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Where's The Change? Obama Gets Big Thumbs Down From Once Enamored Europe

Analysis: A Swiss correspondent in Washington, like others from the Old Continent, has concluded that Obama lacked the leadership skills necessary to meet the challenges of his times. He also made one crucial error from Day One.

Obama at work, June 8, 2012 (Pete Souza/White House)
Obama at work, June 8, 2012 (Pete Souza/White House)
Martin Kilian

WASHINGTON - Five months before the American presidential elections, people are taking stock of what Barack Obama, the United States' first African-American president, has accomplished since his historic election in 2008. Unfortunately for him, he's not getting high marks at home or abroad. Indeed this week's cover story in top German news weekly Der Spiegel calls Obama's presidency "failed." What a shame, the German news magazine writes.

It's a fact that Obama might not be re-elected. Perhaps as a man near the center of the political spectrum he is unsuited to lead at a time that needs more than a radical touch. After all, his presidency began during the worst financial and economic crisis the US has known since the 1930s, but unlike Franklin Roosevelt he was no match for the situation.

Obama made an astonishing cardinal error by actually believing that he could rely on compromise to overcome the deep political divide in Washington. There was no way the Republican opposition was going to go along with that, which is why Obama, although he promised change and hope, finds himself after nearly four years in office facing a body politic that is frighteningly polarized and unable to compromise. And, of course, the political system is the weaker for it.

If the Republicans bear the brunt of responsibility, it's fair to say that Obama didn't properly size up the opposition and its extreme ambition. He didn't really understand that, since Ronald Reagan, modern American conservatism has developed into an ideological movement prepared to use every means -- kosher or not -- to achieve its political goals. And it doesn't help matters that in trying to find a way forward while fighting over deficits, a balanced budget and government debt, Obama was at several points prepared to relinquish historic achievements and principles of his own Democratic Party.

Along with wrongly gauging Republican motives, Obama showed a complete lack of leadership on health care reforms. Instead of overseeing them from the White House, he turned everything over to House Democrats and then had to watch as the Senate pulled the reforms apart until they were Tea Party fodder.

Obama alienated former supporters from the ideological left by pursuing many of George W. Bush's policies on the war on terror, failing to keep his promise to close Guantanamo -- and by not abolishing the controversial broad executive power instituted by Bush. He let Latinos down over the issue of deportation of illegal immigrants. His wobbly stance on gay marriage turned homosexuals and lesbians off. And his flirtations with Wall Street were ineffectual: the plutocrats are streaming to the camp of Mitt Romney, his Republican opponent in the forthcoming election.

It's entirely possible that Barack Obama practiced the politics of the possible in difficult times and saved the United States from far worse. But this cautious president didn't bring about the change that the country so urgently needs.

Read the article in German.

Photo - Pete Souza/White House

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How A Xi Jinping Dinner In San Francisco May Have Sealed Mastercard's Arrival In China

The credit giant becomes only the second player after American Express to be allowed to set up a bank card-clearing RMB operation in mainland China.

Photo of a hand holding a phone displaying an Union Pay logo, with a Mastercard VISA logo in the background of the photo.

Mastercard has just been granted a bank card clearing license in China.

Liu Qianshan


It appears that one of the biggest beneficiaries from Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to San Francisco was Mastercard.

The U.S. credit card giant has since secured eagerly anticipated approval to expand in China's massive financial sector, having finally obtained long sought approval from China's central bank and financial regulatory authorities to initiate a bank card business in China through its joint venture with its new Chinese partner.

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Through a joint venture in China between Mastercard and China's NetsUnion Clearing Corporation, dubbed Mastercard NUCC, it has officially entered mainland China as an RMB currency clearing organization. It's only the second foreign business of its kind to do so following American Express in 2020.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that the development is linked to Chinese President Xi Jinping's meeting on Nov. 15 with U.S. President Joe Biden in San Francisco, part of a two-day visit that also included dinner that Xi had with U.S. business executives.

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