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Thursday, July 24, 2008

“People of the World”

posted by on July 24 at 11:10 AM

I missed part of Obama’s speech in Berlin due to a live-stream freeze, but what I saw seemed subdued in comparison to some of his more stirring speeches in the U.S.

No doubt that’s by design. Obama probably had a crowd in Berlin larger than any he’s ever had in America. If that had been combined with an address more rousing than any he’s ever given in America, it would have quickly become fodder for people wanting to mock him as a candidate for President of Europe or some such. As it was, Obama, with his “People of Berlin, People of the world” refrain, already provided quite a bit of audio grist for the inevitable YouTube parodies that will compare him to any number of interesting global characters who have prefaced their grievances with the call, “People of the world!”

As for the substance, who could argue with anything he said? Some will, no doubt. And, ripped out of context, Obama’s brief remarks on the shortcomings of America will almost certainly be portrayed on the right as Obama having bashed his own country overseas. But his message was fundamentally about all the hearts and lollipops stuff that is at the core of his campaign—people coming together, tearing down walls, uniting against common challenges.

I wasn’t underwhelmed. Obama was walking a tightrope of high expectations and constraints on what he could say in an overseas location, and he once again turned in a near-flawless performance in that regard. But I also didn’t experience this as some sort of key moment in the campaign. Watching the speech, I just didn’t hear anything I didn’t already know about Obama or anything in his world view that surprised me. I didn’t feel like he was showing Germans a side of himself that he doesn’t show Americans. And that, I think, was precisely the intended message.

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People of the world!—SPICE UP YOUR LIFE!
Every boy and every girl!—SPICE UP YOUR LIFE!

Thank you, Spice Girls.

Posted by David Schmader | July 24, 2008 11:19 AM

What about a review of McCain's appearance at a German restaurant in Ohio this morning?!

Posted by stinkbug | July 24, 2008 11:20 AM

Anyone heard anything on the size of the crowd? I had heard on the radio earlier this week that they thought there may be 1 million people there. None of the major "news" websites have an estimate.

Posted by sleestak | July 24, 2008 11:24 AM

@3, I heard it was more around 100K.

Posted by stinkbug | July 24, 2008 11:27 AM

@3--Those reports were for anywhere between 10,000 and one million people. The U.S. press jumped on the one million number. I think it was closer to 100,000.

Posted by Balt-O-Matt | July 24, 2008 11:29 AM

reuters says "a local official" put it at approx 100,000.

Posted by chops | July 24, 2008 11:34 AM

The speech was solid, the venue excellent, and the images extremely impressive.

Posted by obamatron | July 24, 2008 11:36 AM

I hear McCain was playing golf with other vets from the Crimean War - why hasn't the media fawned glowingly over his edited musings on Martian Invasions using Cannons and ignored when he declared war on Greenland?

You guys are so unfair!

Posted by Will in Seattle | July 24, 2008 11:39 AM

too bad the oil spill in the gulf put a smelly damper on mccain's trip to an oil rig.

that's not change we can believe in, my friends. [pause] [pause] [creepy smile]

Posted by chops | July 24, 2008 11:46 AM

Meanwhile, McCain's metamucil finally kicked in and he delivered a successful BM this morning. The mainstream media is estimating the size of the crowd at 1 person.

Posted by Mahtli69 | July 24, 2008 12:10 PM

As Salon pointed out this morning, the phrase harkens back to a speach Berlin Mayor Ernst Reuter gave during the Berlin Airlift, when he implored, "People of the world, look at Berlin!".

So, forthcoming YouTube parodies or no, the phrase was clearly intended to resonate with Berliners - who at least had the satisfaction of hearing an American politician NOT equate them with jelly donuts.

Posted by COMTE | July 24, 2008 12:23 PM

don't get cocky, fellow obama supporters - americans are dumb as rocks & proud of it.

Posted by max solomon | July 24, 2008 12:26 PM


Why is it that whenever we see someone we personally dislike smile it looks creepy or nefarious? I don't like Obama, and think that whenever he smiles he looks like a smug, self satisfied, preening smart ass thats totally getting away with something and knows it. (Which is, strangely enough, exactly how I feel about G.W. Bush's smile (and Hillary's also...).) McCain I'm absolutely indifferent to now (but really wanted to see him beat Gore in 2000), and while his smile seems forced and uncomfortable at times (kinda like someone who knows he's in dying a slow painful death but doesn't want to worry his family) its more sad than creepy or nefarious (like Obama and Bush, both of whom I actively dislike). Is it because we can't allow them the common human empathy we allow people we like, or even are indifferent to?... And what does that say about us? Is whether we can "stomach" a persons smile the base line barometric root indicator of our ability to trust that person?

Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me | July 24, 2008 12:35 PM

@11: please brush up on your jelly donut urban legend facts:

Posted by stinkbug | July 24, 2008 12:36 PM

@13 - Maybe you just hate politicians, all of whom are slimy. For whatever reason, you feel sorry for McCain, so this overrides the slimy factor.

Posted by Mahtli69 | July 24, 2008 12:40 PM

Jezuz! After 8 years of Bush's incoherent mangling of the English language, I want Obama to be president SO bad. The guy knows how to give a speech.

Posted by Reverse Polarity | July 24, 2008 12:49 PM

i must second what @16 said. i'm not sure if everyone realizes it or not, but obama is repeatedly delivering near perfect half hour or longer speeches apparently from memory. that's an impressive feat. many of the speeches i've seen/heard have similar stock phrases and ideas, but each one is extremely structured and well designed. i used to do a lot of public speaking in college so it blows me away that he nails all the technical aspects of giving a speech so well.

i wish people would stop with the chanting already. i think we all need to make a it rule that chanting is never ok, it's creepy.

Posted by douglas | July 24, 2008 1:10 PM

@12 yes north american voters can be silly and uniformed at times, but i would guess smarter and more enlightened than europeans on issues of race.

europeans talk a pretty progressive game, but lets be serious, they dont ever elect politicians who are not white despite having large populations of people of arab, african and indian descent. europeans trash north america for being racist, and being reactonary, but their parliaments are all white as are their local goverments, with very few exceptions such as holland and ireland, europe is a place where minorities are completely locked out of political office. an obama would never exist in a place like europe, hell they wouldnt even ellect him mayor of munich.

when it comes to electing progressive minorites to powerful positions, the us is light years ahead of europe. hell, europe doesnt even have non white cops in positions of power.

north americans voters cant be that dumb if they made obama who was clearly the best, progressive, and eloquent candidate their dem nominee by huge margins and lets be serious here, old man mccain is going to be crushed so get cocky this race is not even close. and another thing W bush stole the elections, gore was elected president here.

Posted by SeMe | July 24, 2008 1:11 PM

People of Earth:

I am leaving soon, and you will forgive me if I speak bluntly. The universe grows smaller every day, and the threat of aggression by any group, anywhere, can no longer be tolerated. There must be security for all, or no one is secure. Now, this does not mean giving up any freedom, except the freedom to act irresponsibly. Your ancestors knew this when they made laws to govern themselves and hired policemen to enforce them. We, of the other planets, have long accepted this principle. We have an organization for the mutual protection of all planets and for the complete elimination of aggression. The test of any such higher authority is, of course, the police force that supports it. For our policemen, we created a race of robots. Their function is to patrol the planets in spaceships like this one and preserve the peace. In matters of aggression, we have given them absolute power over us. This power cannot be revoked. At the first sign of violence, they act automatically against the aggressor. The penalty for provoking their action is too terrible to risk. The result is, we live in peace, without arms or armies, secure in the knowledge that we are free from aggression and war. Free to pursue more... profitable enterprises. Now, we do not pretend to have achieved perfection, but we do have a system, and it works. I came here to give you these facts. It is no concern of ours how you run your own planet, but if you threaten to extend your violence, this Earth of yours will be reduced to a burned-out cinder. Your choice is simple: join us and live in peace, or pursue your present course and face obliteration. We shall be waiting for your answer. The decision rests with you.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | July 24, 2008 1:12 PM

@13 - i said 'creepy.' you say 'nefarious.'

when i see mccain force his mouth into that yellow, gingivitisy grin, i do not empathize.

i think of the tiny, electric shock induced by his campaign handler that runs up from his hand, through his arm, and to his ears that reminds him approximately 1.5 seconds too late that he needs to smile.

this device was necessary because the GOP has rules that no longer allow stage direction in teleprompting due to W's repeated reading of '[smile]' aloud during old speech rehearsals.

Posted by chops | July 24, 2008 1:15 PM

@Seme: I happen to know personally an Iranian man who worked for the German Police, in a very high position for over a decade. He became tired of it and quit, but he was in charge of some pretty interesting things.

He also fought in the Iran/Iraq war when he was 14, so yeah...he was kind of a badass.

Also, the younger generation in Germany has grown up idolizing minorities - honestly due to rap music (or black music, as it is called over there) and so I believe that overall europe will be different in about 20 years.

I do get your point though, just wanted to throw out my experience.

Posted by Original Monique | July 24, 2008 1:35 PM

10 FTW!

Posted by Mike in MO | July 24, 2008 1:58 PM

We won't support ball-less NO-Bama and will re-defeat him in November!!!

Posted by clintonsarmy | July 24, 2008 2:20 PM


Posted by clintonssarmy | July 24, 2008 2:24 PM

Obama/Gort '08!

Posted by NapoleonXIV | July 24, 2008 2:25 PM


Man, I'm just hoping they don't give Keanu a speech like that in the remake - I don't think he's ever successfully spoken that many consecutive words on-screen in his entire career!

Posted by COMTE | July 24, 2008 2:26 PM

Keanuu Baraka nikto!

Posted by NapoleonXIV | July 24, 2008 2:47 PM

Obama's speech, with its roundup of 20th Century history, was a depressing reminder of how pathetic and weak my own American generation is, compared with the Titans of my grandfathers' generation. It made me feel bad all over again about sitting on my ass for the last eight years and whining about what had happened to the nation that was given to me to take care of. While America went to shit, I played videogames, watched TV and went shopping.

Posted by Just Sayin' | July 24, 2008 2:58 PM

Don't feel too bad @28: that's what TPTB wanted you to do...

Posted by COMTE | July 24, 2008 4:36 PM

I know you were castrated and I feel for you. If only I could put bagbalm on your wounds. Ohhhhh!

Posted by Mark in Colorado | July 24, 2008 6:02 PM

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