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Obama Gets Largely Positive Reviews On Trip


U.S. President Barack Obama is getting generally positive reviews as he makes his first overseas trip as president.

As Mr. Obama made his international debut on the world stage, an unmistakable change in tone and attitude emerged about how the United States will deal with the rest of the world. "I don't come bearing grand designs. I'm here to listen, to share ideas," he said.

Mr. Obama promised a new era of cooperation with U.S. allies abroad during last year's presidential election campaign. And the new president renewed that pledge at news conferences in London where he attended the G-20 summit Thursday and at a campaign-style town hall event in Strasbourg, France where he was preparing for the 60th anniversary NATO summit.

"America is changing, but it cannot be America alone that changes. We are confronting the greatest economic crisis since World War Two. The only way to confront this unprecedented crisis is through unprecedented coordination," he said.

The president's first major trip abroad has dominated not only the U.S. news media, but international news coverage as well.

At a news conference in London, international journalists competed with one another to get the president's attention. "One correspondent not from America and then I will--(REPORTERS YELLING)--You know, we are not doing bidding here. Come on," he said.

First Lady Michelle Obama has also made a splash on the trip, whether meeting Queen Elizabeth or making an emotional visit to a girl's school in London. "All of you are jewels. You are precious and you touch my heart," he said.

To be sure, the coverage has not been universally positive. Some international journalists have described the president as aloof, and significant differences remain with some U.S. allies over how to handle the international financial crisis and the war in Afghanistan.

But Weekly Standard Editor Fred Barnes says in general the coverage of President Obama's trip has been noteworthy. "I've been through presidential honeymoons and early periods before, but I don't think anybody has quite dominated the media and everything else the way he has," he said.

Barnes is a guest on VOA's Issues in the News program, as is veteran Washington correspondent Tom DeFrank of the New York Daily News. "I thought that the commentary and the rhetoric of these leaders about Obama was gushing in the extreme, but it is another indication that everybody wants to bask in the reflected glory of the new guy, who is not George W. Bush," he said.

World leaders have been eager to talk to and be photographed with Mr. Obama during the trip.

Political analyst Richard Wolffe told VOA that world leaders want some of Mr. Obama's popularity to rub off on them. "They are doing that because he is popular with their own people, which means that they get some reflected glory at home, and that is where you get (political) leverage, because this is an American leader who can speak over the heads of the domestic leaders, and that is powerful," he said.

Good reviews of the president's performance abroad could also bolster his political standing at home.

Pollster Peter Brown says that for now Americans seem patient as they await the result of the president's efforts to revive the ailing U.S. economy. "We asked, for instance, how voters felt about some of his programs and again, they are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt," he said.

Recent polls give President Obama an approval rating of between 58 and 64 percent, and some experts believe that number could rise depending on how the public reacts at the end of his overseas trip next week.

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