Reception for Obama Is More Sober Than in 2008

The New York Times –

BERLIN — The last time President Obama paid a visit here, as a candidate in 2008, he was cheered on by 200,000 Germans eager to see the back of George W. Bush and, as one member of that crowd recalled Tuesday, “full of wholly unrealistic expectations of what kind of miracles Obama could work.”

When he arrived here on Tuesday evening ahead of a full day of talks — capped by a speech at the Brandenburg Gate — the reception was far more restrained.

Almost five years later, Germans have undergone “a brutal sobering up” with regard to Mr. Obama, said Ralf Fücks, who heads the board of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, a nonprofit political organization in Berlin. It is, he said, as overdone as the euphoria of 2008, but also a bit alarming.

Mr. Fücks and other Germans say there are several reasons for the change in attitude. The most commonly cited: the president’s inability to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, continued killings by American drones and, most recently, the disclosure of an extensive program for surveillance of foreigners.

Experts also point to the limitations on the power of an American president and on a country like Germany, which is the dominant European power but whose 20th-century history makes it awkward for it to take a leadership role or guide the Continent out of its economic doldrums.

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