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June 20, 2013

So That Obama Berlin Speech Was Pretty Embarrassing, Huh?

I didn't see this at the time, and in fact am just seeing it now, but I've heard a lot of criticism of it, including even Chris Matthews' concession that without his teleprompter, Obama really "struggled" with the text, and including this embarrassing comparison of Obama 2008 and Obama 2012:

But what about the speech? I think the best we can say is that it wasn't as harmful as it could have been, but only because it was so utterly empty.

When John F. Kennedy delivered his “Ich Bin Ein Berliner” speech in front of the Brandenburg Gate on June 26, 1963, 450,000 people flocked to hear him. Fifty years later a far more subdued invitation-only crowd of 4,500 showed up to hear Barack Obama speak at the same location in Berlin. As The National Journal noted, “he didn’t come away with much, winning just a smattering of applause from a crowd that was one-hundredth the size of JFK’s,” and far smaller than the 200,000 boisterous Germans who had listened to his 2008 address as a presidential candidate. JFK had a clear message when he came to Berlin a half century ago – the free world must stand up to Communist tyranny. 24 years later, President Reagan stood in the same spot famously calling on the Soviets to “tear down this wall.” Reagan’s speech was a seminal moment that ushered in the downfall of an evil empire, and gave hope to tens of millions of people behind the Iron Curtain. It was a display of strength and conviction by the leader of the free world, sending an unequivocal message of solidarity with those who were fighting for freedom in the face of a monstrous totalitarian ideology.

In stark contrast to that of his presidential predecessors, Barack Obama’s message on Wednesday was pure mush, another clichéd “citizens of the world” polemic with little substance. This was a speech big on platitudes and hopeless idealism, while containing much that was counter-productive for the world’s superpower. Ultimately it was little more than a laundry list of Obama’s favourite liberal pet causes, including cutting nuclear weapons, warning about climate change, putting an end to all wars, shutting Guantanamo, ending global poverty, and backing the European Project. It was a combination of staggering naiveté, the appeasement of America’s enemies and strategic adversaries, and the championing of more big government solutions.

So why give this speech at all? If he had nothing much to say -- and it appears he did not -- why go through the motions?

In asking that question, let's remember Obama's equally-gaseous, equally-empty Speech Made In Front of an Impressive Array of Flags on May 23. Even the liberal Daily Beast thought it was okay to snark on it, noting that the speech could be easily digested into 248 seconds. But even in that abbreviated form, I don't see any policy initiatives or major statements.

What I see is only Obama whining that his job is hard and that he still really really wants to close Guantanamo.

So once again, the question: If there's nothing to say, why say it?

The HBO film Game Change mocks Sarah Palin for (supposedly) continuing to seek the comfort of her Woobie -- the voters of Alaska -- despite now running for a national office. The movie has a lot of fun mocking Palin's (alleged) obsession with Alaska poll numbers and plans to give speeches in safely-red Alaska.

I don't accept any of that as true. I mention it, though, because what I see Obama doing when he gets into trouble is, like the "Sarah Palin" character of Game Change, continuing to seek to return to his 2008 Woobie of world-adoration and Talkin' About Peace, like a high-school football star who always makes a point of driving by the old field and looking wistfully at the old stands, even 30 years on.

What I see is two speeches empty of new ideas. If there is no policy component to them, then they only have a political component-- that is, for Obama to remind people Hey remember you once liked me, back when I was the rock star of Europe?

But I see it also as having a psychological component, like the "Sarah Palin" character's need for the comfort of past glories.

I think Obama gave these speeches largely for himself, to convince himself that he's still the Rock Star of 2008. But if he was seeking comfort that he still had his Magic and Mojo, it looks like searched in vain.

Below, some embarrassing video of Obama "struggling with the text" -- Chris Matthews' words, mind you -- and then trying to get some kind of Justin Bieber thing going by announcing he was taking off his jacket.

If that video doesn't show for you, you can click over to the Telegraph link, whence I boosted it.

digg this
posted by Ace at 03:03 PM

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