Barack Obama stepped in front of a massive crowd of 200,000 cheering Germans yesterday and delivered a clarion call to global action. Or a presumptuous, self-serving campaign speech. Of course, most things our presidential candidates do these days are viewed through a partisan lens, but it seems that applies even more so to Obama’s Berlin speech, thanks to the international setting and the hype leading up to the event.
• David Brooks says that when he first heard Obama’s “radically optimistic speech in Iowa,” his “soul stirred.” But a half-year later, “the golden rhetoric impresses less, the evasion of hard choices strikes one more.” There was “exactly one point with which it was possible to disagree” in the entire speech — that Germans should help more in Afghanistan — and “the rest of the speech fed the illusion that we could solve our problems if only people mystically come together.” [NYT]
• Jim Geraghty concurs that if “there was any section of Obama’s speech that was worth some real applause,” it was the part that asked Germans to contribute more in Afghanistan. It “took a smidgen of political courage” and “God bless him” if he can actually convince them to. [Campaign Spot/National Review]
• Marc Ambinder wonders whether the message of global responsibility will work back home. “Is this too presumptuous? Is it what globally conscious Americans have been longing to hear?” [Atlantic]
• Amy Holmes guesses that “maybe the visuals will help,” but says “the text was forgettable.” [Corner/National Review]
• Matt Welch tries not to be “too curmudgeonly,” but finds himself “in constant, low-level irritation at” Obama’s insistence that all the challenges he mentioned “are boiling to a head right now because Barack Obama’s running for president.” [Hit & Run/Reason]
• Joan Walsh feels exactly the opposite: After being uncomfortable with previous “references to ‘our time’ or to the special-ness of his ‘movement,’” she “felt entirely different when he ran down the list of global problems to be solved.” [Salon]
• Chris Cillizza thinks “the strongest element of Obama’s message” is that “the time for change is now.” Overall, Obama “seemed to generally dodge the various problems that the speech posed without breaking a sweat,” as the “speech was neither a dry foreign policy address nor a campaign-centric talk.” [Fix/WP]
• John Nichols believes the candidate “hit his mark…with the bridge that linked his Americanism essay to the world.” Obama’s line, “‘the walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand,’” will “become the stuff of history.” [Campaign ‘08/Nation]
• Noam Scheiber calls the speech “rhetorically…one of the better speeches of the campaign — the exact right combination of love for America and plea for international cooperation.” But he’s more worried that it looked “a little too much like a mega-campaign rally for some voters’ taste” and possibly “a little too post-nationalist for the typical American swing-voter.” [Stump/New Republic]
• Michael Crowley thinks it was “unsurprising, but elegantly wrought and delivered, and the stagecraft was perfect,” but says the “crowd response was slightly less frenzied than I’d expected.” [Stump/New Republic]
• Gerhard Spörl writes that watching the speech, you had to “recognize that this man will become the 44th president of the United States.” The lasting impression is that Obama is “a passionate politician who is fixated on — and takes very seriously — his desire for a better world,” “an impressive speaker who knows how to casually draw his audience into his image of the world,” and “an idealist in the true spirit of the American success story.” [Der Spiegel]
• John Cullinan claims the speech “fell flat” and was an “error, perhaps prompted by the need to score another historic ‘first’.” [New Republic]
For a complete and regularly updated guide to presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain — from First Love to Most Embarrassing Gaffe — read the 2008 Electopedia.