Donald Lambro

It is a well-known axiom of presidential politics that when things aren't going well at home, chief executives go abroad.

With his presidency beset by a wave of scandals -- from the shocking politicization of the IRS to damaging national security leaks to his declining job approval ratings, President Obama fled town this week for a European tour. Surely, his once-legendary popularity abroad would give him a much needed boost at home.

But Obama found that the political climate wasn't much better there than it was back here. Not only did the nasty scandals follow him overseas, but he found that he wasn't the rock star he was in his hey-day.

Indeed, a Gallup poll in March found public approval of U.S. leadership in Europe had plummeted 11 percentage points since his first year in office, to 36 percent. Half of that decline was in the past year alone.

"Europe's love for Obama fades," a Washington Post headline blared Monday as he flew across the pond to Northern Ireland for the G-8 economic conference.

"Obama will be confronting the diplomatic fallout from his action and inaction on some of the most urgent concerns of his European counterparts," the Post said.

There was his long, indecisive, timid delay over whether to support the Syrian rebels in their fight to overturn the brutal regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that has frustrated allied leaders in France and Germany.

Then there's the National Security Agency's telephone and Internet surveillance program disclosures that has angered European leaders, especially German Chancellor Angela Merkel. And also Obama's stepped-up use of the terrorist-killing drone program, launched under George W. Bush's presidency, that has dismayed Europe's leftists who once cheered his presidency.

Not any more. A critical story from France's Le Monde newspaper ran under the headline, "George Obama and National Security."

The latest damaging disclosure by former NSA leaker Edward Snowden, now a fugitive from justice, didn't produce any warm and cuddly feelings toward the U.S. and Obama, either. Snowden gave London's Guardian documents purportedly showing that U.S. and British intelligence agencies monitored e-mails and phone calls of G-8 foreign leaders at 2009 summits.

The top issue at the G-8 gathering was of course the economy. Much of Europe is in a recession with an unemployment rate at 9 percent or higher. But the tepid U.S. recovery, with unemployment nearly 8 percent, hardly suggests that Obama has the answers to Europe's sagging economy.


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.



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