Obama's Berlin Speech Disappointing

Barack Obama's speech in Germany made for quite an impressive picture, and any American gathering an audience of 200,000 in Europe — or anywhere, for that matter — is cause for excitement. No dispute there. But as speeches go, Obama's call for global unity was quite bland, cautious and clearly designed to offend no one. He got to tell Americans how much he loves his country, and to call for peace and justice throughout every land, from Berlin to the Balkans to Bangladesh to Burma.

That is a positive message, of course. But as speeches go, as Obama speeches in particular go, it wasn't a stunner. Think back to his red-and-blue-state-America speech at the 2004 convention, his masterful speech on race in Philadelphia and any number of his primary-night speeches and you know what I mean. He is obviously saving it up for the convention in Denver, as well he should. It was more of a moment and it was definitely a picture, and the seriously shrewd Obama knew how to make it happen. I give him tremendous credit for that — the guy has a lot of nerve and can pull off quite a show.

Once Obama comes home and we move from style to substance, from pictures to policy, the debate will return to the surge in Iraq that Obama opposed. While John McCain certainly didn't know what to do with himself this week during Obama's staggering, dazzling world tour, we all know what he wants to talk about next week. In my column this week, I noted that Obama won't take back his opposition to the surge, despite praising John Edwards for renouncing his Iraq war vote and pressuring Hillary Clinton on hers. McCain will keep the pressure on Obama to say something new and Obama will work hard to rationalize it all. But without the dramatic backdrops, cheering crowds, applauding soldiers and red carpets, the debate will take place on a more level playing field and Americans will hear more clearly just what Obama has to say.

***

WILL AMERICANS REALLY IGNORE THE RACE DURING THE OLYMPICS? Ask A.B. returns Tuesday, July 29 — Please join my weekly video Q&A by sending your questions and comments to askab@thehill.com.