Conservatives, of course, were unlikely to praise Barack Obama’s speech before 200,000 in Berlin yesterday. But I found some of the criticism to be more misguided than usual. Here’s Ross Douthat, for example:
Yes, of course the Hitler comparisons are absurd, but I'd really like to know which genius on the Obama campaign thought it would be a good idea to have their candidate conduct a major campaign rally in Europe with three months to go till the election and their candidate, despite an incredibly favorable climate and a fumbling opponent, still clinging to a 2-4 point lead in the polls?
Overall, the overseas tour has been good to Obama, both for the obvious reasons and because making joint appearances with foreign leaders is a solid-enough way to build up his credibility as a potential Commander-in-Chief. But photo ops are one thing, Beatlemania-style rallies are quite another.... The Berlin rally probably won’t hurt Obama — voters aren’t really paying attention to anything election-related right about now, and it’ll be forgotten by the time the fall campaign begins in earnest. But it could do some minor damage, and it certainly won’t help him.
I think the photo-op point is largely backwards. When Obama shakes hands with Chancellor Merkel, U.S. voters get to see a candidate smiling alongside a world leader. It tells us that a German head of state is willing to politely greet a U.S. presidential candidate, which is to say, it doesn’t tell us much.
When Obama delivers a powerful speech about global cooperation on everything from counter-terrorism to climate change, and does so in front of 200,000 enthusiastic Germans, many of whom were waving American flags, it tells voters in the U.S. quite a bit. Specifically, that our allies are ready for the United States to lead again, and they’re captivated and inspired by one of the candidates seeking the job of leader of the free world.
Is it so hard to appreciate the notion that having an American president who enjoys respect and admiration abroad can help our standing in the world?