Smart Power: Germany Tells Obama To Get Bent

Once upon a time, during the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama drew a rapturous crowd of 200,000 Germans to the Victory Column in Berlin, to bask in his magnificence.  His American supporters pointed to this international adoration as one of the reasons to elect him President.  At last, we’d have a leader the whole world could love, unlike that cowboy Bush!

In the summer after Obama’s election, awed Newsweek editor Evan Thomas proclaimed, “I mean in a way Obama’s standing above the country, above the world.  He’s sort of God.”

How the mighty have fallen!  Today Spiegel Online reports that it’s nothing but raspberries for Obama in Germany, and his Administration can keep its unwanted advice about dealing with debt crises to itself:

German observers have reacted angrily to the comments, saying that the US is in no position to criticize other countries, given its own $14-trillion pile of national debt and ongoing wrangling over the country’s debt ceiling. Others claim that Obama is just trying to distract attention from the US’s problems and point out that the US president was in California to raise funds and voter support ahead of his reelection campaign next year.

What comments are they so angry about?  Well, Obama said that European inaction on their debt crisis was “scaring the world,” and Europe hasn’t “fully healed from the crisis back in 2007, and never fully dealt with all the challenges their banking system faced.”

Meanwhile, Treasury secretary Tim Geithner warned the European debt crisis is “the most serious risk now confronting the world economy,” and “decisions as to how to conclusively address the region’s problems cannot wait until the crisis gets more severe.”

Hmm.  I’m no fan of this Administration’s economic policies, and it’s fair enough to express reservations about taking economic advice from the gang that brought the American economy to its knees, but these particular comments don’t seem all that unreasonable or outrageous.  The Europeans should also consider increasing funding for the CERN Large Hadron Collider, in the hopes it will open a time portal to the 1960s, when the Greeks still had a chance of changing their ways and avoiding disaster.

Nevertheless, Germany is up in arms about those snotty know-it-alls from Washington.  Spiegel Online quotes the German tabloid Bild:

Obama’s lecture on the euro crisis … is overbearing, arrogant and absurd. … In a nutshell, he is claiming that Europe is to blame for the current financial crisis, which is ‘scaring the world.’ Excuse me?

The American president seems to have forgotten a few details. The most important trigger of the financial and economic crisis was US banks and their insane real-estate dealings. The US is still piling up debt… The American congress is crippled by a battle between the right and the left. The banks are gambling just as recklessly as they did before the crisis. The president’s scolding is a pathetic attempt to distract attention from his own failures. How embarrassing.

Note to German editorialists: nothing Obama says about Europe is “distracting” anybody in the United States from his failures.  I doubt even the most out-of-touch member of the Administration thinks that would work.

Other German papers snarled about Obama’s “cheap search for a scapegoat,” and object that his suggestions “have already failed to work in the U.S.”  The oddly persistent belief in Obama’s “brilliance” by financial daily Handelsblatt makes them even angrier at the President:

The fact that Barack Obama, who is a brilliant thinker, knows full well that things are much more complicated in reality does not help. Indeed, it does the opposite. In the desperate battle for his re-election he’d rather construct myths, such as claiming that the Europeans alone are responsible for the American mess. Not only is this fundamentally wrong, but — coming as it does from a friend — it’s downright pitiful and sad.

German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble weigned in by sneering, “I don’t think Europe’s problems are America’s only problems.  It’s always easier to give other people advice.”

You know what’s not easy, Mr. Schauble?  Giving other people massive bailouts.  Just today, HUMAN EVENTS has a story about the IMF musing that it’s going to need a bigger boat to catch the great white shark of Greek default, after Congress already threw them another $108 billion in 2009.  The United States provides “somewhere between 10% and 20%” of the IMF’s loan money, according to the Wall Street Journal, but “can’t block a loan if the majority of other shareholders approve it.”  In other words, once the cash gets to the IMF, we have very little control over what happens to it.

In August, a previously secret list of Federal Reserve loans was pried loose with a Freedom of Information Act request, and we learned that “almost half of the Fed’s top 30 borrowers, measured by peak balances, were European firms.”  That includes Germany’s Hypo Real Estate Holding AG, which took out $28.7 billion in loans, or about “$21 million for each of its 1,366 employees.”

A year before that, we found out that the monstrous $700 billion TARP bailout “disproportionately benefited foreign banks,” while “foreign governments concentrated their rescue efforts on local banks that did not have any significant exposure to the U.S.,” according to the International Business Times:

For example, billions of dollars in bailout money actually ended up in large banks in France, Germany, among other nations (in connection with the rescue of American International Group) — an inevitable result given that company’s extensive foreign operations. However, the U.S. government bore the entire $70-billion risk. Indeed, the U.S. share for this single rescue exceeded the size of France’s entire $35-billion capital injection program and was nearly half the size of Germany’s $133-billion program.

Even at this late date, COP noted, it is difficult to assess the precise international impact of the TARP or other U.S. rescue programs because the Treasury gathered very little data on how TARP funds flowed overseas.

Had the U.S. received better data and tracked the flow of bailout funds, it might have been possible to share the cost of the rescue package with foreign nations, COP asserted.

(Emphasis mine.)  Whoops!  Guess we should have kept better track of all those billions.  Then maybe we could show the Europeans exactly how much we’ve given them, and tell them to stick their “outrage” over our unwelcome advice into a deep vault, beneath a pile of rotting TARP dollars.

There are all sorts of lessons to be learned here.  Obama’s staggering domestic incompetence has burned away his credibility on the world stage, which was never accurately measured by rock-star crowds lining up in Berlin to get a look at him.  Welfare recipients, whether they be individuals or beggar nations, always become indignant when their no-strings-attached bailouts are followed by a bit of friendly advice.  And the Western world is learning, painfully, that it’s trapped in the ruins of a failed system, not just the consequences of bad decisions from the failed leaders who are currently reduced to using each other as distracting props in re-election campaigns.