By Steve Kelman

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The Lectern: Obama inauguration seen from Sweden

I am back in Sweden -- of all places, some might say! -- covering the Obama inauguration for Swedish TV4.  This is an enormous news event here, totally dominating the news.  Each of the two major Stockholm newspapers devoted five full pages (tabloid format) on the morning of the inauguration to the upcoming event.  Both major Swedish TV stations ran live coverage of the ceremony.  A woman I had lunch with on inauguration day was wearing an Obama for President button she had gotten during a trip to the U.S.  On Sunday, the business section of one of the papers even ran a story reporting that Obama's inauguration had produced an increased interest in buying mutual funds investing in the U.S. stock market!

A conservative paper editorialized yesterday morning with the title, "The World Is Better When It Likes the U.S."  The editorial stated, "In what other country could Barack Obama have made his life journey?  Millions of people will be thinking about this question today -- and that's very good for the world. ...If America doesn't have the will, the strength, and the credibility that is needed to be the bearing force in the world for democracy, the rule of law, and a market economy, nobody else can shoulder that responsibility.  China doesn't have the values, Europe neither the will nor the ability."

On the TV programs where I have been appearing, there has been a fair amount of interest in helping Swedish viewers understand the logistics of the inauguration. One program prominently featured a map showing the location of the Capitol, the National Mall, Pennsylvania Avenue and the White House.

But also many of the questions, in the context of the Obama euphoria over here, have been one version or another of "Can he live up to expectations?" A column in Sweden's most important paper by the paper's editorial page editor wondered whether Obama's long list of priorities meant his attention would be dissipated and he would fail on everything.  Many have said that Obama is unlikely to change U.S. foreign policy enough for the tastes of many Bush critics, that the continuity will be too great. Although, as I am writing this post, the day-after comments are not out yet, it would not surprise me if people note that the same day as the inauguration, the Dow tumbled over 300 points.  Hopefully, those Swedes who are deciding to invest in Wall Street won't be disappointed.

Posted on Jan 21, 2009 at 12:08 PM


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