Monday, July 28, 2008

Obamamania and the Germans

By Gary Fouse

I have paid particular attention to the German aspect of Barack Obama's trip for many reasons. The spectacle of the Berlin speech struck me as grossly overdone in terms of location, the tone of the speech and the presence of 200,000 viewers. It would have been much more appropriate for a visiting American president than for a candidate-even one with Obama's ego.In light of Germany's history, eyebrows have also been raised about the reaction of Germans to Obama's presence. The sight of 200,000 Germans wildly cheering a charismatic and gifted speaker brings back troubling memories for many even if, as I would insist, this is a new Germany-not the Germany of the 1930s and 40s.

I have a personal connection to Germany. I first set foot on German soil in 1966 as a young American soldier. I spent two and a half years there, almost all of that period in Erlangen, a university town 20 kilometers from Nuremberg. In subsequent years, I became sort of an amateur scholar on the history of the Third Reich. Being greatly attached to Germany, I have returned countless times and eventually wrote a history of Erlangen a few years back. I freely admit that I am a Germanophile, and I think the Germans are basically a good and decent people. I also maintain that Germany, at least since the 1960s, has admirably met its responsibility to confront and acknowledge its past, much as we Americans have acknowledged our history of slavery and discrimination. My reaction to the Obama appearance in Germany is a little different. I never expected for a second that the crowd was going to break out in "Sieg Heils". My question is why Obama met with such an overwhelming reaction in Berlin.

During my last trip to Erlangen in June, I met with several friends and colleagues who are professional people in the university, education and politics. I also spoke at a local gymnasium English class. Everyone is interested in the American election. Yet, as much as the Germans are interested in America, I sense that their knowledge about our country, its people and institutions is rather superficial even for educated people. For example, everybody wanted to know about Obama, yet few had any knowledge about John McCain. Some were not even sure about his name. I sensed also that many of the people I spoke to had high expectations for what a President Obama would accomplish. Why is this? (For that matter, why do so many Americans have such an inflated image of this man-one not justified by his experience and accomplishments?) Is it because of the novelty of his ethnic background-or his youthful appearance-or his speaking ability?Or is it that Germans look to Obama to end the war in Iraq, end all wars and bring peace to the world?That is an aspect that deserves more attention. The Germans lost two disastrous world wars in the 20th century, each one bringing misery to the German nation and its people. The last one also brought international damnation upon Germany and a legacy that they are still trying to overcome. The last thing Germans want to see is another world war. That is understandable and should be respected.

While German pacifism is certainly understandable, I suspect they are forgetting one lesson of Hitler and the Nazi era. That I would call the lesson of Munich and Neville Chamberlain in 1938. There are certain people who cannot be negotiated with. In that category, I place people like Hitler and Islamic fanatics. They are fanatical and they are evil. During the Cold War, we could negotiate with the Soviets because, whatever they were, they were not irrational. The idea of mutual assured destruction was always in their minds. Today's enemies, people like Al-Qaida, Ahmadinejad and Hezbollah, are not rational. They don't care if the world goes up in flames. They don't care if they die-as long as their version of Islam triumphs world-wide. What is there to negotiate? We can leave Iraq tomorrow, and our enemies will not lay down their arms. Furthermore, Germany and the rest of Europe are just as threatened as America.

Dennis Prager is an LA-based talk show host whom I respect greatly. He is a practicing Jew, who also says that the Germany of today has done an admirable job of acknowledging its past-much more so than some other countries who were on the wrong side of World War 2. Yet, in discussing the Germans and the Obama speech in Berlin, Prager made the point (and I am paraphrasing)that there is a vast difference between fighting evil and the notion that fighting is evil. I think that is a point worthy of thought on both sides of the Atlantic.

Gary Fouse is a regular contributor to Radarsite with his popular and always provocative Fouse Report

A note from Radarsite: I'm afraid I must plead guilty of almost letting this fine essay slip past me. I assumed (big mistake) that it was going to be more coverage of the recent Obama Berlin vist, and I thought we had covered that subject pretty thoroughly. Big mistake.

This is a very different take on Obama's self-serving visit to Berlin. An insider's view, not just of Obama's speech, but of the German audience and why they reacted so favorably. A fascinating look into the Germany of 2008, and a reminder of the Germany of 1933. Thank you Gary, for another fine essay. - rg


  1. I easily believe that Germany, and all of Europe, do not have a clue about McCain. Not having a clue is what gets the world into terrible trouble.

    Imagine not understanding U.S. politics, even a little bit, yet you live in a free country. What happens here affects what happens everywhere.

    I also love Germany. I've been there many times. Have numerous German friends. I've spent a lot of time in Bavaria and Frankfort. I am always amazed at the naive attitudes of the German people when it comes to protecting their freedom. They, of all people, except the Jews should be ultra-tuned-in.

    Maggie's Notebook

  2. One word can explain both domestic & foreign Obamamania: superficiality.

  3. The reason Europeans love Obama and not McCain is that they see him as a European Dhimmi. They love any liberal elitist such as Clinton, Gore, Carter. They hated Nixon, Ford, Reagan and both Bushes. Europeans want America to be just like them. They want us to be Dhimmified Multiculturalists that only care about feelings and forget that the world is a greater place than their little corner of it.

  4. I'm sure you American realise how biased the BBC is but I don't think you realise the extent of how the media is biased is over here in the UK and Europe.

    We have been hearing about Obama all the time. To give an example, here is a link to a search of Obama of the Scotsman website. It contains 3300 results:

    Yet a search of McCain there is only 840:

    The Scotsman is a small Scottish based broadsheet with a very liberal editorial slant. It predominately concentrates on events in Scotland and the UK but has a small international section yet as you can see even with such a small part dedicated to international events that so much is being dedicated to one presidential hopeful?

    This will be happening with every liberal newspaper and TV station in every country in Europe.

    As to the rally in Berlin, he would have got similar crowds anywhere in Europe and UK. The Obama camp is trying to evoke the spirt of JFK's but as can be seen it is backfiring.

  5. I think you need to keep a sense of perspective here. People in Berlin like a party. So what if 200,00 turned up. 3 and 4 times that many turned up for the football games during the World Cup and the European Championships.