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Obama: Ich Bin Ein Skeptiker

The rest of the world is destined to be disappointed by every American President. This is normal. Don't be depressed. Don't be surprised. American Presidents look after American interests, not European or anyone else's. Sometimes our interests may coincide or overlap. Sometimes they will not. It seems to me that non-Americans should be sensibly prepared for either eventuality.

Given that President Obama (if he makes it) will disappoint just like any other in due course, the rest of the world might as well take some pleasure for the next six months in the spectacle of his campaign and the sound of his oratory while the comforting self-delusions are still firmly in place.

That's as good a reason as any for the estimated 200,000 Berliners to have turned out to hear the prospective US President this evening. I confess that, if I'd been in Berlin (instead of in Cardiff watching him on BBC online), I would have joined the crowds in Tiergarten Park, even though I'm of the Coke vs Pepsi school of thought on US presidential elections.

Obama's big foreign policy speech was actually a campaign stump speech, primarily for domestic consumption, even if it did take place thousands of miles from the nearest US polling station.

It was well-delivered and full of all the usual rhetorical tricks: the couplets, the triplets, the alliteration and the big, building finish.

Parts of the speech could have been given by President Bush or Senator McCain. Parts of it could have been given by Amnesty Secretary General, Irene Khan.

The speech was heavy on the 1948 Berlin airlift (one of the US's finest moments of peaceful foreign policy in action?), fulfilling the American dream, restoring America's international reputation, bringing peace to Iraq and the Middle East generally, building bridges across the Atlantic, ending death in Darfur, reducing nuclear weaponry, tackling climate change, ending torture, defending the blogger, celebrating freedom and tearing down walls (although he was factually wrong about the walls coming down in Belfast – sadly, we have more than ever).

Oh, and getting more European help for the doomed NATO adventure in Afghanistan.

And, did I mention the Berlin airlift already. Never mind, here it is again.

If you missed the speech you can catch it again here, courtesy of YouTube. Alternatively, just let your eye wonder across this lovely Wordle word cloud of the speech (specially created for Belfast and Beyond readers), while listening to a bit of the saccharine 'Lovely Day' by Bill Withers, an Obama campaign theme song. Take it from me, the effect is much the same.

Alternatively, if you don't like my scepticism and you want to keep that self-delusion going until at least January '09, then take four and a half minutes out of your day to listen and watch the wonderful 'Yes We Can' by and famous friends. Even I could be swayed by this piece of audio/video propaganda, undoubtedly one of the best ever!

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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