July 27, 2008

Obama…Citizen of the World or President?

Print More

Barack Obama’s whirlwind tour of the world gave me the same feelings I experienced after viewing The Dark Night. The movie left me entertained, intrigued and somewhat curious. But as I got in to my car I realized that nothing in the world or my life had changed other than the fact that I just spent $30 on a trip to the movies. Oddly enough these emotions were the same ones I had after listening to Sen. Obama speak in Berlin, Germany (except it did not cost me $30). It was enjoyable to listen to and provided some good Kodak moments, but nothing in the world changed as a result.
The media along with many citizens has been enamored with Obama’s trip around the world, and for good reason. The United States has lost some prestige in the international community and nothing makes us feel better than being loved by the rest of the world. Who better to achieve this goal than [img_assist|nid=30883|title=Citizen of the World?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=|height=0Barack Obama, the freshman Senator from Illinois who was virtually unknown just five years ago. I write this with some jest, but Obama’s tactic of reaching out to the international community is a noble one that should be pursued. However, now is the time to win a campaign, not to play president with foreign leaders.
I pose a simple question concerning Obama’s recent trip. What specific foreign policy proposals has Obama mentioned and/or explained on his jaunt? The answer is unequivocally, none. ]Obama met with world leaders in all of the world’s hotspots, yet none of the tough issues that the next president will encounter were addressed. It is plausible that the Senator gained some insight that might benefit him if he wins the presidency. Without sharing how his policies may have been affected by his trip, however, what should Americans take away? When Obama held a press conference in Israel he certainly looked dashing in his kippah, but offered no insight in to how he might go about brokering a peace between Israel and the Palestinians, only that it will be difficult to reverse generations of strife between the two peoples. This lack of substance does nothing to persuade this author that Obama is more capable as a result of his trip.
Both the epitome and climax of Sen. Obama’s trip came in Berlin where he addressed some 200,000 Germans. “Burdens of global citizenship continue to bind us together.” “The greatest danger of all is to allow new walls to divide us. “Now is the time to join together.” “People of the world – this is our moment.” Upon first hearing these words I thought it was Ms. America’s plan for world peace. Okay, that was a cheap shot. These are lines from Barack Obama’s speech to his Berlin audience and while it was a brilliant display of oratory skill, nobody learned anything about Obama or his policies (other than the fact that he does not consider himself a presidential candidate, but a “citizen of the world.”).
Other U.S. presidents who have made resounding speeches in Berlin include John F. Kennedy in 1963 and Ronald Reagan in 1987. Yet, there is one not-so-insignificant difference between Kennedy’s and Reagan’s speeches and the one Obama delivered on Thursday. Kennedy and Reagan were PRESDIENT when they delivered their speeches! This rather important difference has some great implications. The words that Kennedy and Reagan spoke had weight to them. Since they were elected (point of information, Obama has yet to be elected president), they spoke on behalf of the United States. Both men were in a position to act on their words and had the power of the presidency behind them. Furthermore, presidents Kennedy and Reagan were able to formulate policy both before and after their speeches to ensure that their words were not in vain. Sure, Obama’s oratory skills are undeniable and his ability to draw such a crowd is impressive. However, not only was his speech devoid of substance and policy but also unable to carry any weight whatsoever.
To be fair, Sen. John McCain has not done a much better job of illustrating and explaining the intricacies of his foreign policy proposals. Nonetheless, a tour of the world does nothing to show Americans how you plan to address the litany of issues that will undoubtedly manifest themselves in the near future. The crux of the matter is that policy details and initiatives are what will change the lives of Americans. A presidential candidate, I mean “citizen of the world,” addressing a Berlin crowd and taking photos with foreign politicians is of little consequence. In his 1963 speech John F. Kennedy declared, “Ich bin ein Berliner,” or, “I am a Berliner.” Sen. Obama may be a Berliner, but it might help his cause if he were President first.