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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Obama’s Berlin Speech

Well, Barack Obama’s delivered his much-awaited speech in Berlin, to a crowd of about 200,000, many of whom were waving, not burning, American flags.
You can see the video and read the transcript, here.
Reactions are slow to trickle in, but outside Republican ranks, look to be very positive. It appears (as Chris Cilizza of the Washington Post seems to suggest at length) that Obama took a complicated and inherently risky situation and navigated it well. It was a huge crowd, but Obama did little to whip it into a frenzy. He alluded frequently to big changes in U.S. policy, but did that lightly, and coupled it with direct challenges to Europeans on issues ranging from Iran to Darfur to Zimbabwe to Afghanistan, and to anti-Americanism itself. The whole speech echoed his basic campaign thematics, but sounded relevant to the site and the occasion. And by tying the whole speech to the Berlin Airlift of sixty years ago, Obama kept the audience focused on the absolute high point in post-World War II U.S.-German relations.
It didn’t hurt, either, that Obama worked in very explicit references to his love for America.
We’ll see as it plays out, but early indications are quite good.

One comment on “Obama’s Berlin Speech

  1. sporcupine on

    That was a speech from a man devoted his country’s values and its power, its challenges and its duty to lead. We’ve learned to assume those can’t all go together.
    I thought I heard a quietness in the crowd. It was as though the German left had come to hear a denunciation of Bush and got praise of Truman-and-air-power. Meanwhile the German right stayed home because they didn’t expect the anti-communist, anti-terrorist determination.
    As the American commentariat gears up, something similar may be happening. Do Democrats speak of destiny? Do Republicans listen when they do? The important words of the speech don’t fit within the imaginary fences of our politics.
    We’ve learned that it works another way. Someone who mentions values wants to pull back on military strength. Some one who thinks America must lead wants mainly to address dangers, not push forward for liberty. Someone who recognizes the challenges thinks they mean we can no longer afford to lead.
    I’m quietly sure, though, that FDR and JFK would have applauded loud and long beside their radios. Obama’s take may be uncommon, but it’s what they both taught us and it’s historically sound. Let us all nod firmly and get to work on the international agenda laid out before us today in Berlin.


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