Warm welcome, few policy wins for Obama in Europe

DEAUVILLE, France – As President Barack Obama jets across Europe, he is highlighting the characteristics of his presidency his supporters adore and his detractors criticize: sweeping speeches before enamored crowds and policy sessions that emphasize deliberate discussion over concrete results.

The four-country, six-day tour has produced plenty of enduring images, from Obama knocking back a pint of Guinness in a tiny Irish village and drawing tens of thousands for remarks in central Dublin, to hobnobbing with Britain’s royal family at Buckingham Palace. But there have been few memorable policy breakthroughs.

Even at the G-8 summit in France, Obama and world leaders agreed on a path toward financially supporting fledgling democratic movements in Egypt and Tunisia, but stopped short of backing a specific monetary package. The G-8 did say it would aim to provide $40 billion in funding, though officials did not provide a breakdown of where the money would come from or when.

That’s not to say Obama’s trip won’t be considered a success. The kind of soft diplomacy the president has engaged in can go a long way in currying favor from allies when their support is needed on tough issues. And the White House doesn’t have to look far down the line for opportunities to cash in on that support, with the first phase of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan set to begin in July, and the U.S. and its NATO allies locked in a bombing campaign in Libya that has no end in sight.

The White House also hopes images of the president being greeted by cheering crowds and American-flag waving Europeans could give Obama a boost on the domestic front, where Republican contenders are lining up to run for his job. One of those GOP hopefuls, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, already has taken a dig at Obama’s popularity here, taking to Twitter to say he “sorry to interrupt the European pub crawl,” but could Obama outline his Medicare plan?

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