Brian here from Orange State, reporting from Strasbourg, France, where the sun always shines and people talk really funny, like, a whole other, non-English language, which is even worse than what I experienced in my brief stopover in London.
I'm here to report on anti-American sentiment and how much the Obama administration has changed the perception of the United States as a big, ugly cowboy. From what I've learned, President Obama is as popular as crepes over here. Everyone wants his t-shirt (wish I'd known that: with the exchange rate and high demand, I could have brought over a truckload of them for 20 bucks each and made an absolute killing).
President Obama apparently has roots in the Alsace region of France, which the Alsatians love to brag about. Marie-Madeleine (French enough for you?), my landlord, spoke highly of the president, even though his visit in early April brought a lockdown of the city.
Six years ago I don't think anyone would have dared wave around their American passports in this area but for some reason it seems better now. I haven't encountered a single unpleasant experience, and the French have even been willing to humor me when my attempts to use French turn ugly (which they often do).
Then again, six years ago, the dollar was actually worth more than the paper it was printed on, which really sucks. The last time I was in Europe was pre-Euro and you could wave around greenbacks and people would bow to you. That's probably how I got served alcohol when I was 5 feet tall and had braces.
As for President Obama, I think it's clear to say that the promises he made when he was running for the Democratic nomination have not been kept, at least when it comes to torture and human rights. The US will still use military tribunals. He ordered the closing of Guantanamo, but that seems more of a gesture of goodwill toward Cuba than a human rights issue when we consider that policies surrounding the prison in Bagram, Afghanistan will not change. The President decided not to prosecute torturers and will not release photos of prisoner abuse (the media's cute little word for torture).
I'm sure that Obama apologists (Obamapologists?) will try to countenance this decisions and defend them in every way possible, but the fact is that these were not the promises he made during the Democratic primary. You can agree with the decisions but the only change going on here is in the positions of the President. I'm ambivalent about not prosecuting people who committed torture and I don't think that releasing the photos of torture will serve any good other than a great training tool for al-Qaeda, but I think that Bagram should be closed and I am surprised that the media are giving the President a pass on that one.
As for the backlash in France, a country whose people care very much about torture issues, I haven't seen much. I assume that the ACLU is freaking out about this back at home, and the people at MoveOn.org are Googling "How to remove a bumper sticker without scratching".
That's all for now. Germany is next.