American Idol German Edition: Mr. Obama Goes to Berlin.

Barack Obama’s upcoming visit to Berlin seems to have generated a fervor that is akin only to the frenzy of delight that swept the United States when the Beatles came to play Shea Stadium.

Der Spiegel’s current cover displays a photo of the favoured Democrat and states “Deutschland trifft den SuperStar,” which basically translates as “Germany meets the superstar.”

The Main Event

This Thursday the Democratic nominee for the Presidency of the United States will speak in Berlin. Der Spiegel has speculated that the speech will draw between 10,000 to a million spectators eager to hear from the man often referred to in the local press as an “American Idol.” (And, in fact, I’m trying to decide whether or not to take my four-year-old on a five hour train trip to experience this rather historic moment- given her precocious nature I’m thinking likely not. Last thing I need is for her to bite a secret service agent in the ankle…)

A Little Background

Historically speaking, this is another opportunity for Obama to solidify the parallels between himself and JFK. This is his chance to present himself as the man who can bring hope for a new, shiny and improved America- a Camelot redux.

As noted on the Deutsche Welle website, Germans in particular but Europeans as a whole are eager for a change from the current American administration. German citizen Monika Staffel was quoted as stating:

We are waiting urgently for change because Bush has caused a loit of damage in the world…Now we want to know more about Obama’s positions….”

An Important Precursor: JFK’s Speech in Berlin

The speech in Berlin – perhaps expertly crafted by the ever-brilliant Theodore Sorensen- is a chance for Obama to recreate and perhaps surpass one of Kennedy’s greatest triumphs.

On June 26, 1963, John F. Kennedy gave what became known as the “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech shortly after the East Germans erected the Berlin Wall, dividing the city, already a bohemian island in the midst of the austere East, completely in two. In an inspiring oration, the young American President let it be known that the United States would not abandon Berlin to Communism. It was a message of defiance and a message of hope.

[Unfortunately these days it is also known primarily for the fact that by saying “ich bin ein Berliner,” Kennedy accidentally labeled himself a jelly doughnut. “Ein Berliner” is a jam-filled pastry. He meant to say “Ich bin Berliner,” which means “I am a citizen of Berlin.”]

Obama and the Kennedy Connection.

Ever since the Kennedys and the Clintons began battling for the soul of the Democratic Party like the Jets and the Sharks, it seems that the Massachusetts clan has done whatever it can to draw parallels between Obama and JFK. As the blog Politico noted back in January, when Senator Kennedy and Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg endorsed Obama:

“Caroline Kennedy said there was ‘one candidate who offers the same sense of hope and inspiration’ as her father.”

And now the stage is set for an exciting, dynamic young candidate with a gift for oration to recreate a triumph belonging to another exciting, dynamic young politician with a gift for oration.

The Setting for the Speech

However, unlike JFK, Obama will not be allowed to speak at the Brandenburg Gate as Kennedy (and later Reagan and Clinton did) because he is not yet President. Instead he will speak at the Victory Column, the Shining, golden angel that watches over Berlin (the one on which the angels perch and watch over the city in the gloriously moving and beautiful film Wings of Desire– Wim Wenders’s love letter to Berlin.)

[Though historically the Victory Column is considered a representation of Prussian military might– perhaps not the ideal subtext for this speech.]

Why It is a Brilliant PR Move

With Obama’s recent repositioning on certain issues at home having led to serious criticism (from sources like The Huffington Post), the first tarnish on a golden reputation and repeated questions raised about his foreign policy experience, the candidate’s visit to Europe could not come at a better time.

He is being received with adulation. He will demonstrate how he can revive the United States’s declining world reputation. He may in fact prove to be the ultimate American idol.

Do you think a European success will silence critics at home? Do you think that it will matter? And do you think that, unlike JFK, Obama will craft solid policies and strategies as President, and not just prove to be a stylish, smart and well-spoken example of style over substance?

Myself- I am very much hoping that the answer is yes- that the man of the moment is the man of the future. Fingers crossed.


9 comments so far

  1. Pages tagged "precocious" on

    […] bookmarks tagged precocious American Idol German Edition: Mr. Obama Goes to Be… saved by 5 others     koppite83 bookmarked on 07/23/08 | […]

  2. Esme Callendar on

    I thought I knew who Obama was. But as the campaign goes on, both candidates seem to get lost in the smoke of PR. Winning is the only thing, it seems, and it’s perhaps naive to want a little bit of non-drum banging, calm discussion in a political campaign, but wouldn’t it be nice? What happened to the idea of just the 2 candidates sitting down and talking without intervention from the press. Just a discussion with the TV cameras turned on.

  3. Thinking Voter on

    For some reason, everyone neglects to mention that Obama spoke at a Free Concert.

    Maybe all those thousands of young Germans turned up for the two bands that were playing instead of coming to hear a speach in english.

    Nah, Obama’s charisma is so powerful it transcends language.

    More Kool Aid anyone?

  4. abbymartin on

    Agreed Esme, Agreed. Did think it was funny that McCain then made a speech from a German restaurant in Ohio- subtle poke that.

    Plain face-to-face speak would be nice- but unlikely in this day and age.


  5. abbymartin on

    Thinking Voter- welcome to the site.

    Now, I am currently in Koeln and the press has not made much mention of a free concert- I am not doubting your veracity, I’m just saying that the appearance of two bands is being downplayed. Interesting.

    One thing the press has emphasized though is that there are a lot of Americans living abroad who showed up for this event. So that is a factor.

    But I do think the man has charisma and I do think that this is a canny PR move- show how he might be received differently than W by the rest of the world. (As in, not despised for being a small-minded hick who does whatever he wants for his oil company cronies….)

    Still, your point is not invalid.


  6. Bonnie Dean on

    If you get a chance, look at how the Daily Show takes on the coverage of Obama’s trip to Europe (Obama Quest). They posit that the media is completely infatuated with Obama. You have the three major news anchors following his every move. CNN interrupts its programming with “Breaking News” whenever Obama’s plane lands.

    It’s all quite funny. And dead on.

  7. abbymartin on


    Thanks for letting me know! I have a whole bunch of Daily Shows and Colbert Reports Tivo’d from when we were away and now I am even more eager to watch them!

    BTW- what’s really surreal is that in Koeln, they show the Daily Show on the weekend on CNN International.


  8. Brad W. Bush on

    Love this blog, but it’s way too complicatated for me. The details are unbelievable. If you don’t get an A in this class, I will flip out.

  9. abbymartin on

    Many thanks Mr. Bush. I doubt this is too complicated for you- you are underestimating yourself!


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