"Germany meets the Super-Star": Awaiting Obama's visit to Berlin

Discussion in 'Politics & Law' started by Sim, Jul 23, 2008.

  1. Sim

    Sim Registered Member

    In case any of you folks here are interested what Europeans think about the American campaign:


    The popular German weekly is showing Obama, who is going to visit Berlin on Thursday, on the cover of their latest issue:

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    "Germany meets the Super-Star"

    The paper offers an 11-page article about Obama, the American campaign and the expectations held in Germany towards Obama. Here a few excerpts:


    Obama for Germany

    (...) Barack Obama's voice will not be heard at the Brandenburg Gate. It's too soon for that. He is often compared to Kennedy and evokes similar expectations, but he still isn't big enough to get thrown into the mills of German politics: His wish to hold a speech at Brandenburg Gate has been rejected by Chancellor Angela Merkel.

    But at least, he will come to Berlin. He is being expected like a magician who can turn a bad world into a good one. Never before, the visit of a designated candidate has evoked so much fuss in Germany. (...)
    Obama is the hope of a Western world that is plagued by many sorrows. (...) The West is searching for its new place in an "incompleted world order", as Peter Bender called the current state. How strong will China, Russia and India become? How will the West treat these countries? And, is there still such a thing as "the West"?

    It's the hour for leadership. And only one man is trusted to master this task: Barack Obama. Especially the Germans put their hope in him, 76% consider him the better candidate [compared to McCain with 10% only]. Obama for Germany. (...)
    Obama visits a country that is seemingly missing leadership. (...) Blandness everywhere, so the American charismatic must appear like a messiah to many.

    Especially because there is much work to do in order to rebuild German-American relations. Certain doubts about the big brother on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean have grown to genuine discord during the Bush era. So there is much ahead for a man, who has not even been elected yet. (...)

    His wish to speak at Brandenburg Gate has rather received ungracious reactions in America. (...) Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit, on the other hand, understood instantly Obama would like to speak there. Where else? The Gate used to be a symbol for German division and now the landmark for unity, Berlin's most famous location.

    Wowereit was flabbergasted when Chancellor Angela Merkel issued concerns against Obama's speech in front of the Gate. The official explanation was that such an important and symbolic place should not become the arena for a foreign electoral campaign. (...)

    Possibly, Merkel [center-right Christian Democrat] sees the visit through partisan glasses. A victory for the Democrat Obama might be a push for the German Social Democrats [center-left]. In Klaus Wowereit's office [Social Dems], there are suspicions Merkel does not begrudge the Mayor such a nice opportunity. (...)

    On thursday, the Germans will be able to see Obama with their own eyes for the first time. And they hope to learn something about his plans, also for Germany.
    In the political spheres in Berlin, there is a small rift when it comes to the evaluation of the candidate: The conservative camp [Merkel's Christian Dems] emphasizes the differences between Obama and McCain are being exaggerated. Maybe the "honeymoon" would last longer with McCain, CSU [Bavarian conservatives] foreign policy expert Karl-Theodor Freiherr zu Guttenberg says. But at the latest on the NATO summit next spring, the "break line" would be reached. Then, any US President would reveal his ideas for a new transatlantic cooperation, including demands for more troops for violent south Afghanistan.

    This estimation is shared by most experts in American research institutes. There are warnings of overdrawn expectations, McCain's qualities and experience are emphasized, he should not be underestimated, there are warnings of the Democrat Obama's lack of experience, who will likely face one or the other bad surprise sooner or later.

    Foreign politicians of SPD [center-left Social Dems], FDP [libertarians] and Green Party [center-left environmentalists] are not impressed by these warnings. With Obama, it would "finally be possible again to talk about common values", FDP foreign policy expert Werner Hoyer rejoices. Green politician Jürgen Trittin expects a "genuine new start", supported by former Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer [Green Party]: "We know with more or less certainty what we'd get with a President McCain". There would be no change in the substance of American policies, unlike the case Obama will be elected. He could possibly "fail, fail big time even, but he could also become one of the really great American Presidents". Foreign Minister Steinmeier [center-left Social Dem] hopes the Democratic Senator would stand "for a new, open American foreign policy" as President. (...)

    These are the expectations in Germany. But the image of the new candidate is unclear. (...) Obama's ambition to reconcile Europeans and Americans is visible. He places emphasis on cooperation, in order to stop the free fall of America's reputation abroad. "The Americans don't want to be the skunk on the garden party any longer", Jackson Janes, director of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies says. Obama wants to be popular, yes. But he wants more: He and his advisers leave no doubt partnership also means asking allies to take more responsibility. A President Obama will support in order to demand. "Tough love" Americans call this style of policy, which provides stick and carrot at the same time. (...) "The Europeans have to decide if they want to be a world power, or not", [Zbigniew Brzezinski] says. If yes, that means partaking in decisions -- but also partaking in responsibility and paying the bill. (...)

    Regarding climate protection, both candidates supposedly appeal to the Germans. (...) [Obama's] model here is the German energy policy of the former red-green coalition [Chancellor Schröder's center-left government 1998-2005]. "Germany, a country as clouded as the pacific north-west of our country, now is the world leader regarding solar technology", he said on a speech late July in Las Vegas. America has to copy and surpass this example, so his message. (...)

    For Germany, the probably most important aspect of these elections is that Bush will go. Who ever will succeed him will have to face the challenging task of renewing the difficult German-American relations. For more than 50 years, these relations had been clear and unambiguous. The victorious power, which had defeated and divided Germany, soon became a protecting power a warrant for freedom of the Western state, against the lust for expansion of the communist neighbor. Symbol for this role was Berlin. (...) Friendship with the USA became reason of state. Of course there was disagreement now and then, but the true core of the relation, which had always been more similar to family bond than an alliance between states, was never damaged.

    When the solution of the German Question was on the schedule in 1989, the American partners rewarded the Federal Republic for their decade-long loyalty. President George Bush sr unconditionally supported the German Reunification -- against Britain and France who feared a new dominance of their historical rival. His successor played saxophone when he had to go to war, he preferred to do it for human rights. Because of that, even the Germans were ready to join him.

    In retrospect, those were the golden years, never had the German-American friendship been closer. (...) In a Pew Institute poll, 78% of the Germans said they have a positive opinion of America back then. In 2007, Pew asked again, and the number of Germans with a positive opinion of America had dropped to 30% only. (...)

    Since Merkel is in the Chancellery, the climate has improved on government level, but the people still doesn't have a better opinion of America. There is no political discussion about the USA and war, without the places Abu Ghureib and Guantanamo being mentioned, places of inhumane barbarism. Only 27% of the Germans would still call America a "power of goodness", the Daily Telegraph reported recently. (...)

    The Texan Bush is the embodiment of everything Germans dislike about America: The stubbornness of the Southener, carelessness and boastfulness. Obama is much closer to the Germans, despite his skin color, he seems less strange, he has this wonderful European attitude: Not cowboy from Texas, but Harvard graduate with an urban background, instead of a "straight shooter" a man who values dialog and mutual understanding. (...)


    The article can be found in the latest print version of Der Spiegel.
     

  2. ExpectantlyIronic

    ExpectantlyIronic e̳̳̺͕ͬ̓̑̂ͮͦͣ͒͒h̙ͦ̔͂?̅̂ ̾͗̑

    I remember reading a Der Spiegel article about Obama during the primaries, and realizing how much simply electing him would do to reform America's image abroad. That, to me, is a good reason to vote for him. Not sufficient reason in itself, of course, but certainly something in his favor.
     
  3. Sim

    Sim Registered Member

    At least here in Germany, people love Obama. As mentioned in the article above, 76% of the Germans would vote for him, 10% only for McCain.

    Bush has played away much of support and sympathy American enjoyed here after 9/11. The German government had declared "unconditional support" for America and we supported the war in Afghanistan, but then Bush started spitting right in our face, by ignoring our concerns regarding the Iraq war, claiming that "who is not with us, is against us", declaring us enemies, just because of a different opinion. When France, Germany and Russia openly started opposing the Iraq war, he started an ugly hate-campaign in the US, labeling us "anti-American" (as if there were no Americans opposing his plans), "terrorist appeasers" or even "cheese eating surrender monkeys". Rumsfeld attempted to split and divide the EU, by separating Europe in "old Europe" and "new Europe".

    Never before, America's image abroad has suffered as much as under Bush. In the late 90s, 78% of the Germans said they have a positive image of the US. In 2007, this number had dropped to 30% only.

    People over here believe Obama stands for another America: Not the arrogance of power, not blatant militarism, ugly hatred and the basest instincts -- but for cooperation, common values and mutual respect.


    Here my full report from the event:

    Today I went to see Obama speaking at Siegessäule in Berlin and I found it was an amazing experience.

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    200,000 people had come to see him speaking, the whole avenue was crowded all the way from Siegessäule (the pillar you see on the picture) and Brandenburg Gate a few miles down. I wouldn't have expected Obama attracts so many people, only comparable to the public viewing for the soccer Euro Cup last month.

    The atmosphere was very nice, there were many members of Obama's staff asking Americans living abroad to register for voting. I talked with some of them, most of them had not come from America for this occassion, but are living in Berlin. The staff also sold Obama T-shirts and buttons and American flags.

    There were also many English speaking people around; I happened to run into three American visitors at the entrance controls (where they checked for weapons or other dangerous tools) and we started talking. One of them was a mid-50s psychology professor from Berkeley and he had one of his grad students with him, a charming girl from Minnesota, as well as his boyfriend, an architect of the same age as him. They incidentally happened to be in Berlin due to a psychologist's conference. Since we arrived very early to get a top spot, we had three hours to wait until Obama's speech would begin. We chatted a lot about American and German politics, customs and the campaign. They also asked me whether JFK actually called himself a donut back then and I explained that story to them. ;)

    Since we arrived at 4:30pm already (Obama's speech was scheduled for 7pm), we got a nice spot, only about between 30 or 40 meters from the panel. About 10 meters right hand, there was a media tribune with many journalists, including FOX News -- needless to say, the Americans, two boyfriends from California and a Berkeley student, were staunch Obama supporters and kept screaming "Screw you, FOX News! Go home!". No idea if that made it on their report, though. ;)

    When Obama finally arrived at about 7:20pm, there was a huge applause, everybody cheering. And his speech was great, in my opinion. Maybe a bit lofty and missing concrete plans, but much pathos, most inspiring and just what Germans loved to hear. Here a few excerpts:

    Sixty years after the airlift, we are called upon again. History has led us to a new crossroad, with new promise and new peril. When you, the German people, tore down that wall - a wall that divided East and West; freedom and tyranny; fear and hope - walls came tumbling down around the world. From Kiev to Cape Town, prison camps were closed, and the doors of democracy were opened. Markets opened too, and the spread of information and technology reduced barriers to opportunity and prosperity. While the 20th century taught us that we share a common destiny, the 21st has revealed a world more intertwined than at any time in human history.

    The fall of the Berlin Wall brought new hope. But that very closeness has given rise to new dangers - dangers that cannot be contained within the borders of a country or by the distance of an ocean.

    The terrorists of September 11th plotted in Hamburg and trained in Kandahar and Karachi before killing thousands from all over the globe on American soil.

    As we speak, cars in Boston and factories in Beijing are melting the ice caps in the Arctic, shrinking coastlines in the Atlantic, and bringing drought to farms from Kansas to Kenya.

    Poorly secured nuclear material in the former Soviet Union, or secrets from a scientist in Pakistan could help build a bomb that detonates in Paris. The poppies in Afghanistan become the heroin in Berlin. The poverty and violence in Somalia breeds the terror of tomorrow. The genocide in Darfur shames the conscience of us all.


    It flew very well with the German audience he would emphasize the global nature of many problems, including climate change, we can only overcome when cooperating one with the other. Every second sentence was answered with wild applause and cheers.

    Applause was especially intense, when he said this:

    In this new world, such dangerous currents have swept along faster than our efforts to contain them. That is why we cannot afford to be divided. No one nation, no matter how large or powerful, can defeat such challenges alone. None of us can deny these threats, or escape responsibility in meeting them. Yet, in the absence of Soviet tanks and a terrible wall, it has become easy to forget this truth. And if we're honest with each other, we know that sometimes, on both sides of the Atlantic, we have drifted apart, and forgotten our shared destiny. (...)

    So history reminds us that walls can be torn down. But the task is never easy. True partnership and true progress requires constant work and sustained sacrifice. They require sharing the burdens of development and diplomacy; of progress and peace. They require allies who will listen to each other, learn from each other and, most of all, trust each other.


    An overwhelming applause! And Bush or McCain would probably rather have bitten off their tongues than saying such a sentence.

    But he also made clear he has certain demands towards Europe:

    For the people of Afghanistan, and for our shared security, the work must be done. America cannot do this alone. The Afghan people need our troops and your troops; our support and your support to defeat the Taliban and al Qaeda, to develop their economy, and to help them rebuild their nation. We have too much at stake to turn back now.

    Yet, the crowd was cheering. It's obvious none of them has anything against aiding America in the "War on Terror", even when that means risking more lives and spending more money, as long as America is respectfully asking for it, treating their allies we are on the same eyelevel, and respect our concerns.

    No, obviously, Germans never were "anti-American". They just didn't like being bullied around by an arrogant cowboy such as Bush, who confused alliance with unconditional submission.

    When Obama said these sentences --

    I know my country has not perfected itself. At times, we've struggled to keep the promise of liberty and equality for all of our people. We've made our share of mistakes, and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions.

    -- an approving laughter went through the masses. I had the distinct impression most people there thought just the same: "Not living up to the best intentions" is a bitter euphemism for the horrible, abominable derivations under Bush. And everybody loved Obama for pointing that out. Everybody felt he is one of us.

    Here, you find a transcript of the whole speech, if you're interested.


    At any rate, it was a great experience. I also registered at the Democrats Abroad-staff there to volunteer in the Obama campaign. I have no idea whether they are going to contact me, I figure there is not much left to do for Obama supporters over here in Germany, after his speech is done.

    Obama's charisma and outstanding qualities as orator were just too obvious: I was surprised about his capability of actually inspiring his audience.

    Now, all that's left to do is crossing the fingers for November.
     
  4. Yawny

    Yawny Registered Member

    Rhetoric is good enough reason to vote for a politician to you? ;)
     
  5. Sim

    Sim Registered Member

    Sometimes, rhetorics are very important in politics. For example, when you want you ally to send troops to a war you are about starting:

    You can either say "hey europinko, now get up your ass and send us some troops. And remember what happens when you don't -- he who is not with us, is against us. And you don't want to have us against you, don't you? We are the last remaining superpower, so now dance when we play the music."

    Or you can say "no nation, no matter how large or powerful can do this alone. We need mutual trust, help each other and learn one from the other. You are the best allies we ever had, and you think the same of us. Now let's sit together and find a way to solve this problem together. You'll have a voice in the decision, but once we've decided, of course we also expect you to contribute."

    In both cases, you ask your ally to send troops. Yet the peoples in the addressed countries will react very differently.
     
  6. Yawny

    Yawny Registered Member

    Rhetoric is empty, its promises are lacking and its use is only to stir the emotions of the public to garner votes. You should not vote for a politician based on how well he can persuade the American, and in this case, German publics ideas. To do so is a very dangerous operation, how do you not agree? Or are you supporting the galvanizing rhetoric produced by that German Chancellor, oh, what's his name? Adolf Hitler? ;)
     
  7. Malificus

    Malificus Likes snow

    Nice job reaffirming Godwin's Law thar.
     
  8. Yawny

    Yawny Registered Member

    If you notice in my previous post in another thread, I quote Godwin's law. The use in this thread was merely for ironic purposes, hence the wink. It just goes to show anyone can pull that argument, to liken something to Hitler or the Nazi regime, it's not very difficult.
     
  9. ExpectantlyIronic

    ExpectantlyIronic e̳̳̺͕ͬ̓̑̂ͮͦͣ͒͒h̙ͦ̔͂?̅̂ ̾͗̑

    Words are actions, and are very important. Do you think all meetings are just people sitting around being idle? I said quite clearly that Obama's popularity abroad is not sufficient reason to vote for him. To suggest that I implied it was, is just a strawman. It does, though, lend to the case for why someone should vote for him.

    What is a good diplomat? A good talker. Diplomacy is a major part of a president's job. Furthermore, a president needs to talk to his nation, and try to set a national tone. Think FDR, when he said, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself," or Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, or Kennedy's, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."

    Think back to the founding days of America. What moved men to fight for independence from England? Words. Words like those of Thomas Paine, when he said, "These are the times that try men's souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country".

    Now, what might anyone possibly use to convince me that words are not important?
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2008
  10. Yawny

    Yawny Registered Member

    Words are not actions, they are quite the contrary. They are used to PROMISE an action but very rarely are the actions behind the words taken to task. Rhetoric is the use of words effectively to stir the emotions of the voting populace, regardless of whether or not there is action behind the words. It is merely a tool to garner votes and all politicians are guilty of this. The sophists taught politicians in ancient Greece how to persuade the voting public with rhetoric, it is the same story today, in our own democracy.

    No, but there is an advertent difference between conversation, discussion, argument and the plain use of rhetoric to persuade a crowd. Anyone can talk, but what is really important is the action behind the talk. So far, Obama has three years in the senate. Three years. He has shown us that he is a wonderfully brilliant orator, he even stirred my emotions at times. But he is still a politician. When people invest all of their hope into one man, without taking into account that we are still a democracy of checks & balances, they will be sorely disappointed by what the outcome actually is. Obama can sell anything, he has the momentum he needs. But what is really going to be interesting, if he wins the election, is if he will be able to appease those he made so many promises to and the American public will not forget.

    Indeed, America's image abroad does need changing, but we have a host of domestic issues we have to suture before we start worrying about our image abroad. These at-home issues are a bigger priority to me.


    You make a very good argument and I would be the last person to assume words have no meaning in a democracy. However, action, also; needs to be taken. You can win an election with words but you can't fix a country with them. There has to be more than just "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." And I don't believe Obama has the right credentials to fix this nation's problems. But on the same token, neither does John Mccain.
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2008

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