Obama and Sarkozy – are they assets or liabilities?

The future leadership of both the United States and France is an important issue for the world, and their respective Presidents — Barack Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy — will face the voters within the next year.

Both are in trouble. In fact, you have to search hard to find a national leader anywhere in the world who is not in trouble. They are the most ordinary lot that I have encountered in my life.

Barack Obama has found that governing America is much different to running a successful election campaign, and he has struggled, in very difficult economic conditions, to make the transition from politician to statesman. Nevertheless, he is doing a better job than John McCain would have done had he been elected and he is streets ahead of George W Bush in stature and achievements.

Nevertheless, he is eminently beatable if the Republicans can find the right candidate. So far, no one of stature has emerged who could fill this role. If one of the two front runners, Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin, gains nomination, they will ensure Obama’s re-election. Palin is so far out to the right that she is a joke and Romney tries to pretend that he is out there with her. The only candidate who occupies the middle ground is Jon Huntsman, former US Ambassador to China. If he can win the nomination, Obama could have a fight on his hands.

Across the Atlantic, the selection of a new President of France is even more important as the fate of the European Economic Community, and the very shaky Euro, is at stake.

Sarkozy, one of the most unstable Presidents that France has ever had, was in real political trouble until his likely opponent, Strauss Kahn, fell from grace in circumstances that revealed his total unsuitability to hold any office of responsibility, and makes one wonder whether we all would have come out of the GFC in a lot better shape if he had not been in charge of the IMF.

This calamity should have insured Sarkozy’s re-election if Marie Le Pen had not appeared from the far right of French politics to challenge him. She is a charismatic crowd-pleaser with all the earmarkings of a demagogue, but she has badly frightened Sarkozy to the extent that he is moving to the right in trying to steal some of her vote.

All that he has achieved is to give her a lot more oxygen than she otherwise would have had. If she wins, she will give-up the Euro and restore the Franc, encouraging Chancellor Merkel to do the same with the Mark. This will destabilise the world for a while, but the reality is that the Euro has always been an illegitimate currency, a waif that no one owns.

My hope is that Obama will win and become a better President in his second term than he has been in his first.

Over in France, we should all pray that a quality candidate appears who is neither Sarkozy nor Le Pen.