CBS: Obama’s Berlin Speech ‘Confirmed His Rock Star Status’

Mark Phillips, CBS A report by correspondent Mark Phillips on Friday’s CBS "Early Show" gave a glowing review of Barack Obama’s speech in Berlin on Thursday: "...there is a bit of a morning after feeling here in Berlin after what they're calling the 'Obama show.' But if the intent of this trip was to raise Barack Obama's foreign profile, it could hardly have been raised any higher...The stage could not have been bigger. The 200,000-plus crowd confirmed his rock star status, and his more cooperative sounding rhetoric was what the crowd wanted to hear."

On Thursday’s "Early Show" Phillips previewed the upcoming speech with the same fawning: "...preparations have been underway for a crowd that may number in the tens of thousands. Such is the anticipation of this Obama visit...Barack Obama of course isn't running for office here, but he may wish he were. Opinion polls across Europe, unofficial ones in newspapers, show that he would have a lead somewhere in the range of 80%. He has extremely high popularity in Europe and extremely high expectations." During that same report, Phillips quoted one German citizen who explained: "I have the feeling that with Obama there's something new. And we need it. Especially in Europe." Phillips then added: "Something new meaning he's not George W. Bush, whose war in Iraq drove a wedge between U.S. and European public opinion."

On Friday’s show, Phillips observed: "This was a speech about tone, not specifics. But mostly it was about showing up and being seen." He then went on to describe John McCain’s "bitterness" toward Obama’s media coverage: "Being seen too much, according to John McCain, who has complained bitterly about the coverage his opponent has received. McCain's response to Obama's Berlin mega-event was to go to a German restaurant in Columbus, Ohio."

Phillips concluded his report by discussing how Obama had "passed" a risky test: "This trip had its risks, just not the Berlin speech, but the Middle Eastern swing and the Iraq and Afghanistan visits as well. It was a test, one, the prevailing view here at least, would say he passed."

Following the report by Phillips, co-host Harry Smith talked to political analyst Jeff Greenfield about Obama’s speech: "We watch these images over the last 24 hours, 200,000 people out there. He's giving a speech to the people there... The images though, are stunning." Greenfield explained that Obama was really speaking to American voters:

And I think what he's trying to say, one of the messages that I heard was, 'look, I'm not some wooly-headed liberal lefty that thinks we should all sing Cumbaiya together. I'm here to tell them that we need international cooperation to beat the terrorists, to beat the extremists, to win the war in Afghanistan.'...But I think for the American voter he was saying, 'look, I'm here speaking for our national security interests...My metaphor is the wall that Reagan used, not John Kennedy's metaphor.

Obama certainly was not trying to sing Cumbaiya when he declared: "Tonight, I speak to you not as a candidate for President, but as a citizen - a proud citizen of the United States, and a fellow citizen of the world....People of Berlin - people of the world - this is our moment. This is our time." And he certainly was standing for national security interests when he asked: "Will we reject torture and stand for the rule of law? Will we welcome immigrants from different lands, and shun discrimination against those who don't look like us or worship like we do, and keep the promise of equality and opportunity for all of our people?" Read Obama’s full speech here.

Smith went on to compare Obama’s speech to McCain’s campaign events: "You're John McCain...you're eating a bratwurst, you're at a German restaurant...you're trying to make the best of an odd situation at best." Greenfield replied: "It is. And I think the message coming from Obama's opponents will -- McCain's message is 'this is overreaching. I'd rather go there as president. You're not the president yet.' And there's a certain theme of arrogance, overreaching, that the Republicans are trying to put on Obama." Greenfield added: "I do think that after, you know, after four years of the war, an American being cheered in Europe is probably not politically harmful."

However, Greenfield did conclude the segment by poking fun at all the coverage Obama has received:

You have this obsessive over covering of every single thing that Obama's doing. 'Did he pronounce this word right? Did he eat the right food? He made a three-point shot, he's going to win Ohio.' Meanwhile, it's July. And what I think is, yes, some of the polls in the battleground states are tightening. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll seemed to show that people have doubts about Obama. They think he's the riskier candidate...Because they don't know him. So we've got to wait a while.

Here are the full transcripts of the Thursday and Friday "Early Show" segments on Obama’s speech:

07/24/08

7:07AM SEGMENT:

RUSS MITCHELL: Barack Obama is in Germany this morning. The beginning of the European leg of his nine-day overseas trip. Early this morning he made his last stop in Israel, a surprise visit to Jerusalem's Western Wall. And later today Obama meets with German leaders and he will deliver a speech on U.S.-European relations in front of one of Berlin's most famous back drops. CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips is in Berlin. Mark, good morning to you.

MARK PHILLIPS: Good morning, Russ. Well, that Barack Obama chose Berlin to make the major address of this foreign trip is no accident, presidents Kennedy and Reagan, of course, made famous speeches here during the Cold War and they did so right on the front line of that war, the Brandenburg Gate. Barack Obama is still running for president and he's been relegated to a spot a little further down the road. It's been a political juggling act for the Germans as to where Barack Obama would give this speech. In the end, the site of the Victory Column, built after a war in the mid-1800's, was chosen. And preparations have been underway for a crowd that may number in the tens of thousands. Such is the anticipation of this Obama visit.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I have the feeling that with Obama there's something new. And we need it. Especially in Europe.

PHILLIPS: Something new meaning he's not George W. Bush, whose war in Iraq drove a wedge between U.S. and European public opinion. Berliners, though, have other fond memories of major American political figures and what they've said here.

JOHN KENNEDY: Ich bin ein Berliner.

RONALD REAGAN: Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.

BARACK OBAMA: I've never been to Berlin, so this will be -- I would love to tootle around a little bit.

PHILLIPS: And Barack Obama has a delicate task ahead of him.

CONSTANZE STELZENMUELLER: He obviously can't afford back home to be seen as somebody who panders to Europeans. And at the same time he is trying to convince those in America who care deeply about the repairing of America's image in the world that this is something he can do.

PHILLIPS: Barack Obama of course isn't running for office here, but he may wish he were. Opinion polls across Europe, unofficial ones in newspapers, show that he would have a lead somewhere in the range of 80%. He has extremely high popularity in Europe and extremely high expectations. Russ.

MITCHELL: Mark Phillips in Berlin, thank you very much.

 

07/25/08

7:07AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: Now back to Barack Obama's foreign trip. The Democratic presidential hopeful arrives in Paris this morning. Yesterday he delivered a major speech in Berlin. CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips is there. Good morning, Mark.

MARK PHILLIPS: Good morning, Harry. Well, there is a bit of a morning after feeling here in Berlin after what they're calling the 'Obama show.' But if the intent of this trip was to raise Barack Obama's foreign profile, it could hardly have been raised any higher. Barack Obama had two objectives on this, the most public leg of his overseas trip, to demonstrate he could perform on a grand world stage and to show that his hands across the water approach to major issues could work. The stage could not have been bigger. The 200,000-plus crowd confirmed his rock star status, and his more cooperative sounding rhetoric was what the crowd wanted to hear.

BARACK OBAMA: True partnership and true progress requires constant work and sustained sacrifice. They require sharing the burdens of development and diplomacy, of peace and progress. They require allies who will listen to each other, learn from each other, and most of all, trust each other.

PHILLIPS: This was a speech about tone, not specifics. But mostly it was about showing up and being seen. Being seen too much, according to John McCain, who has complained bitterly about the coverage his opponent has received. McCain's response to Obama's Berlin mega-event was to go to a German restaurant in Columbus, Ohio.

JOHN MCCAIN: I'd love to give a speech in Germany too, a political speech, or a speech that may be the German people would be interested in, but I'd much prefer to do it as President of the United States.

OBAMA: Thank you, Berlin.

PHILLIPS: This trip had its risks, just not the Berlin speech but the Middle Eastern swing and the Iraq and Afghanistan visits as well. It was a test, one, the prevailing view here at least, would say he passed. Barack Obama had said before this trip that he was coming overseas to listen, which in politician speak of course means to talk. Harry.

SMITH: Mark Phillips in Berlin this morning, thank you very much. Joining me now is CBS News senior political correspondent Jeff Greenfield. Good morning, Jeff.

JEFF GREENFIELD: Howdy.

SMITH: We watch these images over the last 24 hours, 200,000 people out there. He's giving a speech to the people there.

GREENFIELD: No, he's not.

SMITH: He's not giving a speech to the 200,000? Who's he speaking to?

GREENFIELD: He's speaking to the American voter. And I think what he's trying to say, one of the messages that I heard was, 'look, I'm not some wooly-headed liberal lefty that thinks we should all sing Cumbaiya together. I'm here to tell them that we need international cooperation to beat the terrorists, to beat the extremists, to win the war in Afghanistan.' There were a lot of other stuff, global warming and human rights-

SMITH: Right.

GREENFIELD: -But I think for the American voter he was saying, 'look, I'm here speaking for our national security interests.

SMITH: Right.

GREENFIELD: My metaphor is the wall that Reagan used, not John Kennedy's metaphor.

SMITH: So interesting, yes-

GREENFIELD: Yeah, I think that's what he was up to.

SMITH: Yeah. There was a lot of stuff in there about the environment and sort of bones to throw to the audience about nuclear weapons and stuff like that.

GREENFIELD: I think this was about 'I'm here speaking for what we need from Europe.'

SMITH: Very interesting. The images though, are stunning. We'll get to the images in a second. You're John McCain-

GREENFIELD: Right.

SMITH: -you're eating a bratwurst, you're at a German restaurant-

GREENFIELD: Yeah. I thought that was kind of cute.

SMITH: -you're trying to make the best of an odd situation at best.

GREENFIELD: It is. And I think the message coming from Obama's opponents will -- McCain's message is 'this is overreaching. I'd rather go there as president. You're not the president yet.' And there's a certain theme of arrogance, overreaching, that the Republicans are trying to put on Obama. The other thing I think is there's always a danger if the Democrat is seen as Europe's candidate, which happens to be what the National Review, a conservative magazine, put in its website yesterday.

SMITH: Yes.

GREENFIELD: You know, 'He's a brie-eating, Chablis-sipping, snail-eating elitist, not like us guys,' that's always the danger. I do think that after, you know, after four years of the war, an American being cheered in Europe is probably not politically harmful.

SMITH: Interesting also, though, what's going on, if you look at the polls this week-

GREENFIELD: Yeah.

SMITH: -numbers are very tight, especially in these swing states.

GREENFIELD: This is what I love about this time of year. You have this obsessive over covering of every single thing that Obama's doing. 'Did he pronounce this word right? Did he eat the right food? He made a three-point shot, he's going to win Ohio.' Meanwhile, it's July. And what I think is, yes, some of the polls in the battleground states are tightening. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll seemed to show that people have doubts about Obama. They think he's the riskier candidate.

SMITH: Right.

GREENFIELD: Because they don't know him. So we've got to wait a while.

SMITH: We do have to wait a while. Thanks so much Jeff, always a pleasure to see you.

GREENFIELD: You're welcome.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC