Saturday, July 26, 2008

This was Supposed to Move Your Soul, America

The “expectation-reducing” estimate of 100.000 from 1.000.000 somehow turned into a 20.000 talked up to 200.000 as spirit moved them.

It turns out that Berlin’s Obamatons convention has turned out into something of a Dutch auction, where the bidding drops until the bien pensent can no longer stand it.

John Rosenthal:
ZDF Berlin studio chief Peter Frey added, "We do estimate that 20,000 [literally, "a couple of ten thousand"] people have turned out." Frey's tone, like that of Gelhard, reflected the gap between the relatively modest number cited and the lofty predications that had preceded the event. Moreover, while the ZDF live images showed that the "Fan Mile" was indeed populated from one end to the other, they also appeared to reveal patches of thinness and pedestrian traffic flowing easily on the half of the boulevard closer to the Brandenburg Gate (i.e. furthest from the "Victory Column").

And then: the candidate did not appear at the appointed time. Could his handlers have been disappointed by the turnout? Did they hope to buy time for more spectators to arrive? At this point, ZDF interrupted its special coverage and broke for the nightly news. When the coverage resumed some fifteen minutes later, ZDF host Claus Kleber promptly declared that there were "one hundred thousand" people on the Fan Mile. He then repeated the claim twice more in rapid succession -- now, more precisely, "over one hundred thousand people" -- as if repetition could somehow cover up the glaring discrepancy between this number and the number cited by his colleague Frey only 20 minutes earlier.

Minutes later, Obama was on stage. And a half hour after that, he was gone again. By 8 p.m. -- as the crowd filed out, obediently following the order to disperse given over the loud-speaker system -- the number being cited had grown to fully 200,000. As this German timeline indicates, the original source for the rapidly growing estimates was in fact the rally organizers: i.e. the Obama team. The 200,000 figure would also be attributed to the Berlin police -- which might represent the first time in modern history that the police and the organizers of a political rally agreed on their estimates of crowd size.
BBC evasively called it “some tens of thousands” which is beautifully non-numeric, as the press was trying to suppress it’s “hallelulias”. The other amusing feature of the 200.000 send-up is that it would represent 6% of the population of the city which seems to be as prone to general belly-aching and lacking in enthusiasm as you’ll find.

Reporting on the scene is Berlin-based Atlantic-Review, a blog run by former Fulbright scholars which is supposed to be focussing on NATO and the Trans-atlatic relationship with funding from the German Marshal Fund has for the last few weeks appeared to have drunk the juice. Taking sides under the dangerous pretense that they are sure who will win, and that there really isn't anything unseemly for a para-governmental think-tank grabbing its' ankles.

They even managed to call their needy-dope-on-the-street-interview post “continuity you can believe in”, somehow intellectually consolidating “continuity” and “change” without their heads imploding.

The premise behind their effort is that life would be just dandy if Germans liked America again. A silly expectation from the nation that brought you Realpolitik, which means throwing anyone under the bus if it's convenient or if there are enough molotov-cocktail tossing German adolescents outside.

Oddly enough, they seem unaware of just how many people this could alienate, and I don't mean the half of the population who will vote for McCain, I mean imagining that America should expend even one man-hour of somebody's time at Foggy Bottom on being liked by Germans when there are real problems in the world, and it isn't worth exciting ones shred of resentment from those governments leery of Germans, i.e. The Poles, Russians, and a cast of dozens for the sake of some collective sandbox jollies which won't matter to either relations or the broader German and American publics.

Europeans don't do change, at least not at anything faster than a glacial pace. Obama isn't going to magically compel anyone in Europe to do anything cooperative. If they like the fluff, fine, but there is no way in hell Americans will elect a man just to be told some silly fiction about being temporarily and conditionally liked by Europeans.

You'll be sure to enjoy the continuity the Jordanian guy expresses in his idea that all American politicians are alike, and the wacko at the end hoping for “Bush jokes”. On the planet that think-tank types live on, this is called a budding endearment to America

The sad thing is that now these people expect a possible President Obama to follow policy guidance that favors them. Fat chance getting that out of this shark. These very people will make no effort to conceal their resentment of America even more in 24 months out of simple disappointment for not having gotten out of him in policy terms, something for nothing.

Even among friendly nations, the exercise of seeking affection out of random citizens is pointless. If they like or dislike America, it's for their own reasons that shouldn't cost one drop of American blood or one single element of domestic interest. Only on a superficial cultural level could that emotional cultural bond matter, and Realpolitik being what it is - the Europeans would withdraw that bond in a flash if we ever needed it.

Nor would that effort of being broadly liked by the German public benefit Germans either. Want to be liked if you have a serious task in the world that might require cooperation from Europeans? Then get a dog. Affection hasn't been used as the basis of international relationship since the Soviets employed the pretense ran an annual “solidarity parade” for each of their satellites – where the children wore Marxist Pioneer or FDJ shirts and attendance was mandatory.