National Press Club

Foreign Correspondents Assess Obama Victory

November 21, 2008

Barack Obama’s victory was proof of the American dream, a nation where everything is possible, foreign correspondents said during a discussion Nov. 19 about the view of the U.S. election through the eyes of other countries.

A panel of foreign correspondents, organized by the Club’s International Correspondents Committee, discussed the foreign reaction to Obama’s election and anticipation for its impact on foreign affairs in a forum organized by the International Correspondents Committee.

Kyodo News correspondent Hiroki Sugita said foreign governments can no longer criticize U.S. democracy because of racism.

There was agreement that America has again proved it is different. Mahtab Farid, a blogger on U.S.-Iranian issues, noted the disbelief in the Arab world that the son of a Muslim African could reach the position of leader of Americans.

The correspondents swapped stories about how their editors refused to print stories about John McCain’s poll increases after the Republican convention, the overwhelming poll advantages Obama had in foreign countries and the popular reaction overseas to his victory.

There was also agreement th Obama faces panoply of issues as he comes to office – domestic issues, two wars, economic downturn, Israeli-Arab relations, environmental concerns. There was a concern that it will be difficult for Obama to transform the promises of the campaign into concrete improvements.

Udo Lielischkies, of ARD German television, noted the European hope that there will be greater American understanding for Russia’s concerns about Georgia joining NATO and the deployment of an American anti-missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Ron Baygents, of Kuwait News Agency, noted that the evolution of U.S. fortunes in the Middle East hinged on developments in Iraq, including Iran’s influence on Shias in Iraq, and the outlook for Israeli-Arab peace talks.

Paul Koring, of Toronto’s Globe and Mail, said Obama captured the imagination of Americans and others in this hemisphere, but said he worried about the impact of hard problems Obama faces on his ability to fulfill his promises.

Constance Ikokwu, of Nigeria’s THISDAY Newspapers, expressed African’s concerns about an American base in Africa and U.S. agricultural subsidies.