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What Do You Want to Know from Obama's German Fans?

Berlin is abuzz about Senator Obama's upcoming speech on Thursday 7:00 PM local time. How many folks will come to see the messiah? Many press outlets quoted a city government official's estimate of 10,000 to one million people. Wow, that is so precise! It seems that nobody else dares to publish an estimate. This will be an exciting event. It could be huge or quite small...

It is unprecedented. Anne Applebaum writes that Obama's world tour indicates a change in America's political culture: American voters are aware of the damage the current administration has done to the US image and are not indifferent to how their country is perceived abroad: "The Most Popular American in Europe Since Elvis"

I will attend his speech and try to capture the mood in the audience with my video camera. I will also conduct random interviews with ordinary folks in the audience.

What questions shall I ask? Is there anything you would like to know from German Obama fans and critics? (I will also ask American Berliners and others.) I guess, one of the obvious questions would be: Will you support sending German troops to southern Afghanistan, if President Obama asks for it? What else? I'd appreciate your input! Thanks.

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quo vadis on :

The reaction around the world seems a bit over-the-top and I can’t help but feel that everyone is setting themselves up for a big disappointment. My question would be: What specifically would Obama have to do as President to get the same enthusiastic reaction 4 years from now? A few concrete examples of policy positions, international or domestic initiatives etc. would be nice.

Chirol on :

As an American who's lived in Stuttgart for 4.5 yrs and Germany for about 7, I fully support more German troops deployed to Afghanistan including combat troops in the south. I'd also support German troops to Iraq although that'll never happen. I'd ask the following: "Obama rightly claims that in some ways judgment is more important than experience in reference to criticism about his lack of experience. Yet, just as no one would choose someone with 3yrs of experience to run Microsoft, or a first year doctor to do advanced brain surgery, how can anyone trust that he has both the experience and judgement to be president? After all, judgment comes from experience!"

Joe Noory on :

[i]What Do You Want to Know from Obama's German Fans?[/i] Exactly what the average German wanted to know from Americans in runup to Merkel-Schroeder-palooza: [b]Absolutely nothing.[/b] We Americans have our own policy issues to hash out with one another. Actually, I DO have a question: how many Germans get to vote in another nation's elections? Can you fixate on only one of the candidates, call it "analysis" or somesuch, and keep any of your integrity with Americans? Nope. If an unhealthy partisan interest in our politics on the part of non-Americans didn't even wash with most Democrats in the past, it sure won't wash now. Americans know full well that the more interest a figure gets from abroad with the express goal of wanting to be pleased, the more likely they are to NOT want to vote for them. We elect for our own interest first, as would any sane German. We turn on people who even appear to make themselves beholden to foreigners - especially if they're interest in it is to limit Americans' freedom of action, is their economic competator, and has a history of being duplicitous with the United States as Europeans do. I mean can you imagine the reaction if there were a vocal group of Americans, including members of the press, out there thumping for Gysi?

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

Re your third paragraph: I don't understand. In response to your fourth paragraph: Anne Applebaum is quite a conservative, but she also says: [i]It's also useful for American voters to spend some time thinking about how their president will be perceived abroad because that's where he's going to be spending a lot of his time, like it or not. Bill Clinton was a domestic policy wonk who wound up trying to negotiate peace in the Middle East. George W. Bush wanted to do immigration reform and Social Security and wound up doing Iraq. If Obama or McCain is going to be preoccupied with foreigners, perhaps it's not a bad idea for both to prove that they can cope.[/i] To answer the question in your last sentence: Amusement.

Joe Noory on :

Yes, It does matter how the President is perceived abroad, but this is a candidate, the interest is uneven, biased, functioning in the vacuum of imagining that they know who the winner is, and is entirely unprecedented in scale. It also indulges delusions that they have undue influence or should have undue influence over US domestic affairs. Were anyone, even Europeans to take a slightly risible interest in a German election, save for the passing interest once it happens, I don't think it would be amusement - I think they would lash out at even three days worth of what the US is treated to permanently. Germans have always been paranoid about outside opinion of the society and state, and you know it. Let's face it - the collective leadership of all of Europe would not get half of the interest, involvement, abuse, and naive support as Europeans are lending in the case of the US election. If you knew much about the tides and turns of politics, both Clinton and Bush set out to dwell on a domestic focus only to have it change to an international focus within the first year. There is absolutely no way of knowing what Obama's rhetoric about what you think you can get from him in 2010. Nothing at all. As for "having to prove something" by dealing with the wealthiest begging, nattering, and medding people on earth, there is absolutely no reason anyone should have to. As for "negotiating peace in teh middle east" in the Levant, the Arab governments (outside of Beirut) don't want peace, and the Lebanese are basically under Teheran's thumb. In large part there is little to sit around a table and talk about without a change in the balance of powers. In the gulf, we are not in a position where we should negociate until we are much less in a position of having to concede a great deal. The Iranian economy needs to wear down more, Iraq needs more time to solidify its' position, and in case you're wonder ing what the left want to do: it's to reverse any benefit possible by abandining the Iraqis, pretending to look like they're getting tough with Iran while they agree to not pressure them, and give the European concept a chance to fail. While the Iranians continue to lead the EU-3 by the nose neciciating, they will build their nukes, complete their grip on Hamas and Lebanon, and put in place all the ingredients they need to threaten a 3rd world war using violence as leverage. And THAT is the policy you're hoping will come out of the White House? Is there some deus ex machina set of events that they think will short circuit this without continuing the prolicy of creating a DISINCENTIVE to war by terroist proxy with the west? And if "amusement" is all they're after, "fuck 'em". Let them wallow around in their empty little lives without us. They aren't entitled to amuse themselves at the expense of the future of my country. If anything tells you that their criticisms are not to be taken as sincere, it's that very pattern of wanting to see an America criticised, seemingly degraded, abased, or whatever, for no reason other than the brandishing of their egoism which has a goal the diminution of the US while bemanding that Americans not discuss it, not criticise them, and help them do it. Case point, the sidebar link about the predictably vindictive San Fransisco leftists wanting to rename sewerage plant after George Bush. Is the all there is to the depth of intellect of European IR grads? Are they trying to make tangible the transatlantic relationship by posting a celebratory hate-sheet like so many others we've seen that have ABSOLUTELY NOTHIN TO DO with IR? Want to know what a random American passing along would take that for?: - That there is no Europeean worth talking to, much less listen to who their favorite candidate is. Those they advocate are out of hatred of us. - That if they support something, it's probably in your interest to investigate it's polar-opposite as an option.

influx on :

"Germans have always been paranoid about outside opinion of the society and state, and you know it." Classic. Just state something, without a single proof, just put it out there, and use it as a working thesis. When and where have they proved to be paranoid about outside opinion in the last 50 years, more than other countries? "If you knew much about the tides and turns of politics, both Clinton and Bush set out to dwell on a domestic focus only to have it change to an international focus within the first year. There is absolutely no way of knowing what Obama's rhetoric about what you think you can get from him in 2010. Nothing at all." Again, classic. Talking down, implying that you, Joe, do know more about "the tides and turns of politics" than Joerg. All that to make a point that is as mundane and useless as saying that we do not know what will happen in 2010. Wonderful piece of wisdom there: we cannot look into the future. As if anyone here has said anything to the contrary.

Joe Noory on :

Being about 15 years older than Jörg, I can safely make that assumption. As for policy focus changing soon after Clinton and Bush stepped into office: that's a fact that your effort to talk me down won't change, as is the German habit of worrying what opinions outsiders have of them.

influx on :

"As for policy focus changing soon after Clinton and Bush stepped into office: that's a fact that your effort to talk me down won't change" Joe, it would be nice if you developed a habit of reading other people's comments before replying to them. I never denied that Clinton's or Bush's policy focus changed. I even agreed with you that it's likely to happen to Obama as well (if he's elected). The only thing I criticized was that this point is so obvious and mundane, yet the way you write it down, you make it sound as if everyone else is thinking otherwise.

Joe Noory on :

If you did agree with the point about policy being overcome by international events, you didn't say it. I also don't see how my "talking down" is any different from the blind, zombie-like, near absolute uniformity of thought by the Europeans who take an interest in the US elections isn't seen as exceedingly worse and naive.

influx on :

So because I didn't say it, you assumed otherwise and started lecturing me? Beautiful tactic. But seriously, how could anyone not agree with as bland and obvious a statement as "politics are sometimes overcome by international events"? Do you also assume I deny circles are round because I haven't said so explicitly? I am still waiting on one of the dozens of examples of European editorials demanding the European right to vote in the US election, btw. Just because I would hate to think you're making this stuff up.

Joe Noory on :

No, I arrived at that rather rationally when you said with a broad sweep that I was making a broad sweep. You will come to realize this when you read your own comment again.

Fuchur on :

[i]Case point, the sidebar link about the predictably vindictive San Fransisco leftists wanting to rename sewerage plant after George Bush. Is the all there is to the depth of intellect of European IR grads?[/i] Talking about "depth of intellect": there's a fat blue headline over the sidebar links, saying: "Tips From Our Readers".

Zyme on :

My question would be "What makes you believe he will conduct foreign politics more successfully than G. W. Bush?" What other question could be more debunking when it comes to actual knowledge about Obama?

Bill on :

You are right Jörg in stating that there is a great deal of excitement building here in Germany re: Barack Obama's visit to Berlin. I think it would be hard to predict how many people will actually attend this event but the number of people who would like to attend number in the millions, no doubt. One thing is for sure, the press coverage and media coverage of the candidate's visit will reach millions of people here in Deutschland and Germany's Der Spiegel magazine already has Obama as a cover story this week. Re: what questions you should ask people on the street in Berlin tomorrow here's two for you: Question Nr. 1 Why do you think there is so much excitement and attention in Germany for this particular US presidential candidate vs. US presidential candidates from years past? Question Nr. 2 Do you think it could ever happen here? Clarification: That Germany could elect a Bundeskanzler/in of color or someone with a different ethnic background than the stereotypical German that is "branded" into so many people's minds. After all, there are an estimated 750,000 "black Germans" here and some of these young people shall rise through the ranks of German political parties over the next decade. Could it happen here? I am very pleased that you will be attending this event and will write about your experiences at the Atlantic Review. I'll notify the workgroup about this development today.

Joe Noory on :

Great. If Germans are going to get that goo-goo-eyed over a politician, any politician, let them then elect Obama as their Chancellor. In a great moment of orgasmic elation, they could also disband all checks and balances based on some false notion they have about his persona and background as the sole basis to vest absolute power in him, and wear pictures of him on t-shirts. You can keep him. As I said earlier, it DOES matter that we know what non-Americans think, but since Europeans are predatory economic competators using the power of government to advance corporate champions, and want the US to forever be in a position of begging them not to undermine Us policy, then what more would we need to know about their "vote" for US president? .Take it as a reason to vote the other way, as their first choice would be to oppose what's in the United States' interest. Simple as that. We have been listening. Mr. Obama is doing nothing new.

Fuchur on :

Maybe you should give out cards with the address of this blog (or the atlantic community) - who knows, maybe some of the people you interview will come here and comment about what they thought of the speech?! I'd be interested in what kind of crowd it is: Where do they stand politcally, did they hate/like Bush, would they consider themselves pro-American or critical of America, are they Obama-fans or did they just come because they were curious... Maybe a stupid question, but it could be fun: What German politician would you consider most similar to Obama?

Bill on :

Great questions Fuchur and a good idea that business cards are handed out to (some) of the interviewees for a follow-up. I think that many people will attend out of curiousity (did I spell that right?) or they just want to be part of a big "event" like the Love Parade or the Fan Mile during football championships. Conversations that I have had with many "average German" citizens and residents about the US presidential campaign and the upcoming elections are often interesting and animated with lots of emotion, but I come away often with the feeling that most people here are not really aware of the candidates respective positions on critical global and domestic issues despite the massive press and media coverage they both have received in Europe. It's sort of like "Obama is young and dynamic and exotic and has fresh ideas" which is good for Germany and Europe and "McCain is old and tired and a typical American and will just continue President Bush's disastrous foreign policies" (especially re:the war in Iraq) which is bad for Germany and Europe. It's just that black & white for many people across Europe I think. Note that I am using quotes in the statement above and that these are not my own personal views. My views on the issues and the candidates are well___ complex. Of course after the November elections and the January 2009 inauguration the euphoria in Europe will quickly evaporate, no matter which candidate wins.

John in Michigan, USA on :

Two question's for Obama's German fans: [url=http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2008/07/11/obama-death-penalty-for-bin-laden/]Sen. Obama is in favor of the death penalty if bin Laden is captured and convicted[/url]. Does this affect your opinion of Obama? If not, why not? My second question might be better for a talk show than for members of the crowd at a public speech, but anyway: Sen. Obama has said "we would make a decision to bring the full weight of not only U.S. justice, but world justice down on [bin Laden]". Should the US be required to take the death penalty off the table for bin Laden in order to permit prosecution by organizations such as the ICC?

Andrew Yu-Jen Wang on :

George W. Bush’s sentence-by-sentence speaking skills are deteriorating. Apparently, this may be due to a mental illness called “presenile dementia.” Bush may or may not be secretly still drinking heavily. Bush lied, and thousands of people died. Bush suffers from narcissism and megalomania. Moreover, Bush has been arrested three times. Bush was arrested for disorderly conduct. Bush was arrested for stealing. Bush was also arrested for a serious crime—driving under the influence of alcohol. There are reasons to believe that Bush suffers from a learning disability. Bush’s learning disability would explain a lot of things. All in all, Bush is a severely mentally ill individual. Bush is not fit to be the president of the United States. Bush should be locked up. Submitted by Andrew Yu-Jen Wang B.S., Summa Cum Laude, 1996 Messiah College, Grantham, PA

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