Sunday, July 27, 2008


Maybe you have heard, or maybe you have not, or maybe you just do not care, but presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama paid my little corner of the world a visit last week. I am not sure what the coverage was like in the U.S., but the news was difficult to escape here. I was pretty bummed that I could not travel to Berlin to see Obama speak in person, but the German was kind enough to put the Dude to bed so that I could watch his speech live on TV.

What did I think? Well, the speech was pretty much what I predicted to a friend mine earlier in the day: a lot of rhetoric and lofty phrases in an attempt to reach out to the European community. Although the speech took place in Berlin, I told my friend, make no mistake that this is a man who wants to be president of the United States.

Overall I liked the speech. It spoke to those things that are important to me, as well as signalling a possible change in U.S. foreign policy towards more cooperation.

I have read some criticism of the speech, including that it was inappropriate to hold a "campaign stop," in a foreign country. "Hmm . . . I wonder . . .," I thought, and then I went to the books. Did you know that according to the Statistisches Bundesamt 99,891 Americans live in Germany? An estimated 4 to 10 million Americans live abroad. Wow. And I bet some of us even vote. It is okay for me if presidential candidates decide to reach out to us.

Another criticism I have read is that Obama is too popular abroad. That is, if he is too friendly with other countries then he will not put American interests first. Oddly, no one made this criticism of Bush when he claimed to know Putin's soul. None of these criticisms acknowledges that it might be a good thing to repair America's image abroad. Also, don't think that Obama's speech in Berlin was a slam dunk. There may have been many cheers, but when Obama indicated that Europe needs to play a larger role in Afghanistan, he was met mostly with silence.

Welt am Sonntag, the Sunday paper that the German and I read, had an article today about the trip. One German reporter took to the streets of Brooklyn to see what some New Yorkers thought of the speech. One woman said, "Wow. 200,000 people. Is Berlin that big?" When I read this to the German he actually stopped eating his breakfast and stared at me with his mouth hanging open. (Berlin has a population of about 3.4 million people.) Also quoted was a very eloquent, conservative by the name of Ezra. He said,"An ass hole candidate spoke in an ass hole city to 200,000 ass holes." Gee, Ezra, tell us how you really feel.


While I have to admit to E. that not visiting the troops in Germany was a mistake, I am not sure that McCain's team is exempt from "rookie mistakes."

Tucker Bounds, McCain spokesman, went on Fox News and said that, "It really speaks to the experience that Barack Obama lacks. He prioritizes throngs of fawning Germans over meeting with wounded combat troops in Germany." I think that this speaks to the experience that Bounds lacks. This comment was the front page story of my German paper this morning and also listed on Insulting a coalition partner that you want to convince to take a larger part in military affairs is . . . not such a good idea.

After a little bit of reading I also discovered that McCain thought Putin was the president of Germany, Czechoslovakia was still a country and Iraq and Pakistan share a boarder. Hmm. That must be all that new geography they teach these days.


G in Berlin said...

Well, really- Brooklyn? The US (and Germany) is full of idiots. Brroklyn could give you quite a few of them. And I have good friends in Brooklyn, but there are also people there that have never been more than 3 miles from their homes. As there are here, in Berlin, folks who apparently believe that Al Capone still runs Chicago and that native Americans run around building tepees on the plains, leaving aside the geeral offensiveness in accepting stereotyping of other cultures.

So, if you really want to be shocked, you should see Jay Leno when he does "walk about" and finds lpns that don't know the normal temp of a human!

PS- does your husband know the poplulation of Chicago? Or Boston, NYC, DC? I doubt it, and many Americans don't either.

Claire said...

Hi G. You are right, there are idiots everywhere. I love the "J-walking." There is a comedian in Germany who does something similar.

My husband got a little upset by your comment. Mostly because he actually does know the populations of these cities, especially the capital DC. But then he is a teacher, so one would hope that he knows these things.

G in Berlin said...

I'm sorry to have offended your husband, that wasn't my intent. And I only myself know the sizes of cities when I have looked them up and my retention is poor). I do, however, know NYC and Berlin, as I have lieved in both. I once knew all the others, as friends lived in them. My retention is better for relative size, of course, and I find Berlin to be a charming little city, which is why we made our stay here permanent. I have also seen statistics for Berlin ranging from 3.7 to 4.3 MM. For the US, I tend to find official statistics, but for Germany I just grab the info where I find it, and different official sources have diferent numbers. I think most people from NYC, which has a population of 8-21 MM (8.275MM in 2008 for the 5 boroughs, NY metro area 21MM in 2000, next census release wll be 2010)(depending on how you define it)find other cities to be smaller and some parochial individuals tend to see other cities as much smaller than they actually are.
Here: Berlin (bûr"lin', Ger. berlēn') [key], city (1994 pop. 3,475,400), capital of Germany, coextensive with Berlin state (341 sq mi/883 sq km), NE Germany, on the Spree and Havel rivers. Formerly divided into East Berlin (156 sq mi/404 sq km) and West Berlin (185 sq mi/479 sq km), the city was reunified along with East and West Germany on Oct. 3, 1990.- That's my latest stat on Berlin- at 3.4.
This is probably too much thought for this comment!

J.Hager said...

NYC is stupidly big. It takes me 45 minutes by subway to get from my apartment to work. But oh well. As for comments about the Obama European tour 2008, I can't believe how many whiners are allowed air time on the news, especially McCain. He's become such a baby about this, because he can't compete with the coverage Obama is getting. I used to think McCain was pretty cool, but I hate what he's become just to get his part's nomination. I told Jeremy that we need to run as a Hager/Brena ticket if only to illustrate the absurdities of our election system, the media coverage, and the people voting. Ezra being one of them. :)

Rabble Rouser said...

Oh you know my feelings on Obama! :-)

I actually think it is a great thing that both candidates realize that there is a tremendous amount of work to be done to restoring America's reputation overseas. So in that respect, I don't see anything wrong with Obama's trip. And it certainly isn't a bad thing to be popular overseas. That was a criticism of both Obama and Clinton during the primaries so it isn't too surprising to see that criticism emerge again.

I do think he made some substantial mistakes though. He never should have canceled the trip to see the soldiers at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. And he should own that this is a campaign visit as the format of the stops and the itinerary clearly indicate. The spin from the Obama camp here was that it was solely an exploratory mission. I am curious if there will be a backlash. I think he would have been better served to do a cross the country trip first before going overseas. I don't mean the criss crossing of the country like in the primaries but a series of town halls. People are really hurting and need to feel as though they are being listened to. I wish he had accepted the McCain camp's invitation to do town halls across the country together.

But then again I want him to lose so viva la mistakes! *GRIN*

Rositta said...

I have no stake in who becomes President of the U.S. but truthfully I find Obama is a little like a humourless preacher. I was somewhat offended that during his speech when he spoke of Afghanistan and Nato he mentions every country except Canada who are in the post difficult part of the country and have lost 88 soldiers in the American war. He also wants to reopen NAFTA, hope so, we are Americas largest oil supplier and sure would like that to change. Maybe our gas would get cheaper...ciao
ps. there are some Americans who think we live in Igloos up here in Canada!

The German said...

Well it is time to leave a comment.
1 It seems to me that Mccain and his party (Obama for sure does the same but the light version) try to find a much dirt as can to throw to the other side.
2 If MCCain is really the better canidate, why can't he answer those trivia questions correctly. George W. was clever enough to ask his dad (he told him he should ask Bandar).
And MCCain! If you want to have MCCain in Germany you get a bag of frozen french fries.
So MCCain = potatoe

Rabble Rouser said...


You're certainly not going to hear me defend McCain's international prowess but I would argue that a great deal of the rhetoric that is probably rightly pissing off other countries is designed to appeal to stateside voters. This isn't necessarily a bad idea when you consider he has to find a way to mobilize the conservative base which right now is lackluster (and that's being kind) toward his presumptive nomination.

I also think you have to look at the types of mistakes being made. McCain's equate to stupidity but Obama's are coming across as something else entirely. The whole Siegessäule speech debacle may come back and haunt him. It doesn't matter that Siegessäule was co-opted by Hitler and really had very little to do with his agenda. It is about perception. The amount of phone calls I fielded over this one at the local headquarters was surprising and what was really interesting was that a large percentage of them were from young Jewish voters and not the older Jewish voters we were expecting. I certainly don't think Obama chose Siegessäule because of its Hitler association. Frankly, I wouldn't be shocked if he didn't know the history at all.

Personally, I'm still hoping against hope for a third candidate to emerge.

The German,
You should post more. You make some interesting comments!

1. I'm going to have to disagree with your assertion that Obama throws less dirt. The difference is that he seems to have a proclivity for throwing dirt at his own party going way back to his early runs in Chicago. The race memo in South Carolina is another good example of how the Obama camp works. But then this is sadly the nature of American politics. Honestly I'm stunned that McCain hasn't unleashed Rove on Obama but then that may have more to do with how McCain was smeared by the Republican machine in 2000. Politics is just dirty business all around.

2. I can't say that I believe that McCain is necessarily the better candidate. If I vote for him, it will be more a protest vote against the DNC and less a vote for the man. What I find amazing is the notion that Obama is a great progressive when his rhetoric on women's rights, gay rights, privacy rights and abortion rights indicates otherwise.

And I have now learned my first official word in German! :-)

Anonymous said...

Dear Rabble Rouser!
Thank you for this post. First I want to excuse my expression about the dirtthrowing story. I know that every canidate throws as much dirt as he can in every direction he thinks his oponent could go. But in this case it seems for an european, that there is somebody from the old Georgy-Boy-administration who throws in the same we we have seen it the last 8 Years. (Rove like; only like)Rove = dirtpile number 1
The last 8 years we saw and heard a lot of comments about "old Europe", and so on and so on. And now the presidential canidate of the republicans-(sorry, his team) calls us fawning Germans- what do you think Germans like to hear from a canidate. In this case I have to say Obama can not be that bad. I know that this is an american election and everybody tries to win votes for their party but I have to say: Don't expect anything from somebody you "roved". ;-)

Anonymous said...

Claire, what a lively debate you have stirred up here, it's very enlightening to see how various folks see things. Personally I'm rooting for Obama, not that I dislike McCain that much, but I do feel the Republicans need some time on the sidelines to reflect on some of their decisions in the last 8 years. Good to see attempts by Obama to emphasise the shared paths of Europe and the U.S., both sides of the pond have their faults, but they need to try and thrash out common ground on the forthcoming challenges.
Greetings from Ireland! Cheers, Brendan