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Good Reads: World reaction to Obama's jobs speech

For Britain's Guardian and Economist, Obama's jobs speech was all about partisan politics. For France's Le Monde, it was about the use of rhetoric and statecraft in guiding a powerful nation through difficult times. For the China Daily, it was all about Joe Biden.

By Scott BaldaufStaff Writer / September 9, 2011

President Obama speaks to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 8. Watching at right are Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner.

Kevin Lamarque/AP


If there is anything that can knock Libya from the top headlines, it is America’s 9.1 percent unemployment rate, and President Obama’s speech on the jobs crisis last night before a joint session of Congress did just that.

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Europe and Asia’s preoccupation with America's unemployment rate is easy to understand. The US consumer economy still drives that of much of the developed world, as Americans buy Volvos, BMWs, and Toyotas, Nokias, Blackberries, and Samsungs, and it puts lots of European, Asian, and yes, Canadians to work. As much as the rest of the world might hate to admit it, a stalled or failing American economy means a stalled or failing British, French, Japanese, and even Chinese economy as well.

Here’s a look at how the world’s press viewed what many see as President Obama’s first campaign speech of the 2012 election season.

Britain’s left-leaning newspaper, the Guardian, lists many of the bigger chunks of what it calls a “strongly partisan” $447 billion jobs plan, the biggest piece of which is a $175 billion payroll tax cut for workers. It then moves quickly into the politics of the moment, which makes this bill so important.

Obama’s speech was combative at times, and the Guardian’s Ewen MacAskill captures this line that would not have been out of place in Britain’s own “Prime Minister’s Questions":

"This isn't political grandstanding. This isn't class warfare. This is simple math."

"The question is whether, in the face of an ongoing national crisis, we can stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy," he said.

Obama added: "Ultimately, our recovery will be driven not by Washington, but by our businesses and our workers. But we can help. We can make a difference. There are steps we can take right now to improve people's lives."

In the right-leaning Economist magazine, the writer – who is traditionally unnamed – rightly points out that some measures in Obama’s bill, such as numerous proposed tax cuts, are likely to get bipartisan support, while simple make-work infrastructure projects are likely to face Republican opposition. In such a case, Obama is likely to hit the campaign trail and blame congressional Republicans for obstructionism. This, the Economist notes, wins points for cleverness, but may miss a chance at actually turning the US economy around.


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