Berlin Was Wrong Place for Obama’s Wall Speech

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obama 700.jpg
I think it’s terrific that Barack Obama went abroad to connect with leaders and some people in Europe and the Middle East. I think he should have gone to Brussels — but I can certainly embrace that he emphasized ‘engagement’ with this trip.
But besides skipping Europe’s institutional heart, his speech in Berlin had a few lines that were disappointingly absent from his remarks in Israel — where he spent more than 30 hours while spending just an hour or so in Ramallah.
He said today in Berlin:

That is why the greatest danger of all is to allow new walls to divide us from one another.
The walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand. The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down.

Had he given those remarks in Israel, at any of the checkpoints that have been added since the Annapolis process began, or at the large divididing wall Israel has constructed, or just about anywhere frankly in Israel or Palestine — it would have been a “game-changing speech.”
John F. Kennedy’s famous “Ich bin Berliner” remarks in the same city were brave, original, impactful. Obama’s speech had high points and deserves applause — but it’s ultimately forgettable because he failed to deliver the most important lines where they most mattered.
One can’t be about hope, no walls, and leap-frogging into a different reality than the mess we have today when there’s no pressure and nothing on the line. What matters is whether or not that message is as resonant in the context of controversial issues where tough decisons and heavy-lifting are needed.
I will be discussing Obama’s fascinating European and Middle East journey with Amy Goodman tomorrow morning (Friday) on Democracy Now! some time after 7:45 am EST.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

50 comments on “Berlin Was Wrong Place for Obama’s Wall Speech

  1. Kathleen says:

    I think the FISA vote is going to hurt… just as Kerry lost his lead when he stood in front of the Grand Canyon and said if I knew then, blah, blah, and Hillary lost her lead when she voted Yes on Kyl-Lieberman, Obama’s lead will shrink now when the FISA votes setles in… the extreme left isn’t large enough to elect a cnadidate, but they are strong enough to make the difference between landslide and razor-thin, stealable election, presuming we actually have an election…. and there’s the frustration over impeachment making 3rd party candidates more appealing….

    Reply

  2. WigWag says:

    Gains for McCain in latest USA TODAY/Gallup Poll
    By: Mark Memmott and Jill Lawrence
    USA Today, July 28, 2008
    “Republican presidential candidate John McCain moved from being behind by 6 points among “likely” voters a month ago to a 4-point lead over Democrat Barack Obama among that group in the latest USA TODAY/Gallup Poll.”

    Reply

  3. Tahoe Editor says:

    Top Obama Berlin Punch Line:
    “I speak to you not as a candidate for president”
    BwaahahahhaHAHAHAHhhahahahaaa.

    Reply

  4. Sweetness says:

    Yes, but David…
    For how many years did Israelis question/deny the existence of
    Palestinians?
    Your (a-d) doesn’t address the relative imbalance in the power
    between the two parties. If we’re going to talk about “destroying
    millions of people,” we have to tally up the ACTUAL totals so far.
    Many more Palestinians have died than Israelis.
    True, Hamas TALKS and WRITES about killing millions of Israelis,
    but have they? Do they have the power to do it? And what’s the
    best way to pre-empt them, to cut their legs out from under
    them?
    Look, far be it from me to defend the Palestinian leadership. As
    near as I can tell, they have NEVER served their people well. Nor
    have the leaderships of the “friendly” Arab countries nearby.
    But STILL, I believe Jews and Israeli Jews have a positive duty to
    pursue justice. For themselves and for others. To me this
    means doing whatever they can to resolve this conflict justly.
    A start would be cessation of the settlements which Israel
    agreed to do in Oslo, yes? And after, yes? And they have not. If
    it’s a matter of expanding existing settlements, they can agree
    to absolute outer limits. It seems to me that this is an action
    Israel can take that would have a high substantive and symbolic
    pay off without affecting Israel’s security situation at all.
    Similarly, as I understand it, most of the checkpoints are NOT on
    the border between Israel proper and territories. So they serve
    to make life miserable to millions of non-terrorist Palestinians
    while not necessarily doing much to deter those who would
    enter Israel. This issue touches on security more than the
    settlements, but ameliorating a good chunk of the checkpoints
    would have a high pay off without costing Israel much, if
    anything at all, in lost security.
    There was a very smart guy named Howard Berkowitz who used
    to post at tpmcafe. He was an arms expert and said that there
    are systems now which–and I’m going to get this wrong
    probably–can retaliate instantly and in highly pinpointed
    fashion to mobile missile launchers. Essentially killing the
    launchers without causing much, if any, collateral damage.
    Instead of jets and gunships which always kill innocents, Israel
    might try this sort of defensive defense.
    IOW, there are things Israel can do to move the process forward.
    Of course, we will then see if, in fact, anything short of the “end
    of Israel” will satisfy the Palestinian leadership.

    Reply

  5. David S says:

    Sweetness–Americans see both sides of the equation. But Americans of all stripes do consider the Israeli security issue as a primary one. After all, it is a country that operates much like the US economically, socially, and in most every other way.
    As for the “strengths” of the peoples, yes Israel is stronger. But Americans also see millions/billions of dollars from Europe and Arabian countries (a) pilfered/stolen by Palestinians from their own people; (b) used for weaponry; (c) see the Palestinians using textbooks and otherwise teaching their kids no Israel exists; and (d) related to (c) make attacks against “Jews” and not “Israelis.” All of these are harmful, most notably (c) and (d) because it shows that no solution other than the end of Israel as we know it is the sole outcome desired by a vast percentage of the Palestinian people.
    In total, while Israel is in a “stronger position” when it comes to current military might vis-a-vis the Palestinians (although this fails to include Syria, Iran, etc.), Israel is fighting for its survival. The expressed wish to kill and destroy millions of people is deplorable, period. This is significantly different than the Palestinians whose survival has never been questioned by the Israeli government.
    To give short sight to this fundamental difference that most of American finds readily apparent is to not see the lens through which much of America sees this dispute.

    Reply

  6. Sweetness says:

    David S writes: “And herein lies the basis of why Obama has
    trouble with the center of American politics on this issue. For
    most of us in the middle, this is a black and white issue with
    little gray–terrorist attacks that are performed by suicide
    bombers who proudly announce that their intended victims are
    children, people sitting on a bus, etc. are deplorable. Israel is
    not perfect (also indisputable) but at least it makes certifiable
    efforts not to harm innocent people.”
    I think it would behoove you to add a little gray to your palette. I
    don’t think anyone can fairly look at the I-P and not see a ton of
    gray in what has gone on for years now. Sure, the terrorist
    attacks are horrific. But so is the situation for most Palestinians
    living in the WB and Gaza. How can one not take that into
    account? I do think the IDF takes measures to protect civilians-
    -but not always and sometimes not often and certainly
    imperfectly. This can’t be explained away or excused simply on
    the basis of Israel’s ongoing security concerns. The makings of
    a just resolution to the conflict have been there for years now.
    As the stronger party, it really is up to Israel, IMO, to take the
    lead in going forward and hope the Palestinians will be there
    with them. The US needs to be with them step by step as they
    take uncomfortable and sometimes scary steps. Then, with luck,
    the poor folks on both side of this wall can move toward normal
    relations and a good life.

    Reply

  7. Sweetness says:

    “But then he would need jewish financial backing for his second
    term …so don’t hold your breath on that one.”
    Not if the gentiles finally step up to the plate and start participating
    in this democracy they claim to care, and know, so much about.
    Again, Carroll, Jews are 3% of the population.
    Gentiles are 97% of the population.
    Instead of complaining about “jewish financial backing,” why not
    dig into your own pocket(s) and start giving? Or is that too hard?

    Reply

  8. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “So maybe Hannity is an afficionado of the Washington Note, reads my comments(and TE’s) and finds them so compelling that he parrots them on the radio”
    Nah. I think it far more likely that you’re the insincere fraud I’ve always suspected you of being.
    But hey, I might be way off base. You could actually be exactly what you present yourself to be. If so, I apologize, and would like to offer my sincere sympathy.

    Reply

  9. WigWag says:

    Well POA, unlike you, I never listen to Limbaugh or Hannity. So maybe Hannity is an afficionado of the Washington Note, reads my comments(and TE’s) and finds them so compelling that he parrots them on the radio.
    If so, does anyone know if I am entitled to some type of royalty?

    Reply

  10. Paul Norheim says:

    I agree, Caroll. But somehow we, or rather Steve, should have
    found a way to instruct people who seriously want to contribute,
    to get around this captcha thing. Instead, the advises are offered
    on an individual basis, ad hoc, and has to be repeated again and
    again.
    I`m sure Steve is aware of this, and that the spamming
    represents a bigger threat. But it`s sad when not only old timers
    like Kathleen for a while gave up commenting, but also intelligent
    newcomers may think that it`s not worth the effort when their
    posts are denied again and again.

    Reply

  11. Carroll says:

    Captcha is a pain, but in Steve’s defense it is simply to keep spammers off this site.
    Some time ago there was all kinds of inappropiate spamming and advertisments popping up here.
    I don’t like it, but it’s the price we pay for spammers.

    Reply

  12. Tahoe Editor says:

    as always … *YAWN*

    Reply

  13. PissedOffAmerican says:

    It is truly amusing listening to scumball RW talk radio on my daily commutes, then signing onto Steve’s site to read Tahoe and Wigwag keeping perfectly in script with these jackasses like Hannity or Limbaugh. If ya’ wanna know what Wigwag is going to be saying about Obama on Steve’s blog, just listen to Hannity.

    Reply

  14. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Sometimes you have to try six or seven times before your comment actually posts”
    Ho hum. Actually, as big a pain in the ass that the captcha thing is, after you figure it out, it takes EXACTLY two tries to get a comment posted. Using the right method, it works, in two tries, everytime.
    1) Compose your comment, then copy it to your mouse.
    2) Enter screen name, email address, and captcha code. Click “submit”.
    3) You will recieve the blablablah message about not entering the captcha code correctly.
    4) Hit your back button, then click on the TWN link in your favorites.
    5) After TWN reloads, go to the thread you wished to comment on, paste your comment, and repeat the screen name, email, and captcha code dance. Click “submit”. Your post will then go through and appear on the thread.
    Anyone attempting to post “six or seven times” is either an idiot, or a masochist.

    Reply

  15. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “For most of us in the middle, this is a black and white issue with little gray–terrorist attacks that are performed by suicide bombers who proudly announce that their intended victims are children, people sitting on a bus, etc. are deplorable. Israel is not perfect (also indisputable) but at least it makes certifiable efforts not to harm innocent people.”
    What a crock of shit. First, lets see some substantiated sourcing for your contention that the wall has effectively reduced attacks.
    And second, far far far more Palestinian children have died than Israeli children.
    Stop with this effin’ one-sided “Israel is the victim” bullshit. It is no longer playing well, and more and more American’s are waking up to that fact.
    Gads, it pisses me off to read your kind of bullshit propaganda, excuses, and rationales. What is occurring in Gaza right now IS a purposeful “effort to harm innocent people”, ON AN EPIC SCALE. How do you people live with yourselves? Wise up, if you’re really that ignorant. Or swim back to Israel, if you’re really that dishonest.

    Reply

  16. WigWag says:

    Carsick, it’s not you, it happens to all of us. Sometimes you have to try six or seven times before your comment actually posts.
    Steve seems like a fine fellow and he certainly has an intereting an provocative blog; but he is indifferent to the plight of his long-suffering fans/readers.
    The problem that you mention has been brought to Steve’s attention by numereous people on several occasions. When he bothers to respond at all, his response can be summarized by three words, “suck it up.” It’s not particularly polite, but it’s the price we have to pay to be guests at his entertaining site.
    Steve acts like a rock star who charges $200 a seat to hear him play and then makes ticket holders wait on line for an hour to get in. The only difference is that Steve probably makes less money than a rock star (I have no specific knowledge, I am just guessing)and he doesn’t charge us to get in. The captcha is his line and I think our suffering with it actually makes him giggle.
    PS: Everytime the captcha throw me out, I will put a tick sign until the post works:
    IIII

    Reply

  17. carsick says:

    I’ll try once again and see if I’m lucky this attempt.
    Steve,
    I read you daily and have for two years now. I attempt to comment about once a month or so yet I am told regularly that I can’t comment because I have posted too frequently recently.
    It is particularly frustrating when I see commenters having back and forth conversations within the comment thread and I am unable to post even a single comment.

    Reply

  18. Arun says:

    Wigwag,
    “Rasmussen has gone from a tie (46-46) three days ago, to a five point Obama lead (Obama 49, McCain 44 including leaners.)
    Gallup, meanwhile, shot up from a two point Obama lead (45-43) yesterday to a six point lead (Obama 47, McCain 41) today.”
    (from a dkos diary)

    As to everyone comparing Reagan’s statesmanship to Obama’s speech in Berlin – you are all forgetting that Obama is not President; Reagan was. I think for Obama to show statemanship now would actually be illegal.
    -Arun

    Reply

  19. Carroll says:

    Posted by David S Jul 25, 2:55PM
    Israel is not perfect …”but at least it makes certifiable efforts not to harm innocent people”.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    You’re joking..right?
    Palestinian children pay price of Israel’s Summer Rain offensive …Sep 7, 2006 … Palestinian children pay price of Israel’s Summer Rain offensive … Many relatives of those killed by the Israelis in Gaza have been …
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2006/sep/07/israel – 65k
    Twilight Zone / The children of 5767 – Haaretz – Israel NewsHe was certainly the youngest of the many children Israel killed in the past …. 21:20 IDF: Palestinian pilgrim killed at Erez crossing shot by our troops …
    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/907708.html – 144k –
    DCI/PS – Thirty-One Gaza Children Killed in Israeli Offensive in …Jul 26, 2006 … As Israel ‘s siege on the Gaza Strip passes the one month milestone, Defence for Children International – …
    http://www.dci-pal.org/english/display.cfm?DocId=531&CategoryId=18
    3 Palestinian children killed in Gaza; Israel acknowledges firing …Aug 29, 2007 … Many Palestinian civilians have been killed in past Israeli attacks … that has happened between Israel and the Palestinians since 2000. …
    http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/08/29/africa/ME-GEN-Israel-Palestinians.php – 49k
    B’Tselem – Statistics – Fatalities 12 Palestinian citizens of Israel killed within Israel by the Israeli Police … (the two parents and their five children, one an adult), who were killed in …
    http://www.btselem.org/English/Statistics/Casualties.asp – 39k
    Sunil Sharma: Suffer Palestine’s Children16661 Palestinians have been injured, many maimed for life. Palestinian children under the age of 18 represent about 1/4 of those killed. …
    http://www.counterpunch.org/sunil1.html – 37k –
    Israel / Occupied Territories / Palestinian Authority: Killing of …More than 250 Palestinian and 72 Israeli children have been killed in Israel and the Occupied Territories in the past 23 months. …
    asiapacific.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGMDE151452002?open&of=ENG-ISR – 26k
    Chris McGreal: Palestinian civilians have been killed | World news …Jun 28, 2005 … Random fire into Rafah and Khan Yunis has claimed hundreds of lives, including five children shot as they sat at their school desks. Many …
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/jun/28/comment.israelandthepalestinians – 62k –
    Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel – Children and Armed …Dec 21, 2007 … During the reporting period*, a total of 106 Palestinian children were killed in the oPt; 58 percent of whom were killed by the Israel …
    http://www.un.org/children/conflict/english/palestine.html – 14k –
    Jewish Peace News: How Palestinian children really learn
    srael has killed 1020 Palestinian children since 2000 and Palestinians have killed 124 Israeli children. Too many precious children have suffered and died …
    jewishpeacenews.blogspot.com/2008/04/how-palestinian-children-really-learn.html – 74k
    BBC NEWS | Middle East | Four children die in Gaza strikeFeb 28, 2008 … Four Palestinian children have been killed in an Israeli air strike in the … Israel has vowed the militants will pay a heavy price …
    news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7269154.stm – 57k –
    In Palestinian Children, Signs of Increasing Malnutrition – New …The bomb killed its intended target, a leader of the militant group Hamas, but it also killed at least 14 other people, including 9 children. As Israel …
    query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F0DE2DD1E38F935A15754C0A9649C8B63 – 36k
    Roll Call of 322 Children Killed in the Intifada Amnesty says if international monitors had been deployed on the ground – and Israel has repeatedly refused to allow this – many of the children’s lives …
    http://www.commondreams.org/views02/1001-05.htm – 17k –
    Investigation begins into Israeli soldier who shot blindfolded …Jul 25, 2008 … soldier who shot blindfolded Palestinian with rubber bullet … that the Palestinian was inspected at the scene by an IDF doctor and was …
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/…/Investigation-begins-Israeli-soldier-shot-blindfolded-Palestinian-rubber-bullet.html
    BBC NEWS | Middle East | Israel probes ‘detainee shooting’Jul 20, 2008 … It said the shooting took place in the presence of a lieutenant colonel, who was holding the Palestinian man’s arm when the shot was fired. …
    news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7516477.stm – 56k –
    Israeli Soldier Shown Shooting at Blindfolded PalestinianA video clip released Sunday showed an Israeli soldier shot a rubber bullet at a blindfolded and handcuffed Palestinian young man in what the army described …
    english.cri.cn/2947/2008/07/21/1321s383403.htm – 59k –
    Despite 6 warnings Israel bombed and killed 4 UN observers …An Israeli bombardment killed four United Nations Observers, …. July 26, 2006; “IDF to investigate air strike on UN base that killed four”. …
    en.wikinews.org/wiki/Despite_6_warnings_Israel_bombed_and_killed_4_UN_observers – 38k
    BBC NEWS | World | Middle East | Dozens killed in Lebanon air raidJul 30, 2006 … More than 54 civilians, at least 34 of them children, have been killed in a town in south Lebanon in the deadliest Israeli strike of the …
    news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/5228224.stm – 56k –
    The Seattle Times: Nation & World: Dozens of children killed in …Jul 31, 2006 … Dozens of children killed in Israeli airstrike on Qana … QANA, Lebanon — Many of the bodies were as tiny as dolls, with limp little …
    seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2003164325_qana31.html – 34k
    An explosive image in Lebanon conflict | Newsblog | guardian.co.uk
    From the children of Israel, to the children of Lebanon, with love,” writes one ….. That was followed by this image of Israeli children writing messages on bombs for Lebanon…
    blogs.guardian.co.uk/news/archives/2006/07/20/

    Reply

  20. WigWag says:

    For what it’s worth (which is probably not much)any bounce that Obama hoped to get from his international tour has not appeared so far. In fact, since his trip began, Obama’s poll numbers have fallen in some cases precipitously. CNN is reporting today that McCain has overtaken Obama in Colorado and that they are now in a virtual dead heat in Minnesota, New Mexico and even Michigan. Obama led comfortably in all of those states as recently as three weeks ago. At the same time, the number of Democrats who say they will vote for Obama has declined by 6 percent and the number of Clinton supporters who say they will vote for Obama has declined by 7 percent. McCain now has a higher percentage of republicans saying they will vote for him than Obama does from Democrats. That’s remarkable considering how unpopular McCain was in his own party a few months back. CNN says that amongst independents, McCain has a one point edge (statistically meaningless).
    In the end it is doubtless that any of this will matter although it looks like Obama would have an easier time being elected “President” of Europe than President of the United States. This really isn’t all that surprising. The same thing could have been said about Bill Clinton when he ran many years ago.
    It is somewhat perplexing why Obama’s trip has not been more well received by American voters. The media coverage has been fawning and the candidate’s every step has been covered wall to wall. I think the NY Times debacle and the refusal to publish the McCain op-ed really hurt Obama, and that perhaps, the more positive the coverage the press gives him, the more skeptical Americans will be.
    Now that FOX News has started to cover Senator Edward’s alledged affair and the supposed out of wedlock birth that came from it,(confirming part of the National Enquirer Story with their own investigation) this will likely soak up all the media’s attention for a few days. Whether it will help Obama, McCain or neither is anyone’s guess.

    Reply

  21. Carroll says:

    From Mondo
    July 25, 2008
    Obama’s Amazing Impact: A Day After He Leaves Israel, They Announce More Settlements
    So the greatest progressive candidate in American presidential politics in 40 years visits Israel and the occupation, and what happens the next day?
    Israel announces more colonies, “settlements.” Why do they do so? Because they are arrogant, because they know they can, because they know Obama won’t hold a press conference in Paris on the subject, as he should. Because they know what our press won’t say, but Haaretz will (obviously influenced by the recent visit of Walt and Mearsheimer): that “the Israel lobby” has made our politicians into pantaloons.
    The chief difference between apartheid South Africa and Israel/Palestine–says James North, who has seen both societies–is that after the Soweto uprising, in 1976, black South Africans knew that history was on their side and that the world would slowly strangle the regime. They had confidence. And lo, apartheid ended sooner than anyone anticipated. While in Palestine, North says, the Palestinians have none of this confidence. Especially when a leading progressive American visits and he can’t make more than a coded peep about their conditions. It makes them desperate. I imagine I’d be crashing a construction vehicle into Israeli property if I were an Arab….
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Ain’t it grand…HOPE is on the way…for everyone except the people who need it most.
    First I was for Hagel, then I was for Hillary, then I was for Obama..now I am back to considering writing in Hagel. Hagel is the only one who trust American voters enough to say to the zionist orgs..” I am an American Senator, I represent America, not Israel”.

    Reply

  22. Tahoe Editor says:

    DAVID BROOKS:
    When I first heard this sort of radically optimistic speech in Iowa, I have to confess my American soul was stirred. It seemed like the overture for a new yet quintessentially American campaign.
    But now it is more than half a year on, and the post-partisanship of Iowa has given way to the post-nationalism of Berlin, and it turns out that the vague overture is the entire symphony. The golden rhetoric impresses less, the evasion of hard choices strikes one more.
    Obama has grown accustomed to putting on this sort of saccharine show for the rock concert masses, and in Berlin his act jumped the shark.
    Optimism without reality isn’t eloquence. It’s just Disney.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/25/opinion/25brooks.html?_r=1&ref=opinion&oref=slogin
    WALL STREET JOURNAL:
    It is hard not to be moved by the sight during the speech of hundreds of American flags being waved, rather than burned. Then again, the last time a major American political figure delivered an open-air speech in Berlin, 10,000 riot police had to use tear gas and water cannons to repel violent demonstrators. It was June 1987, the speaker was Ronald Reagan, his message was: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” Press accounts characterized the line as “provocative”; the Soviets called it “war-mongering”; 100,000 protesters marched against Reagan in the old German capital of Bonn. Two years later, the Berlin Wall fell.
    Reagan’s speech is a lesson in the difference between popularity and statesmanship. Watching Mr. Obama yesterday in Berlin, and throughout his foreign tour, was a reminder of how far the presumptive Democratic nominee has to go to reassure people he is capable of the latter — “people,” that is, who will actually get to cast a ballot in November.
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121694449254283003.html?mod=opinion_main_review_and_outlooks
    “This Is the Moment” — And now we are loved again?
    http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=MzlkYWVhMGY4Zjk1MWZhMDc3ZWVlYzdlYmI0MTc2YjA=
    Obama rehashes “WE ARE THE WORLD”
    http://campaignspot.nationalreview.com/post/?q=NTExNDljMTgxYTQ3MTcxM2FkNTBhOTJmNWViZjE5YWY

    Reply

  23. David S says:

    I think Obama recognizes that the wall in Berlin was one meant to deny people life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in East Germany. On the other hand, the security fence in Israel is meant to provide people life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in Israel.
    It is indisputable that the security fence has resulted in a dramatic decline in terrorist attacks against Israelis. For Israel to “tear down that wall” as Reagan demanded, the Israelis would suffer the most, and with their blood. So why would Obama go to Israel and tell them that they should sacrifice themselves? No president, let alone a presidential candidate, can make that demand on Israeli soil.
    And herein lies the basis of why Obama has trouble with the center of American politics on this issue. For most of us in the middle, this is a black and white issue with little gray–terrorist attacks that are performed by suicide bombers who proudly announce that their intended victims are children, people sitting on a bus, etc. are deplorable. Israel is not perfect (also indisputable) but at least it makes certifiable efforts not to harm innocent people.
    And all too often, Israel faces cries of the “massacre of Jenin”, which never took place. Has a false Palestinian attack on Israel in the past decade been advertised as truth by Israel proved to be as demonstrably false as this one? If so, please prove me wrong because information would only press the conversation forward in a constructive manner. I am ready to stand corrected and swallow my pride.

    Reply

  24. Carroll says:

    I think his speech is pretty much forgettable too.
    Shades of Kennedy. Except he’s not President yet.
    If he is elected he should then go to Israel and say “tear down this wall”.
    But then he would need jewish financial backing for his second term …so don’t hold your breath on that one.
    If and once in office we will see if he has real “change” balls or not won’t we?

    Reply

  25. WigWag says:

    DanKervick. It does get under my skin. I think he will be a bad president. I hope that I am wrong. And I don’t think you are a fool.

    Reply

  26. Dan Kervick says:

    Well as you point out yourself WigWag, Obama’s supporters are hardly single-minded and worshipful, since many of them have been giving him hell of late over FISA and several other perceived moves to the center, rather than following him slavishly, as his opponents would have it.
    No doubt Obama has charisma, like many other politicians, and that is frustrating to his opponents. Since both Clinton and McCain have less charisma, they resent it’s presence in Obama since it disadvantages them, and their supporters have attempted to paint it in the most garish and frightening colors, with Obama as cult-leader, authoritarian despot, Kim Jong-il, etc. These reactions are just way, way over the top. Beyond that, I wish you would reflect on just how insulting these remarks are. Obama has many millions of supporters. Quite a number of us have been around the block a few times and are nobody’s fool.
    I still do think this is just sour grapes. He won; Clinton lost; and it still gets under your skin.

    Reply

  27. Paul Norheim says:

    And Steve, to give those remarks you quoted in Israel would, I
    believe, not only be more appropriate, but also have a much
    bigger impact in a specific situation, before or after hard
    negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians during an
    Obama administration.

    Reply

  28. Paul Norheim says:

    Basically, Obama is improving the sound of the word “America” in
    the ears of Europeans, after 8 years with the Bush administration.
    The political impact of this is hard to measure, but should not be
    underestimated.

    Reply

  29. Dan Kervick says:

    Rich, I don’t know what you mean by saying Obama’s speech was geographically dislocated. The Berlin Speech is largely devoted to the US-European relationship, past and future, and is built around the Berlin airlift. It would have been off-topic, to say the least, to give that speech in Israel. Despite his title, Steve isn’t saying that he wishes Obama gave the Berlin speech in Israel.
    I guess Steve just wishes that Obama had used some kind of “wall” metaphor in a speech in Israel with reference to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Perhaps he wishes Obama had spoken at the security barrier in Israel, and said in effect “Mr. Olmert, tear down this wall!” Well, OK. This doesn’t seem like a very realistic expectation, though.
    Steve says Obama’s speech is forgettable because he didn’t use its central metaphor as part of a different speech he could have given, but didn’t. That seems like an odd thing to say. Surely whether the speech is memorable or forgettable will depend only on how its European and American audience respond to it, and whether they actually remember it or forget it.

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  30. WigWag says:

    DanKervick, I don’t think my comment was angry or sour grapes, it’s just what I think. But I think your characterization of my comment epitomizes what is wrong with so many (not all) Obama supporters. Any criticism of their candidate elicits name calling. That is, unless they are criticizing Obama themselves. It’s okay for Obama supporters to criticize his FISA vote or their perception of his weakness in speaking about the Middle East conflict, but criticism from any other quarter is viewed as angry, racist, or as you put it, sour grapes.
    I just don’t think that type of hypocracy will cut-it. There is nothing angry or even particularly surprising about mentioning that the Senator never held any hearings in the subcommittee that he chaired. There is certainly nothing wrong with mentioning the police state like tactics that the Obama campaign hopes to implement in Denver. After all, four years ago, when the Bush campaign did the same thing, all the fauxgressives were up in arms. And it hardly seem particularly out of line to mention that the Senator seems to have a penchant for speaking in large places to enraptured crowds. I get it, you think this shows he’s a leader, I think it makes him and his supporters creepy.
    Like their candidate, many Obama supporters seem to have a very thin skin. This is why lots of democrats don’t like Obama and don’t like the direction he’s taking the party. His policies are mostly okay; the personality cult is a bit much. Actually, it’s more than a bit much.
    As for you comments about his speeches in Europe, your summary of what he said is accurate, but I disagree with your analysis. Compared to the rhetoric of the current President Bush, what Obama said is a breath of fresh air. Compared to the policies of every other President since Roosevelt, what Obama said is the same old same old. The same old platitudes, the same old policies. Sure they’re an improvement over Bush, but that’s a very low bar indeed. To me, at best, Obama looks like old wine in a new bottle.
    My guess is that Senator Obama will be elected. If he loses it would be one of the biggest upsets in presidential history. He may do a good job, he may do a bad job, only time will tell. But regardless of what state he leaves the countrty in four years from now or eight years if he’s reelected (presumably by now, someone has explained to the Senator that two terms would equal eight years not ten years) we can count on one thing. Obama supporters will be calling on congress and every state legislature in the county to name every highway, biway, airport and post office after their hero, just like Ronald Reagan’s supporters did.
    Reagan supporters may have been conservatives and Obama supporters may think they are progressives, but they share one common trait. Both appear to be acolytes.
    I understand that you disagree. Don’t worry, Dan, I don’t think that makes you angry.

    Reply

  31. Chris says:

    Steve, I think you would be absolutely right if Obama were giving a speech as president. But I think Obama is forced to walk a fine line — both because of the actual office he holds (Senator) and because of his current posture (campaigning for president). He really could not have given a game-changing speech as you suggest without (a) going beyond the political limitations of his office, and (b) endangering his own campaigning by inviting charges of real hubris.
    Ultimately, what he did will certainly change the way Americans perceive him and will give him all the more credibility to make the “game changing” speech you desire if and when he does become president. But the limitations of the place and the content, I think, are structural rather than personal.

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  32. rich says:

    Steve,
    Agreed that Obama’s speech seeemed geographically dislocated. But was Obama off-center for his purposes?
    Obama’s caution is showing: Sure, Israel rather than Berlin would’ve been at the global epicenter of the Israeli-binLaden-Bushie iron triangle. But is that really the physical location of “The Wall”? It’s here at home.
    Berlin associates The Wall reference with JFK’s stand for liberty, and with Reagan’s powerful appeal to “pull down that wall.” But that targets the monumental choice WE face between building bridges or putting up walls as fast as we can. The resonance with traditional American purpose in the world is a strong counterpoint that exposes current policy—without having to directly indict it.
    Berlin is a suitable mid-point, because the U.S. has been building walls, literally and figuratively. Germany is political, rational middle ground in the Washington/London-Berlin-Israel-Palestine-Tehran-Kabul/Karachi political and cultural spectrum. Berlin suffered from an EXTERNALLY-imposed wall [read ital], and knows the downside of building walls and the upside of tearing them down. America isn’t quite conscious of the difference, having never experienced the physical, and studiously pretending the status quo psychological walls somehow make us a Free People.
    Obama’s audience wasn’t Israel and Palestine—it was US.
    Further, to put his finger in the Zion/Palestine wound is too-likely to invite a firestorm imperiling his candidacy. This is a candidate’s trip abroad; he can inspire, but not take the reins. And he’d be crucified had he attempted to wade into the fray before earning the Presidential office and the mantle of official leadership. We heard the guy at the Western Wall yelling “Obama! Jerusalem is not for sale!”
    We are not dealing with rational actors here. Obama can get the message across, but not bear the heated costs of ideology and venom, by displacing the message in the minds of his intended audience, both here at home and in PalestineandIsrael. A mere change in geography and venue, and we get inspiration on a global level, instead of bloody gaffe and the inevitalby ensuing, debilitating firestorm.
    Like I said, SEnator Obama’s far more cautious than he appears.

    Reply

  33. Tahoe Editor says:

    200,000 people didn’t come out to listen to Barack Obama talk about tearing down walls.
    They came out for two rock concerts with a BO speech sandwiched between them.
    I wonder how Joe Biden’s plan to cut Iraq into thirds jibes with Obama’s global wall-busting quest.
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/gerard_baker/article4392846.ece

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  34. Zathras says:

    While I generally share the view of commenters upthread that Sen. Obama’s tour is primarily intended as a component of his election campaign and should not be taken as definitive about the policies an Obama administration would follow everywhere in the world, Steve Clemons does have one point here worth considering.
    Giving the speech he suggests in a place like Ramallah would have been daring and risky for Obama. I wouldn’t have done it in his place, and I don’t necessarily set great store by daring and risk-taking on the part of people who want to be President. What I observe about Obama, though, is that in terms of this particular kind of “heavy lifting” — taking positions he knows most Americans will not agree with, and that some will strongly disagree with — he doesn’t do it. Not just in the sense Steve Clemons is talking about here: I mean Obama has never done it in his life.
    This may not matter much in the campaign. Obama skated into the Senate four years ago when a primary and then a general election opponent self-destructed in lurid sex scandals, got nominated by organizing in caucus states that his strongest opponent unwisely ignored, and is now running against a Republican candidate when the incumbent Republican President is violently unpopular. As President, things will not be so easy. “Heavy lifting” will be required, and I don’t know that he’s up for that.

    Reply

  35. Dan Kervick says:

    I think WigWag’s angry, sour grapes reaction to the Obama trip, and also the hair-pulling and wailing outrage it has provoked on the right, are symptoms of the fact that this European trip is much more politically significant than Steve wants to give it credit for being.
    Obama went to Europe as part of his *election campaign*. That in itself is a rather unique circumstance. I read one European commentator point out that it is as if Obama was “running for president of the world.” He could have played it safer by visiting only with a few state leaders or diplomats, and posing for some photo ops. He might have aimed only to pick up a superficial layering of gravitas by rubbing shoulders with European elites. Instead he made a bolder play to seize the mantle of western leadership by organizing a massive rally in Berlin, where he then addressed a very large European and American audience in much the same way he addresses his purely American audiences back home, and presented himself as the voice of a new generation of western leadership, and the prophet of a new era of reborn western unity and idealism.
    He said “It is in pursuit of these aspirations that a new generation – our generation – must make our mark on the world.” And he reiterated the generational theme throughout the speech with frequent references to “our time” and “our generation”. Republicans are, of course, livid about the “presumption” of this move. Obama might as well have said, “The torch has been passed.” Obama is essentially trying to draw Europe into his campaign, and make a bold play for a global leadership role even before he has been elected president.
    His speech was a call for Americans and Europeans to overcome the strains and damage of the past eight years, to re-forge a powerful relationship, and to come together behind a combined western agenda for controlling and eventually eliminating nuclear weapons, combating terrorism, saving the environment, and advancing human rights and social justice around the world. There is nothing trivial or ho-hum about this message at all. It is a rejection of both the neoconservative approach to Europe and western policy that has characterized the Bush administration, and also the less idealistic agenda of the foreign policy realists.
    I suspect many Americans were moved and touched by his hopeful and patriotic request that Europeans see beyond the failures and mistakes of the United States during the past eight years, recall a better America, and dwell on the ties that bind:
    “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.
    “But I also know how much I love America. I know that for more than two centuries, we have strived – at great cost and great sacrifice – to form a more perfect union; to seek, with other nations, a more hopeful world. Our allegiance has never been to any particular tribe or kingdom – indeed, every language is spoken in our country; every culture has left its imprint on ours; every point of view is expressed in our public squares. What has always united us – what has always driven our people; what drew my father to America’s shores – is a set of ideals that speak to aspirations shared by all people: that we can live free from fear and free from want; that we can speak our minds and assemble with whomever we choose and worship as we please.
    “These are the aspirations that joined the fates of all nations in this city. These aspirations are bigger than anything that drives us apart. It is because of these aspirations that the airlift began. It is because of these aspirations that all free people – everywhere – became citizens of Berlin. It is in pursuit of these aspirations that a new generation – our generation – must make our mark on the world.”

    Reply

  36. Mr.Murder says:

    JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – The U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe says the United States is in the process of strengthening sanctions against individual Zimbabweans blamed for deadly electoral violence.
    Mark Weinberg, an embassy spokesman, says that “proposed new sanctions are under review by the White House and the State Department” and that they would target “individuals we hold responsible for subverting the will of the people of Zimbabwe, people associated with the regime and those responsible for the recent violence and political problems.”
    Anyone expect selective sanctions to be upheld or enforced with any effectiveness by the Bush Administration?
    Will this end up restricting the activity of dissidents?

    Reply

  37. WigWag says:

    Spunkmeyer, I respect your opinion, but if you look at the most recent CNN poll which shows that 40 percent of Clinton supporters (up from 33 percent before the European trip)won’t vote for Obama, I am in good company. Or looking at it from your perspective maybe it’s not good company but it’s “large” company.
    But even Obama die hards should be aghast at what Obama and the DNC are planning to do in Denver. They are taking their approach right out of the Republican play book four years ago. It’s so bad that the ACLU (no hot bed of anti-Obamaism)has had to sue the Obama campaign and the DNC in federal court in Denver to get them to allow some civil liberties for demonstrators. You have to admit, you never thought the ACLU would need to sue Obama.
    This thread is about foreign policy not domestic politics so I don’t want to take things in the wrong direction, but I genuinely thought the trip was a joke. I do admit it’s funny how smart people can look at exactly the same event and come to completely different conclusions.

    Reply

  38. Spunkmeyer says:

    WigWag, he won. Get over it.

    Reply

  39. WigWag says:

    Obama’s trip to the Middle East and Europe was nothing more than a show and a pathetic one at that. For Steve to call it “Obama’s fascinating European and Middle East journey” makes it sound like a fable, which it pretty much was. All sizzle and no steak, just like everything else about the man. The fact that his supporters can’t see this makes them just about as blind as the Bush acolytes eight years ago. And anyone who think’s Obama’s team of liberal internationalists is going to lead to less US interventionism than the Bush team of neocons is in for a rude awakening.
    The press (including it appears Steve Clemons and Amy Goodman)are celebrating the Senator’s trip to Europe as if it was some type of wonderful acheivement. For goodness sake, Steve Clemons has been to Europe more often that Barack Obama. Half of the readers of the WashingtonNote have been to Europe more often than Barack Obama. Does this mean they’re all qualified to be President? Is is possible that the Senator might have actually learned something about Europe had he bothered to do a little work in the Senate and actually convene the subcommittee that he chaired? But I guess that wasn’t glamerous enough for the Senator. He only goes where there are adoring crowds.
    So what do we know about the junior Senator from Illionois? Well we know his face is plastered everywhere, we know he has a fawning press, we know he likes to give speeches in stadiums or near historical monumnents. We know he doesn’t like dissent because protest signs were banned at his speech in Germany. We also know that he is planning to keep demonstrators in Denver at least 800 yards from the convention site in fenced pens which is exactly what the Republicans did at their convention 4 years ago. The DNC has already announced that demonstrators with signs who move outside the designated area will be arrested.
    It looks to me like Senator Obama has adopted the Kim Jong-il strategy. Maybe Obama’s next trip should be to North Korea where he can learn at the foot of the master.
    But ultimately what’s scary about Obama is what was scary about Bush (and very reminiscent of what was scary about Reagan.) It’s not that they’re both unqualified; it’s the single minded worshipful devotion of so many of their supporters. Actually, that kind of reminds me of North Korea too.

    Reply

  40. Mr.Murder says:

    Please get the Goodman interview on archive here if you can, Steve.

    Reply

  41. Jay C says:

    Soory, Steve, but I think you are being (uncharacteristically) unrealistic here. Even though I agree with your point in principle, I think that it is foolish to think that Barack Obama, of all people – still having to deal (insanely) with the idiotic “Secret Muslim” meme -is going to even potentially antagonize The Lobby going into a election, and say anything that is going to buck CW on Israeli/Palestinian issues. Anything.
    After he’s elected? Who knows? But for now, like it not, I/P policy has to toe an accepted line. And Obama knows there is too much at stake to cross it.

    Reply

  42. Dan Kervick says:

    This was a speech aimed at both European and American audiences, and clearly articulated an approach to American-European relationship that is quite different from the reigning Republican alternative. The entire speech was woven around the example of the Berlin airlift as an example of American and Western European unity in the cause of freedom, justice and prosperity. It’s hard to see what equally large and resonant historical events he could have pointed to in Brussels.
    I’m a little bit puzzled, Steve, by your suggestion that no tough decisions or heavy lifting will be required to carry out the unified and activist western agenda Obama outlined in the speech, that nothing was “on the line” politically, or that he said nothing to challenge his dispersed global audience. That doesn’t seem to be a very realistic attitude.
    To take one example, my understanding is that the war in Afghanistan is very unpopular in Europe, standing at about 35% support. And yet Obama called on Europeans to commit more to the NATO mission in Afganistan:
    “This is the moment when we must renew our resolve to rout the terrorists who threaten our security in Afghanistan, and the traffickers who sell drugs on your streets. No one welcomes war. I recognize the enormous difficulties in Afghanistan. But my country and yours have a stake in seeing that NATO’s first mission beyond Europe’s borders is a success. For the people of Afghanistan, and for our shared security, the work must be done. America cannot do this alone. The Afghan people need our troops and your troops; our support and your support to defeat the Taliban and al Qaeda, to develop their economy, and to help them rebuild their nation. We have too much at stake to turn back now.”
    An easier sell in Europe is probably Obama’s nuclear nonproliferation agenda:
    “It is time to secure all loose nuclear materials; to stop the spread of nuclear weapons; and to reduce the arsenals from another era. This is the moment to begin the work of seeking the peace of a world without nuclear weapons.”
    But this speech was aimed at Americans as well. Do you really think no heavy lifting is going to be required to reinvigorate the nuclear nonproliferation cause in the Unite States, including recommitting to the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons? Do you really think this is an easy sell in the US Congress, where you used to work, or in the defense department?
    Do you really think no heavy lifting is going to be required to get Americans to embrace a vigorous internationalist agenda and see themselves as “citizens of the world”, and to embrace “the burdens of global citizenship”? You might have noticed that while Obama was speaking in Europe, much or the right in the US, and some of the populist center, have been venting the isolationism, chauvinism and xenophobia that have become so popular in the US during the Bush administration. This “global citizen” talk sends them up the wall. It’s not going to be easy at all to put that particular genie back in the bottle.
    Addressing global warming, and doing so in a concerted way with Europeans and others, is also not going to be easy at all. It won’t be too hard to enact some weak, cosmetic, merely feel-good gestures. But really taking on the vested economic interests in the US, Europe and the rest of the economically developed world that are standing in the way of serious action on this front is going to be a tremendous challenge. I’m somewhat pessimistic about our ability to meet this challenge, but you can’t say Obama’s current proposals and broader agenda won’t require serious action.
    Obama seemed to call for a reworking of the global trade regime to incorporate a “fair trade” agenda. You think that’s going to be easy? He called on Europeans to participate more in rebuilding Iraq. Don’t most Europeans see that as America’s problem now?
    Obama also seemed to call for an activist Western commitment to human rights and social justice
    “Will we stand for the human rights of the dissident in Burma, the blogger in Iran, or the voter in Zimbabwe? Will we give meaning to the words “never again” in Darfur?”
    “Now the world will watch and remember what we do here – what we do with this moment. Will we extend our hand to the people in the forgotten corners of this world who yearn for lives marked by dignity and opportunity; by security and justice? Will we lift the child in Bangladesh from poverty, shelter the refugee in Chad, and banish the scourge of AIDS in our time?”
    Aren’t these agenda items that are going to require a substantial amount of heavy lifting, given the strong contrary currents of both foreign policy “realism” and neoliberal economic conservatism?
    He also called on his western audience to resist the xenophobic and anti-immigration calls that are now on the rise in both Europe and the United States:
    “Will we welcome immigrants from different lands, and shun discrimination against those who don’t look like us or worship like we do, and keep the promise of equality and opportunity for all of our people?”
    Whatever one thinks of Obama’s western agenda, it’s hard to understand the criticism that no tough decisions or heavy lifting would be required to enact it. Steve, other than the fact that you wish Obama spoke in Brussels, I really don’t know where you are coming from on the whole matter of US-European affairs.

    Reply

  43. Arun says:

    Steve,
    Look up Bob Cesca at the Huffington Post. His compilation shows that the media narrative is almost universally that Obama is “presumptuous” for his Berlin speech. A game-changer speech would cause him to be massacred in America’s press.
    One impression I’m left with from Obama’s ‘The Audacity of Hope’ is that he believes that all the great ideas are worth nothing if you don’t win and put yourself in a position to implement them. Winning is almost everything. Don’t expect Obama to put himself out on a limb.
    -Arun

    Reply

  44. Spunkmeyer says:

    Steve, I’m sorry, but I feel that your reaction is the wonk in you
    writing. I don’t know what the final audience estimate was
    (200K?) but I couldn’t help but be touched by the visuals and
    oratory coming out of the day.
    Yes, it is more sizzle than substance, but yesterday was the first
    time I actually felt in the past few years, as an American, that
    Europe still believes in us, and wants us to be a force for good
    in the world. For a person such as myself, who does not
    specialize in policy, government, or try to influence either, that
    still resonates.
    I agree with David — had he been wonkish, it would have been
    termed presumptuous and arrogant. We’ve had enough of that
    foreign image the past 7 years. Obama is not The President,
    but he sure did look Presidential yesterday.

    Reply

  45. eNews Reference says:

    If your the opposing side with a billions in tax breaks to multinational corporations I think it anywhere would be the wrong place to give that speech… http://www.enewsreference.com

    Reply

  46. Hans Suter says:

    Walling in. Fencing out. Quite a difference, unless it’s in defense of a fence.

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  47. David says:

    Yeah, I think I can see where you are getting at Steve. And, surely it would have been a great sign for US / EU relations to see a president so whole-heartedly embrace Europe. But, As YY reminds us, Obama is not president. And, if he took things too far, i.e. giving a “game-changing” speech in Ramallah, he would have looked arrogant and even in some eyes dangerous. He is not president yet, and as such, has no real institutional right to construct Ámerica’s foreign policy. In this light, the speech was appropriate. It should be good but forgettable.

    Reply

  48. YY says:

    I believe he wants to not lose the election so in many respects it is really painful to listen to content so safe. The delivery was outstanding. He had something for almost everyone, but nothing remarkably radical or new. Besides, he really can’t put the FENCEin the same context as walls can he? It’s hard to tell where he’s going to steer things to after January, but he sure as hell isn’t letting on, if it’s going to cost him votes.

    Reply

  49. Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi says:

    The Obama’s Berlin oratory seems to have been the best piece that provides that of similar reflections on Abraham Lincoln’s celebrated speech of the civil war/American independence. One has to see how Mr Obama tries to patch up the idealogical diversities/cleavages that have eclipsed the future of world peace.

    Reply

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