The World From Berlin Obama Is 'Intangible, Elastic, Hollow'

The fight for the Democratic presidential nomination has turned into a clash between style and substance, write German media commentators. An editorialist at one top paper expresses serious doubts about Barack Obama's readiness for the top job.

Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Barack Obama is eclipsing Hillary Clinton, but the Süddeutsche Zeitung claims he poses great risks for the Democratic Party.

Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Barack Obama is eclipsing Hillary Clinton, but the Süddeutsche Zeitung claims he poses great risks for the Democratic Party.

The nice guy doesn't always make the better president, say German political commentators ahead of Tuesday's New Hampshire primary which could sound the death knell for Hillary Clinton's campaign to win the Democratic presidential nomination.

Barack Obama's vague pledges of "change" may be enthralling voters in America but they are raising eyebrows among German leader writers. After eight years of George W. Bush, the last thing the US needs is another era of ideology, they say -- cool-headed, pragmatic, boring policymaking is required, which makes Clinton more suitable for the job than Obama.

Center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

"The New Hampshire primary has degenerated to a clichéd duel, to an unattractive and apolitical competition about attractiveness and the art of seduction."

"New Hampshire could give the primary circus unstoppable momentum."

"Barack Obama wouldn't be as good a candidate and he would be a greater risk for the Democrats in the actual presidential election campaign -- against a Republican warhorse like John McCain, for example. Anyone who reads Obama's speeches, analyzes his political resumé, who studies his public appearances from the first minute to the last will acknowledge that he has great political talent."

"But the candidate is nevertheless unsettling because he remains strangely intangible, elastic and hollow. When Obama suffered a slump in popularity in the autumn, there was a reason: You can't grab hold of the man. But now he is enchanting the public with a canned speech that offers everything apart from the most important thing: political substance. That may be tactically clever, but one would prefer to hand one of the most important jobs in the democratic world to someone who does more than just spread feelgood sentiment, who has a few more scars, whose career was built on measurable decisions and who doesn't primarily tap into an outlook on life."

"Eight years ago a president came to power who promised to revolutionize the country as a Washington outsider. He willingly and weakly allowed himself to be steered by a group of political combatants and led the US through one of the most ideological periods in its history. The country should have learned this lesson today. Promises of salvation can't be renewed every eight years. Instead what is needed is a period of political stability, a moment of de-emotionalization. Hillary Clinton would be the right candidate for that -- even if she seems boring compared to Obama."

Conservative Die Welt writes:

"There it lies, somewhere in the piles of melting snow and overheated high school sports halls in the US state of New Hampshire, like the remains of a burst balloon: Hillary Clinton's aura as the unbeatable candidate for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. The man who destroyed this aura, politely but without remorse, Barack Obama, generates hope and passion like no other candidate. His message of a new beginning, of a change in style, of post-ideological reconciliation in Washington is winning over the women, the young people, unaffiliated voters, even Republicans."

"Her own staff is saying she doesn't exude enough warmth, enough humor, enough femininity. She is warning, with a hint of desperation, against voting for the most likeable candidate: George W. Bush played the nice guy too. And look what happened."

"'You campaign in poetry, but you govern in prose,' she says. That's right. If only she had a bit of talent for poetry."

Berlin daily Tagesspiegel writes:

"Hillary faces questions from citizens and has figures and arguments at her disposal on all issues, be it health insurance, Iraq troop withdrawal or her policy on Cuba. She represents competence. But he's winning the hearts. The masses are flocking to see Barack Obama and they wait for hours without grumbling. Everywhere he goes, his speeches last longer than planned. He only holds his emotional speech and doesn't allow any questions, because there is no time. He promises to reconcile the races, classes, political camps. Many US voters are looking for a change in style and generation."

-- David Crossland, 12:30 p.m. CET


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