Yes, the obligatory Obama post.
Of course I went. I'd seen Clinton in...'94?...and couldn't remember a word he'd said and wanted to see if Obama could do better. Opting for comfort (a relative term in a situation like this) over being metal-detected and waiting in line to get into the main venue, we stopped at the first video screen we came to on 17 Juni, and that turned out to have been a great decision.
The trade-off, of course, was suffering through the pre-show "entertainment," a reggae-oid band and a standard-issue rock band which sounded like a fourth-generation xerox of U2. Although, I have to admit, finding rock bands in Europe with the credentials to get the kind of security clearance you'd have to have to play a gig like this couldn't have been easy. Asking them to be good would be too much, and not having them would have meant more of the DJ, who got extra points for tone-deafness for sticking on some remix of "Sympathy for the Devil" shortly before Obama hit the stage. (Actual last song before he spoke, though, was Bowie doing "Let's Dance," and I think I can now live without hearing that one ever again. Talk about dated...)
As for the speech itself, the New York Times summed it up nicely in their morning headline: Obama, Vague on Issues, Pleases Crowd in Europe. The thing I had to keep remembering as the blurry phrases piled up around the wall metaphor he'd set up at the start (the Wall and the Berlin Airlift were the two leitmotifs) was that this was a speech for Americans, not the Germans who'd taken off from work early on a nice Thursday afternoon to hear him.
It was good to hear him defend a military presence in Afghanistan, which is something a sizeable number of Germans, with their knee-jerk anti-war attitudes, don't want to hear, but he was right: this is a golden chance, already mostly-blown by the US, to restore a country devastated by war to a functioning, and peaceful, state. It was good to hear him denounce nuclear weapons, not just in Iran (where they don't have them) but around the world. And it was really good to hear him emphasize that the US and Europe have to listen to each other, and to reject unilateralism: that part of the speech was for the Europeans.
If the speech was, in the end, the proverbial Chinese food ("you're hungry an hour later"), it was still a good PR move by the man who will very likely take the reins of the US government next year. The weather was beautiful, and by delaying his speech til a little after 7, he was helped by a setting sun rich in red tones, which burnished his skin into a nicely metaphoric medley of colors.
I got what I needed -- a (bootleg, I think, since it was being sold by some people also selling t-shirts for a sauna company) button I can attach to myself discreetly in Ameriskeptic contexts (read: France) -- and we left right after the speech, while the video screen still showed him shaking hands with the crowd. As we headed up 17 Juni, the loneliest man in Berlin stood, a 60-something-year-old guy holding an umbrella, from which little McCain signs depended. Germans were mocking him loudly, and I almost felt sorry for him except for the fact that he was, in fact, advocating a continuation of the horror the US has lived through for the past eight years.
And yes, an hour later I was hungry.