By Erich Follath
In the run-up to his visit to Israel, the Democratic candidate tried to compensate for his position on Iran -- and ended up making his worst foreign policy blunder: Speaking to the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC in Washington in early June, he went so far as to assert that Jerusalem would "remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided." Not even the extremely pro-Israel Bush administration had gone that far. The Palestinians, who -- in agreement with the European Union and the United Nations -- claim East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, were furious; the extremists in Hamas called Obama a "Zionist poodle."
"This will be the next president of the United States," wrote the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, which until then had been critical of Obama. And their colleagues at Haaretz found that, compared to the Obama tour, the visit by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who had an opportunity last week to speak before the Knesset, was as insignificant "as a warm-up act for the Beatles." A survey conducted by Israel Radio following the visit revealed that 4 percent more Israelis favor the Democratic senator over McCain.
Next Obama endeavored -- tightrope act number two -- to reduce the reservations that Palestinians have about him. He had already revised his statement about Jerusalem. In an interview on CNN he said: "Obviously, it's going to be up to the parties to negotiate a range of these issues. And Jerusalem will be part of those negotiations." He traveled to see the leaders of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. He promised moderate Palestinians that under his leadership the US would push the Israelis to stop building new settlements and actively pursue the peace process. He may have only spent just under two hours in the West Bank, but even Palestinian skeptics were highly appreciative of the visit. When McCain visited Israel four months ago, he saw no reason to visit Ramallah.
The more moderate, nonpartisan and presidential the Democratic senator acted on this trip, the more it underscored the grating tones of his opponent: "Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign," a visibly more nervous McCain commented. Even the weather seemed to turn against the Republican. He set out to prove his expertise on energy issues by flying out to an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. But the modest photo op was spoiled by a hurricane.
No, it wasn't a good week for the McCainiacs. The head strategists of the Republican election campaign were up in arms over the "Obama orgy" that they believe America's media had orchestrated while other supporters -- depending on their disposition -- struggle with bouts of Obamanic depression. The leading networks CBS, NBC and ABC did indeed send their anchormen to the Middle East, and it took plenty of chutzpah to bill the election campaign trip as a simple congressional delegation with Chuck Hagel (Rep.) and Jack Reed (Dem.) tagging along as decoration.
However, when CNN decided out of a sense of fairness to give McCain exactly the same prime airtime last Wednesday, it turned out to be rather counterproductive for the Republican. He was seen standing on some hilltop in Maine, his hair disheveled by the wind, and out of the blue he said "I will get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice, I promise you."
With an expressionless look on his face, he examined heads of cabbage at a supermarket in Pennsylvania and told housewives how concerned he is about the high prices of food and gasoline. Afterwards, viewers were treated to McCain with George Bush Senior playing a round of golf. The two men looked like a couple of pensioners -- active, but not necessarily so dynamic that people would be inclined to entrust them with the most important office in the world: more like the generation 70 and over.
The Winners and Losers of Berlin
Recently, McCain has made a number of faux pas, a few slips of the tongue, but in view of his attacks on Obama's inexperience, they weigh in as fairly important. The presumptive Republican nominee spoke of "Czechoslovakia" -- a country that has not existed for over a decade; he told stories about threats on the "Iraqi-Pakistani border," which has never existed; and he named Vladimir Putin as the "president of Germany."
And then the current US president, McCain's fellow Republican Party member, stabbed him in the back: George W. Bush acted -- in view of his disastrous historical legacy -- surprisingly multilateral and willing to negotiate. He dispatched a top diplomat to the nuclear negotiations with the Iranians, he spoke of a "time horizon" for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, and he allowed his secretary of state to shake the hand of her North Korean counterpart. "Appeasement" was how McCain would have until recently described such policies. Now he seems particularly out-of-step with the times and stubborn, while his opponent looks like an advisor for the last few months of the Bush administration.
Meanwhile, Republican campaigners were having fun distributing phony French press credentials to the reporters who stayed back in the US. And while Obama's Berlin speech was broadcast around the world, three American towns with the name Berlin were targeted with special McCain campaign ads -- all rather futile attempts at counteracting Obamania in Europe. They culminated in the idea of placing the Republican presidential hopeful in front of Schmidt's Restaurant and Sausage Haus in Columbus, Ohio for his own German experience while Obama celebrated his triumph at the Victory Column in Berlin. In a sour tone, McCain said that he would love to give a speech in Germany, "but I'd much prefer to do it as president of the United States, rather than as a candidate for president." The candidate's only inspiring idea was that he met with the Dalai Lama the following day.
In the world of sports, this would be called a class distinction. If Europeans could vote then in the contest between the Democrat against the Republican, the results would be something like 8:1 in France, 5:1 in the UK, 7:1 in Germany. But what has the world, or Germany for that matter, learned about Obama's policies? What has been left unsaid, what details can we expect to hear from the presidential candidate in the near future? Who were the winners and the losers of Berlin?
German politics narrowly avoided a serious embarrassment. Politicians such as Rainer Brüderle (of the pro-business Free Democratic Party, FDP) and Andreas Schockenhoff (of the center-right Christian Democrats, CDU) were opposed to allowing Obama make a spectacular appearance at the Victory Column, because of its status as a symbol of German wars. Chancellor Angela Merkel ensured with her public remarks about being disconcerted that the senator would not be allowed to speak at the Brandenburg Gate -- a petty decision that can only be explained by her undying loyalty to Bush. Obama supporters take pleasure in pointing out that Merkel broke the unwritten law of fairness prohibiting all criticism of one's own government when abroad. Back in February, 2003, when she was still in the opposition, she published a pro-Bush article on the invasion of Iraq in the Washington Post, effectively stabbing then-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder in the back.
Obama was able to score points in Europe and, more importantly, back home. In the weeks running up to his trip to Germany, he renounced some of his more liberal positions. The politician now openly supports the death penalty and the right to bear arms. In the area of civil rights, he made what is seen as a distressing policy shift by many Europeans: He now supports a telephone surveillance law introduced by the Bush administration. He has to do this, his campaigners argue, to counter allegations that he is too "soft" on terror. But his younger supporters, especially, are disappointed and feel that principles should not be abandoned for the benefit of election campaign tactics.
When it comes to foreign policy, Obama doesn't have to adopt new positions -- he already has them. He doesn't divide the world into a Manichaean concept of good and evil like the Republicans. He has no pretentious "freedom agenda" like McCain, who prefers to work together with a self-proclaimed "league of democracies" and would like to ban Russia from the G-8. The Democrat would rather promote civil society and opportunities for economic advancement.
"Obama has been called a naive idealist, but in terms of foreign policy, he's the true realist in the race," says Fareed Zakaria, an influential Washington insider who is editor of Newsweek International and author of the bestseller "The Post-American World".
I sort of agree with this but not really. I mean, its just more back and forth between Republicans and Democrats. Its kind of schizoid. What was it they say about insanity? [...] more...
its interesting the 2 major politicians in this state are Mediterranean. The Olympian Snowe is Greek and John Baldacia is Italian and Lebanese mixed. We like to elect them. Its sort of the Quebecois-ness of [...] more...
The Massholes will elect a Republican! That's ok, we have a Greek Republican in Maine Senate. I did not vote for her. She is not the Maine I am living in. http://snowe.senate.gov/public/ more...
---Quote (Originally by Subverted)--- [IMG]http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4023/4286515571_438fc1d7cb_o.jpg[/IMG] ---End Quote--- Have you read too many editions of the „Simplicissismus“, a German satire magazine, where people, [...] more...
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