It’s remarkable that he went there. I don’t mean that it’s remarkable that Barack Obama went to Berlin to make a speech (although it’s odd, which is something like remarkable); I mean that it’s remarkable that in that much-anticipated speech he chose to criticize the United States. There was no need. He could have given a nice speech and talked about so many things, without having to go there — that is, to criticize his own country in front of a crowd of hundreds of thousands of foreign citizens. Did he think he needed to earn their votes? I honestly thought he was more politically astute.
It brought to my mind, for a moment, that website that was put up in the wake of the 2004 election, where Americans were invited to post photos of themselves apologizing to the world for the re-election of George W. Bush. Many gladly complied, like the urbane gentleman pictured to the right.
Now, I know that what Obama said today was considerably more nuanced. He said:
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.
What’s to argue with? Am I saying that America has perfected itself? Of-course not. (Further to the point, I don’t believe America ever will perfect itself.) But the place to talk to crowds about what improvements arguably need to be made to the American experiment is in America. And that goes double — nay! quadruple — if you are a candidate running for the office of president of the United States. You can say to someone, “Well, of-course America’s not perfect, and the senator was merely trying to be frank and trying to be empathetic to his foreign audience, blah blah,” but people react to this kind of thing on a visceral level. Why, when engaged in a campaign to win the votes of American citizens in November, would Barack Obama go overseas and implicitly apologize for America’s imperfections to an enormous crowd of Germans?
It remains to be seen whether this will resonate or be remembered at all as the campaign progresses. But it didn’t help him one bit, and it was an entirely unforced error on Obama’s part.
On another note, I wonder if he’s succeeded in putting Massachusetts in play?
As we speak, cars in Boston […] are melting the ice caps in the Arctic, shrinking coastlines in the Atlantic, and bringing drought to farms from Kansas to Kenya.
Woah! Sounds like we need to put a checkpoint up at the Ted Williams Tunnel and start arresting people for genocide!
(OK: the redacted part is “and factories in Beijing”, but, again, Chinese citizens have no votes in November.)
Actually, in contrast to the statement about America’s imperfections, this one shows some political astuteness. There is nothing Barack Obama could say that would make him lose Massachusetts in November. He should probably utilize Bostonians as a euphemism for dumb Americans as a rule from now on.
(No offense intended to readers from that part of this fair land.)