Should Americans become more like Our Betters in Europe?
Clearly the 200,000 Germans who gathered to watch Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama at Berlin's Tiergarten on Thursday thought so. And in that Obama liberally challenged U.S. policies on the war in Iraq, global warming and U.S. interrogation measures, he gave the German audience the affirmation it craved.
A Pew Research Center poll showed 82 percent of Germans had confidence that Obama would do the right thing on world affairs. No wonder.
In Germany, it was all wunderbar. Addressing the throng as a "proud citizen of the United States," but also "a fellow citizen of the world," Obama seemed to be giving Europeans a role and a voice in an election in which they have no vote.
Not that Europeans haven't tried to play a role in U.S. electoral politics before. Who can forget Operation Clark County? That was the campaign waged by British paper the Guardian that encouraged Brits to write to voters in a swing county in the swing state of Ohio to urge them to vote for 2004 Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry -- because "the result of the U.S. election will affect the lives of millions around the world, but those of us outside the 50 states have had no say in it."
Well, they had their say, and Clark was the only county in Ohio to switch from supporting Gore in 2000 to Bush GOP in 2004. George W. Bush garnered some 25 percent more votes than in 2000.
To date, Obamaland has run an extremely savvy and effective campaign, but the European leg of the Obama world tour could be one big wrong turn. Figure that Obama already had the majority of votes among Americans with passports -- that's roughly 34 percent of Americans age 18 or older, according to the Economist. (In 2004, pollster James Zogby found that Americans with active passports preferred Kerry, while those without passports preferred Bush.)
Today, Obama is not polling as strongly as you would expect, given his media coronation. His European capitals tour probably did little to appeal to two-thirds of no-passport-required Americans who may not be all that impressed if the French and Germans go gaga for Obama.
While the speech went over big in Berlin, over time Obama's speeches seem notable for the irritating manner in which he straddles issues. There are no rough edges in his stump rhetoric. While he has a way of seeming to be critical, he is always careful not to make a sharp point.