Last week President Obama apologized for, and tried to fix, the flawed rollout of Healthcare.gov. It didn't go well, and the foreign press noticed. While America has been less than kind in its coverage of Obama's "if you like you plan, you can keep it (for real)" speech, the foreign press has been impressed by the rare sight of a president admitting he screwed up. Still, that's not helping his approval ratings, and the foreign press has picked up on his record low numbers, his declining political clout, and the barely contained glee of Republicans and conservatives.
France: An "extraordinary mea culpa"
In France, which pays for 77 percent of its citizens' health care costs, the press went easy on the president. Le Monde noted that "Mr. Obama did not try to dodge" the problems with the website, which it called the main, but not sole, culprit of Obamacare's failed rollout. The paper also called Obama's speech an "extraordinary mea culpa," and pointed out the president's criticism of the government's outdated IT procurement process. "Technological failure is particularly galling," for a president who won two elections through online campaigning, Le Monde added. Obama's approval ratings, the paper noted, were "almost as low as George Bush in 2006 during the annus horribilis of the stalemate in Iraq." And that's a centrist paper. "The Tea Party could not have dreamed of a catastrophe as overwhelming!" opens the right-leaning Le Figaro, referring to the party as a "conservative, fanatically anti-Obamacare" group that now has to "internalize their jubilation" at Obama's abysmal approval ratings.
Scandinavia: It's a "bandage on a chronic wound"
Norway and Denmark, two of the sort of "socialist" states America's right fears the U.S. is turning into, are a little more aware of the political stakes. Norway's Aftenposten called the move a temporary fix to stop the "growing revolt" within the Democratic party. "Obama offered yesterday a temporary solution, a kind of bandage on a chronic wound," Aftenposten wrote. Denmark's conservative Jyllands Posten declared that Obamacare was "defeated" when the House — including 39 Democrats — passed Rep. Fred Upton's Keep Your Plan act.
Canada: Obamacare killed the Keystone Pipeline
Obama has lost a lot of political weight in the last month and a half, which means he'll have trouble negotiating on issues like immigration reform, budget debates and... the Keystone XL pipeline. Kelly McParland, the editor of the conservative National Post's opinion section, argued today that the Keystone XL Pipeline, which is only opposed based on "emotional" arguments, would be been approved if Obama still had any political capital. Now he can't afford to anger environmentalist liberals by approving the pipeline. "The rational decision was to approve Keystone despite the political hit the President would have to take," McParland wrote, but the failed Healthcare.gov launch killed that:
Rejecting Keystone would be the wrong decision. It would put a partisan political boost ahead of long-term security concerns, and would be a direct snub at Canada, which has made clear that the pipeline is a major concern in relations with the U.S. [...] But when you’re as politically weakened as Mr. Obama, and desperate for a “victory” wherever you can get it, a project like Keystone makes a pretty juicy-looking target. It would be bad decision-making by a failing president, but it looks more likely than it used to.
Big Environment wins again. That's not to say that Canada's business sector doesn't get anything out of this. Canadian company CGI Federal, the main contractor for the struggling Healthcare.gov, had a better quarterly report than experts expected.