I have just watched Obama’s Berlin speech. As so often with him, it was the spectacle that counted. A beautiful summer’s evening, a cheering multi-racial crowd (I didn’t know there were so many blacks in Germany), the charismatic young senator.
What Obama actually had to say was pretty much beside the point. But I thought the speech itself was competent. The only bit where it really took off was when he gave his “I love America” peroration at the end. To get a German crowd cheering an evocation of the American dream was an achievement – and it did link into his big theme, which appeared to be something to do with “our common humanity”. (As a Dalek, I was unmoved by this.)
Generally, the speech was artfully-designed to avoid giving offence either to American voters or to a German audience. Wisely, Obama obeyed the nostrum that “partisanship stops at the water’s edge” – so he did not bash Bush or McCain or pander hugely to German hostility to the Iraq war. When the crowd began to chant “Obama” in response to his promise to “bring this war to an end” – he did not milk the moment, and moved swiftly onwards. The only vaguely tough bit, was when he appealed for more German help in Afghanistan – a call that was met with tepid applause. Anyway, Angela Merkel appears to have ruled that out in advance.