The mood varied in the dailies. Conservative paper Die Welt wondered how far Chancellor Angela Merkel and Obama were in agreement on economic strategies. For Merkel, “austerity is a bitter conditio sine qua non. Obama does not like this, making it a real transatlantic disagreement.”
“America has become more foreign to us and this situation is the same the other way around. Europe has become more foreign to America,” the paper added.
Heavyweight daily the Süddeutsche Zeitung explored Germany’s relationship with recent US leaders, and their equal dislike of both Obama and his predecessor George W. Bush.
“While they despised Bush, considering him to be a dumb cowboy, [the Germans] are no more at ease with Obama, the cool analyst, who kills terrorist suspects with drones, and whose secret service monitors the internet,” wrote the paper.
Meanwhile, said the paper, Europe longed for the respect of the US but was growing increasingly nervous as the superpower began to take charge on meatier world issues – such as “terrorism in Africa.”
“Obama had a message for these critics,” Süddeutsche Zeitung said. “The Wall is gone. But the story isn’t over yet. The world is still a dangerous place.’”
Disappointment was thinly veiled in Berlin regional centre-left newspaper the Berliner Zeitung, which dismissed Obama’s appearance as “especially embarrassing”.
While the president had the natural ability to excite a crowd about whatever he pleased, this time there were no specifics. “Perhaps the most important politician in the world has nothing planned. This is bad news,” wrote the paper.
The Tagesspiegel Berlin daily was more forgiving. “Although there is always a hint of pathos in Obama’s speeches, he avoided it in excess while speaking on the eastern side of the Brandenburg Gate.”
Despite being peppered with emotive phrases like “the wall is history, now let’s write a new chapter of history together,” these served more as “a sober call on the Western world to act; an appeal against the marriage of comfort with complacency.”
This, the paper said, was aimed at changing the minds of those who were beginning to question Obama’s ability to act.
Regional newspaper the Kölner Stadt Anzeiger also expressed approval of the appearance, albeit rather half-heartedly. “The US president lived up to expectations,” it said, without revealing what those expectations could have been.
“His message was that it wasn’t about spying on individuals, but about protecting them. A nice sentence that can mean everything or nothing. Like many of this president’s soundbites,” wrote the paper.
Elsewhere in the regional press, the Stuttgarter Zeitung seemed impressed with Obama’s rhetoric, calling the visit “a lesson for German election campaigners.”
The Südwest Presse, however, questioned the German public’s faith in Obama. The visit was of great worth, it said, but “do the Germans trust the Nobel Peace Prize winner to lead the way to a beautiful new world?” it asked.
“Unfortunately the lasting impression is that he is a man of big promises and little progress,” the paper concluded.