Obama pitches for a global presidency in Berlin speech

By staff writers
July 24, 2008

US Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is today making an unprecedented campaign pitch in Berlin, Germany, and has drawn an enthusiastic crowd of 100,000. But how will this go down in the USA?

That is the question political analysts are asking as the young senator speaks in the shadow of the Brandenburg Gate, scene of the tearing down of the Berlin Wall and what many regard as the moment the Cold War ended.

His speech [in progress as this report is being filed] talks of repairing the trust between the United States and America, which has been seriously ruptured by the George W. Bush presidency and the war in Iraq - something Obama is still pledging to bring to an end as soon as possible.

His rival, Republican John McCain sees the presence of US troops continuing for many years to come and has used YouTube to accuse the US media of "systematic bias" and "a love affair" with Obama.

Both men have suffered as a result of controversial comments from their former church pastors.

In going to Berlin to make a major speech on international affairs, following a Middle East visit where he pledged support for Israel but also visited Ramallah and spoke of the need for justice for Palestinians, Barack Obama is seen as following in the footsteps of folk legend John F. Kennedy.

But US commentators say that seeking popularity in Europe may play badly with small town America, which has a parochial rather than an internationalist view of the world, and where the Germans and the French are viewed with scepticism because of their critical stance towards US foreign policy.

Beginning his speech to cheers and whoops, Obama thanked Berliners for their "incredible welcome" and said that he was there as a "world citizen" rather than a presidential candidate.

"This city of all cities knows the dream of freedom", he declared. "And you know that the only reason we stand here tonight is that men and women from both our nations stood together to struggle and sacrifice."

He spoke of "the Soviet shadow" and of the end of war in Europe as laying the basis of cooperation between Americans and Germans.

"While the 20th Century taught us that we share a common destiny, the 21st has revealed a world more intertwined than at any time in human history," Mr Obama said, speaking near the Victory Column in the central Tiergarten Park.

"In Europe, the view that America is part of what has gone wrong in our world, rather than a force to help make it right, has become all too common," he continued.

"In America, there are voices that deride and deny the importance of Europe's role in our security and our future."

"But the burdens of global citizenship continue to bind us together," he added.

"In this new century, Americans and Europeans alike will be required to do more - not less.

"Partnership and cooperation among nations is not a choice. It is the one way, the only way, to protect our common security and advance our common humanity."

However, BBC correspondent Matthew Price says that John McCain is the man he has to beat in another Berlin - the one in Pennsylvania that symbolises and embodies white, working class America.

"And this contest [in November 2008] could be closer than many now imagine," he adds.

It is not escaping the attention of commentators that the huge crowds and overwhelming poll approval ratings Obama is receiving in Europe are from those who have no vote in the election that really counts.

"But the reality is that, in a certain sense, the person chosen to lead the United States is the nearest one can get to a 'president of the world', which is why people care so much," an observer in Berlin told Ekklesia.

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