A speech at the Olympic Stadium would recall the cheers for Jesse Owen, the black runner whose four gold medals in 1936 humiliated Der Fuehrer, mocking his rants of Aryan superiority. Sen. Obama could make the point that using the Olympics to score cheap political points is risky business. (China, take note.)
The senator could find a heroic backdrop at soon-to-close Tempelhof International Airport, nexus of the Berlin Airlift that saved the city's residents from cold and hunger when the Soviets tried to strangle West Berlin into submission in 1948.
The senator's scouts will confront difficulty and irony no matter where they pose him in Berlin. He's not running for office in Germany, and wherever he goes he'll remind thoughtful folks back home that George W. Bush is responsible for the warm relationship with the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel. Obama in Berlin might even remind American voters of some of Hillary Clinton's sharp criticism in the primary season, such as her remark that although Sen. Obama had been chairman of a Senate subcommittee on Europe, he never called a single hearing.
Spectacle draws crowds, but it can't replace substance. Merkel offered John McCain equal time in Berlin, but he probably doesn't need it. Aware that spectacle at the Brandenburg Gate might look more like the Nuremberg rally than an American-style political rally, a chastened Obama told The New York Times that he doesn't want the setting to distract from his message. "Our goal is for me to lay out how I think about the next administration's role in rebuilding a trans-Atlantic alliance."
The Europeans are swooning over Barack Obama, and wherever he speaks he'll no doubt stir big crowds. But Europeans still don't vote in our elections. Not yet.
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