From The International Herald Tribune:
Barack Obama's popularity soars - in Germany
By Nicholas Kulish
Published: January 6, 2008
BERLIN: Barack Obama's popularity extends far beyond Iowa and into the heart of Central Europe. Germany has swiftly developed a serious case of Obama-mania.
Obama's high standing goes beyond his opposition to the Iraq War, which has always been unpopular here. The sudden crush is intimately bound up with the near constant comparisons here between the young senator from Illinois and President John F. Kennedy - still admired in Germany and particularly in Berlin - which have stuck fast as his identity in the German press.
The Berliner Morgenpost over the weekend ran with the headline, "The New Kennedy." The tabloid Bild went with, "This Black American Has Become the New Kennedy!"
An editorial in the Frankfurter Rundschau went one historic president better with a headline that read simply: "Lincoln, Kennedy, Obama," adding that "hope and optimism" are "the source of the nation's strength."
Obama's newfound popularity among Germans underscores not only the breadth of his appeal but also the opportunity he might have as president - though he is still far from the White House, much less his party's nomination - to mend fences abroad as well as at home.
"There are similarities between JFK's time and today," said Karsten Rossow, 49, of Berlin, who was visiting the small Kennedy Museum by the Brandenburg Gate on a dark, snowy afternoon Sunday with his wife. "People are ready for the politics of change."
His wife, Änne Rossow, added that "after so much disappointment" - she was referring to the Bush administration - "one seizes on these liberal ideals."
While all of Europe keeps a close eye on U.S. elections, Germans learned to pay particularly close attention because of the influence that America had as both occupier and protector after World War II. That is true not only for supporters but also for detractors on the political left, who held furious demonstrations against the Vietnam War and the nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union.
During the Cold War, West Germany was dependent on the United States, nowhere more so than in West Berlin. President Kennedy is remembered here for the support that he gave the city as the Berlin Wall was built during his presidency in 1961, crystallized in his "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech.
Fair or unfair, the comparisons to Kennedy stand Obama in good stead here. The man who could best lay claim to the title of importer of the Kennedy association is Christoph von Marschall, Washington bureau chief for the Tagesspiegel newspaper and author of a book released here last month called "Barack Obama, The Black Kennedy."
As for many American voters, von Marschall said, Obama represents a change from the present government and policies in America, even if he was until recently an unknown quantity compared with Hillary Clinton.
"Only a small, informed minority knew about Barack Obama in December," said von Marschall, who returned to Germany for the release of his book.
After the Iowa caucuses Thursday, however, interest in Obama and sales of the book took off.
Despite the fact that Obama is not associated with Europe in general or Germany in particular, he has "a cultural record that the rest of the field does not have, a better international and intercultural record," von Marschall said.
His race also plays well here, according to Uwe Andersen, a professor of political science at Ruhr University in Bochum: "In Germany, there is great sympathy first for Native Americans and second for black Americans."
Some are still reserving judgment.
"It's too early," said Udo Schacht, 53, at a train station on Friedrichstrasse, the street where the border crossing Checkpoint Charlie once stood. "Too early to say that he's the new Kennedy."
Victor Homola contributed reporting.