Thursday, July 24, 2008

Platitudes and High Drama in Berlin

Platitudes and drama make a great speech. Consider this: President Bush could have stood at Ground Zero on September 12, 2001 with a bullhorn and said almost anything, and he would still have received a standing ovation.

I wager to say the same was the case for John F. Kennedy when he delivered his "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech in 1963, and when Ronald Reagan spoke at the Brandenberg gate in 1987.

With the Brandenberg gate in the background and scores of people lining the Unter den Linden as if another American president or a European rockstar were in attendance, we had the makings of yet another scene of high drama that will be guranteed to make a grand Obama speech today. There is no risk that Senator Barack Obama will appear too presidential because the people, the landscape, the props demand it. (The same can be said for his upcoming nomination acceptance address planned in a stadium that will hold over 75,000 people.)

Barack Obama can say no wrong this day because he like all great orators from time immemorial has merely tapped into a public psychological fact that we guide and reinforce each other's rapture when we sit entranced before a speaker speaking before thousands. We love the mythological script of a single man, and his moment, and his rhetorical etching on the tapestry of history. It is a performance we yearn, and we love those that give it to us. Obama will get a bump in his poll numbers because Americans will catch a long awaited glimpse of what it will be like to have thousands of foreign faces staring adoringly at our president.

So most of us would have been impressed today, but the question is, how much more than if President George Bush had thousands before him in a historic landscape delivering his home-spun zingers about freedom and global unity?

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