The front-page headline of the June 5, 2009, Irish Times proudly proclaims, “US president delivers landmark speech in Egypt.” This is a strange choice for an Irish newspaper, considering that the United Kingdom’s prime minister, Gordon Brown, is facing a mounting crisis and a cabinet deserting him and calling for his resignation.
Despite the political unrest in Britain and the heated elections for the European Union in June, Obama still dominates the news in many European newspapers. It appears the world cannot get enough of America’s new president. Europeans love him. Foreign leaders around the world love him. The picture accompanying the front-page story features two Islamic militants glued to their TV set watching Obama give a speech. Even terrorists love him. Always a good sign.
The major news of the cabinet members’ resignation in the UK and the possible resignation of the prime minister himself is relegated to Page 11, opposite a large photo of our commander in chief and a second and third story about Obama’s speech on Middle East-U.S. relations, an opinion piece and a story about the Israeli reaction. The speech has been hailed by many leaders in the Middle East as “a great speech and a landmark,” “historic” and comparable to Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech.
Things are much different here in America. Those that live in Michigan, who have watched unemployment reach 15 percent, along with 14 other states living with double digit jobless rates after hearing from the president that the $787 billion stimulus would keep unemployment below 8.5 percent, are unlikely to hail Obama’s words as inspiring.
Those that heard Obama claim in February he would cut the federal deficit in half within his first term as president, but instead, saw the deficit balloon to an estimated $1.84 trillion by September – over four times last year’s record high – are likely to take his future claims with a grain of salt.
In the months leading up to the historic election of our first African-American president, Americans were deeply moved by Obama’s speeches. People who heard his words could not help but find themselves enamored with the picture that Obama painted of the kind of America we would see under his administration. But today is not Inauguration Day, the election is over and the American people are looking for results rather than rhetorical flourishes about hope and change.
While Obama’s speeches across the world have helped America’s image abroad, the words on the president’s teleprompter seem to be falling flat among the American people. In only the past few weeks, support for health care reform, one of Obama’s main agendas, has fallen from 50 percent at the end of July to 42 percent as of last week, according to Rasmussen Reports. Even former Presidents Bush and Carter enjoyed higher job approval ratings at the same point in their first term.
Every president comes to grips with the end of their “honeymoon,” when feelings of goodwill and endless possibility are confronted with the realities that come with the high expectations of voters. Voters expect a lot out of their current president. They should; a lot was promised to them on the campaign trail. But unlike their European counterparts, Americans quickly are finding less and less inspiration and hope in the words of their charismatic commander in chief.