheet of paper. And then here comes this person with rock star charisma, and that's the kind of thing that travels very well. People don't have to look at the details of policies, particularly not domestic policies. They look at the charisma, they look at this person promising change, and they say yes.

SMITH: While Europeans may like Obama, there are still questions there, aren't there, on his trade defense and foreign policy? Tell us what the questions that Europeans would still have for Barack Obama.

Ms. MADDOX: There are a lot of questions. They begin with trade. He said some things, particularly early on in the campaign, that suggest a much more protectionist stance. And that was before these worries about recession really got as severe as they are now. And there are concerns that even though he's sounding a bit milder and more generous to other countries on the trade front, that some of that protectionism might kick in. So, that's one big one.

On defense, I think Europeans know in their heart of hearts that any American president, that certainly Obama would come along and say, sure we'll help, but you pay up more for your own defense. And that's something Europe is going to find it very, very hard to do. These are countries also suffering a difficult economic time, which don't, when you come down to it, feel a threat in a way that America did after 9/11.

SMITH: What are people saying about Senator John McCain, if they're saying anything this week, when comparing him to Obama? Considering that Senator John McCain is a known quantity in Europe. He has much more experience in foreign policy.

Ms. MADDOX: He does, and it's very noticeable if you go around and talk to European politicians. There is quite a lot of familiarity with him and a liking. I think if there's a concern, it's probably over Iraq because Senator McCain has said very different things about Iraq, obviously behind the commitment to - the American commitment to stay. But the 100 years, staying for 100 years, easily misquoted phrase. But that one, I'm afraid, stuck in the popular mind.

And a sort of unease about what he would be like in the Middle East, an unease about how he would handle Iran. And I think the feeling, in Europe at least, that more belligerence, more aggression towards Iran would be a bad thing. A few concerns about whether he - what he would do on the economic front, where we haven't heard as much from him. But I think a general liking among what you might call the political classes of Europe.

SMITH: Bronwen Maddox is the chief foreign commentator of The Times of London, and the author of the new book "In Defense of America." Thanks for joining us.

Ms. MADDOX: My pleasure.

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