The German media are generally fond of President Obama. A writer at the Sueddeutsche Zeitung had Obama's back on missile defense, and his Nobel prize provoked lavish praise from several German editorial pages. But German magazine Der Spiegel is bucking the trend with a long piece by Gabor Steingart in their English edition that loudly proclaims "Obama's nice guy act gets him nowhere on the world stage."

Steingart argues that Obama's desire to "listen to the world" and show respect for foreign leaders has cost him his stature. "Everyone wants respect," writes Steingart of other nations, "but hardly anyone is willing to pay for it." He echoed American critics of Obama's Asia trip: "the White House," he marvels, "did not even stand up for itself when it came to the question of human rights in China." He ends with a particularly damning detail:

There are many indications that the man in charge at the White House will take a tougher stance in the future. Obama's advisors fear a comparison with former Democratic President Jimmy Carter, even more than with Bush. Prominent Republicans have already tried to liken Obama to the humanitarian from Georgia, who lost in his bid to win a second term, because voters felt that he was too soft. "Carter tried weakness and the world got tougher and tougher because the predators, the aggressors, the anti-Americans, the dictators, when they sense weakness, they all start pushing ahead," Newt Gingrich, the former Republican speaker in the House of Representatives, recently said. And then he added: "This does look a lot like Jimmy Carter."