In the ad released on Monday, amid torrents of praise for the leadership of Antonis Samaras with various leaders and news reports providing evidence for the ‘Grecovery’, one voice in particular adds a hefty degree of gravitas: that of US President, Barack Obama.
Immediately before the president speaks, the narrator intones, “Antonis Samaras said that we could avoid the danger of default, of bankruptcy, of exiting the euro. And it happened.” Then Barack Obama is presented as proof of this saying declaratively, ‘The Greek people see a light at the end of the tunnel.”
(Obama speaks ar the 0.55 mark)
In the Greek subtitles the translation starts with a capital letter and ends in a full stop. According to the ad, Barack Obama said a full sentence and that sentence was, ‘The Greek people see a light at the end of the tunnel.”
It may surprise some that the leader of the United States of America would take it upon himself to speak on behalf of the Greek people when talking about lights and tunnels. Especially given that the remarks were actually made in August of 2013 – that is before any primary surplus was achieved (or concocted as many maintain), and long before Greece’s return to the markets.
But he did not.
A quick search on the White House website reveals the full transcript and video of the statements Obama made to reporters after his brief meeting with Antonis Samaras. What he really said was, “And I think Prime Minister Samaras is committed to taking the tough actions that are required, but also, understandably, wants to make sure that the Greek people see a light at the end of the tunnel.”
(the full quote starts at 2.30)
Needless today it is a subtle but all-important difference. The statement “I hope I make a million dollars a year,” cannot be edited down to, “…I make a million dollars a year.”
Not to mention the fact that the statement in question was actually part of a thinly concealed criticism of the European politics of austerity. Here is the even fuller context:
“What we also agreed to is that in dealing with the challenges that Greece faces, we cannot simply look to austerity as a strategy. It’s important that we have a plan for fiscal consolidation to manage the debt, but it’s also important that growth and jobs are our focus, because we know from history that those countries that are growing, those countries where employment is high and people are increasing their productivity and feel as if the economy is moving forward, those countries have an easier time reducing their debt burdens than countries that — where people are feeling hopeless.
And I think Prime Minister Samaras is committed to taking the tough actions that are required, but also, understandably, wants to make sure that the Greek people see a light at the end of the tunnel.” (emphasis added)
Given that unemployment in Greece remains at above 26.5% and the OECD just recently predicted that the country’s economy will remain in recession for 2014, it appears that Mr Samaras still has a lot of work still to do before the Greeks see the light Obama actually referred to.