The problem is Obama needed to be more honest.
The fact is the Western democracies he was exalting have been failing to deliver, and autocrats of the world, bare-chested Putin included, benefit indirectly from the resulting disenchantment.
It is not just the soaring unemployment in Europe (likely to prompt a surge by rightist anti-immigrant parties in European Parliament elections this year). It is not just the crisis (contained for now) of the euro and the unresolved issue of how the European integration needed to back the currency is to be achieved. It is not just the widespread disillusionment with a navel-gazing European Union seen as over-bureaucratic and under-democratic. It is not just the growing income disparities in both Europe and the United States, and the spreading middle-class dystopia, and the sense in democracies on both sides of the Atlantic that money has skewed fairness and electoral processes themselves. It is not just the sense that something has gone seriously wrong with a polarized American democracy where scorched-earth Republicans devote their politics to obstruction, and the government can grind to a halt as it did last year, and a C.E.O. can earn $80 million for a few weeks of work while incomes for most Americans are stagnant. It is not just the National Security Agency eavesdropping and data-vacuuming revelations. It’s not just the loss of a sense of possibility for many young people.