Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Can 200,000 Germans Be Wrong?

Of course they can. History has already furnished us with an awful example of huge Teutonic crowds cheering wildly for a compelling orator seeking power.

And yet...I can’t get quite get that scene in Berlin out of my head, and can’t help but think that it is good for America.

I’ve been very skeptical of the Obama phenomenon. I read his first book and find him to be deeply thoughtful, intelligent and empathetic. And I’m not particularly bothered by his inexperience. But his policy positions seem to be standard issue Democratic cant rather than a clarion call for change. And the idea of the Democratic Party having dominance over the House, the Senate and the White House makes me want to clutch for my wallet in futile self-defense.

And his most passionate followers? As my friend Peck put it, they’re not voters, they’re groupies.

And yet...

I used to mock one-issue voters, but since 9/11 I’ve become a bit of a one-issue voter myself, at least when it comes to the White House. I am a very firm believer in the huge and towering threat that is radical Islam. I believe many Americans and the majority of Europeans are blindly ignorant of the magnitude of the threat. And I’m pretty much willing to vote – or at least root – for the guy or gal who has the best chance of confronting that threat.

And much to my shock, I’m discovering that the Democratic nominee for President might be that guy.

Oratory & Alliances
Being a great President is, in many ways, mostly about talking. Lincoln was a terrible manager of generals, but he sold the war beautifully – in major speeches, private letters, everyday conversation. His mastery of rhetoric made him a great President.

I was an early and ardent supporter of the war in Iraq. I would not have been if I had known there were no WMDs, but I also believed in the ideological reasons for the war. Call me naïve, but I maintain a profound belief in the transformative power of representative government, and believe it can help heal the illness that plagues the Middle East.

But there were so many times the past few years where I thought, “Damn it – I can sell this war so much better than Dubya!” Obama, whatever else he may be, is an orator – and just maybe he can persuade the people of Europe that the fight against radical Islam is their fight, too.

Here’s the part of his Berlin speech that made me take notice:

"This is the moment when we must defeat terror and dry up the well of extremism that supports it. This threat is real and we cannot shrink from our responsibility to combat it. If we could create NATO to face down the Soviet Union, we can join in a new and global partnership to dismantle the networks that have struck in Madrid and Amman; in London and Bali; in Washington and New York. If we could win a battle of ideas against the communists, we can stand with the vast majority of Muslims who reject the extremism that leads to hate instead of hope.

This is the moment when we must renew our resolve to rout the terrorists who threaten our security in Afghanistan, and the traffickers who sell drugs on your streets. No one welcomes war. I recognize the enormous difficulties in Afghanistan. But my country and yours have a stake in seeing that NATO's first mission beyond Europe's borders is a success. For the people of Afghanistan, and for our shared security, the work must be done. America cannot do this alone. The Afghan people need our troops and your troops; our support and your support to defeat the Taliban and al Qaeda, to develop their economy, and to help them rebuild their nation. We have too much at stake to turn back now. "

An American political leader, speaking those words, in Europe, and being cheered by Germans waving American flags? It’s almost as unbelievable as a guy named Barack Obama becoming President of the United States.

* I’ve shamelessly stolen this italicized asterisked motif from baseball blogger Joe Posnanski. Joe told an interesting story recently. He asked the new Royals manager if he cared what motivated his players. The guy said no – he doesn’t care if the guy is motivated by winning, money, glory, fame, girls, fear – who cares what gets him going as long as he produces? In the same fashion, we may be skeptical about what motivated those German throngs to wave American flags– cult of personality, a dawning realization that they’re at risk, love of socialism, because they think it might piss off George Bush? But who cares? As long as they cheer.

Obama is right: America cannot do this on her own. If European leaders had political cover – the kind of cover that can be provided by large adoring crowds cheering on the American President (I realize I’m getting ahead of myself here) – they could authorize troops to Afghanistan, and which could take pressure off Iraq. Maybe we'll even get that bearded asshole roaming the caves of Pakistan.

Most importantly, we need Europe to stop directing all of their fury at us, and aim it at the lunatic fringe that wants to kill them and destroy their culture.
If that happens, Democrats will take all the credit for a victory in a battle they never wanted and didn't believe could be won. And I won't care one bit.

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