Barack Obama's Magical Media Tour hit its high point Thursday night as the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts all led with Obama's speech in Berlin, with NBC's Brian Williams and Andrea Mitchell the most giddy, though ABC featured a German man who hailed Obama as “my new messiah.” ABC and NBC saw Obama on a “world stage.” Charles Gibson teased ABC's newscast: “In a city steeped in history, before a massive crowd, the candidate calls on the world to tear down this generation's walls.”
NBC anchor Brian Williams, in Berlin, trumpeted how “the first ever African-American running as presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party brought throngs of people into the center of Berlin, streaming into this city, surging to get close to him, to hear his message. And when it was all over, he talked to us.” Viewers next heard a sycophantic Williams ooze to Obama:
When an American politician comes to Berlin, we've had some iconic utterances in the past. We've had “ich bin ein.” We've had “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” Is the phraseology that you would like remembered, “people of Berlin, people of the world, this is our moment, this is our time”?
Talking with Andrea Mitchell, an impressed Williams marveled over how “I heard one American reporter tonight say it's hard to come up with a list of others who could draw such a crowd, but then again it's hard to know what we witnessed here today.” An equally awed Mitchell gushed: “It's hard to figure out what the comparison is, what do you compare this with?” She soon asserted that in his speech Obama “acknowledged America's flaws.”
CBS's Katie Couric teased: “Barack Obama extends the hand of friendship to Europe.” Reporter Mark Phillips began: “They've been calling this the 'Obama Show' in Berlin. His appeal here: Part exotic politician, part rock star. And a rock festival-sized crowd of more than 200,000 gathered to see him.”
Barack Obama isn't running for office here, but if he were, opinion surveys show he would out-poll John McCain by as much as four to one.
ABC's Gibson was the only anchor to note in his introduction any detractors:
To his admirers, it was a soaring speech with a new vision. To his detractors, it was presumptuous that a candidate for President would deliver a speech as if he were President.
Jake Tapper highlighted: “As for the people who came here today, many of them gushed about his speech.” After one man declared “I think he's the new President of America,” Tapper segued: “And as if that weren't glowing enough.” Viewers then heard from a second man: “I thought it was brilliant. My new messiah.”
Following Tapper's story, Gibson pointed out, over a matching graphic, how Obama drew many more people in Berlin than either President Kennedy or President Reagan:
Jake mentioned today's crowd was estimated at 200,000. When John Kennedy in Berlin delivered his famous “ich bin ein Berliner” speech, the BBC estimated the crowd at 120,000. And when Ronald Reagan stood at the Brandenburg gate and said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” ABC estimated the crowd at 40,000.
Coverage, of Obama's Berlin speech, on the NBC, CBS and ABC evening newscasts of Thursday, July 24:
NBC Nightly News:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Good evening from Berlin. As one local journalist put it, if the election were held today, Barack Obama could sail to victory by a margin of 70 percent or more as President of Germany. Perhaps even all of Europe. The only problem is Senator Obama is running for President of the United States. Still, here in Berlin today, not far from where the wall once stood, the man from Chicago, Illinois, the first ever African-American running as presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party, brought throngs of people into the center of Berlin, streaming into this city, surging to get close to him, to hear his message. And when it was all over, he talked to us.
WILLIAMS TO OBAMA AS BOTH WALK OUTDOORS: When an American politician comes to Berlin, we've had some iconic utterances in the past. We've had "Ich bin Ein." We've had "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."
OBAMA: I don't rate that high.
WILLIAMS: Is the phraseology that you would like remembered, "people of Berlin, people of the world, this is our moment, this is our time”?
OBAMA TO WILLIAMS: You know, I think that captures what I was trying to communicate, which is that here in Berlin where essentially the west was forged out of World War II, we have now have the opportunity to join not only with Germany, but with all of Europe. And countries of good will to try to reach out and do for the world what we did for Berlin.
WILLIAMS: That was Senator Obama with us immediately after he finished speaking to that crowd. We had a separate sit-down conversation with him earlier. More of that a bit later on in the broadcast.
But first, we're joined here in Berlin by our chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell, who's, of course, been traveling with the Senator. Andrea, I heard one American reporter tonight say it's hard to come up with a list of others who could draw such a crowd, but then again it's hard to know what we witnessed here today.
ANDREA MITCHELL: It's hard to figure out what the comparison is, what do you compare this with? It was his largest crowd ever. More than 200,000 people. And before this group he promised Europe that he would repair its strained relationship with the United States. Addressing a crowd that stretched for a mile to the historic Brandenburg gate.
OBAMA, IN SPEECH: Thank you to the citizens of Berlin. And thank you to the people of Germany.
MITCHELL: Barack Obama broke new barriers, becoming the first presidential candidate to introduce himself on a world stage.
OBAMA: I know that I don't look like the Americans who've previously spoken in this great city.
MITCHELL: Obama said he was speaking as a citizen, not as a candidate for President. But his soaring language and setting were designed to make him look presidential.
OBAMA: The walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes, natives and immigrants, Christians and Muslims and Jews cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down.
MITCHELL: In fact, aside from the brief time-out for exercise, his entire day, including meeting with Germany's leader Chancellor Angela Merkel made him look like a visiting head of state. Why is he getting so much attention so far from home?
OBAMA: I think the world is keenly interested in this election.
MITCHELL: On foreign soil, he acknowledged America's flaws.
OBAMA: We've made our share of mistakes. But I also know how much I love America.
MITCHELL: His message: That as President he would bring the U.S. and Europe together.
OBAMA: People of Berlin, people of the world, this is our moment. This is our time.
MITCHELL: And one discordant note tonight, tonight the Pentagon announced that Barack Obama was due to visit wounded troops in Germany but canceled it after the Pentagon told him that it would not be proper while on a political trip. The Obama campaign confirmed they had been planning to go but said they didn't think it would be appropriate but that he had visited injured troops while with the congressional delegation in Iraq earlier this week.
CBS Evening News:
COURIC: Good evening, everyone. It was a highly unusual scene for a candidate, smack in the middle of an American presidential campaign. It was Barack Obama in Berlin today. He was there, he said, as a citizen, not a President. But clearly the goal was to look like one for voters back home. Mark Phillips is in Berlin.
MARK PHILLIPS: They've been calling this the “Obama Show" in Berlin. His appeal here, part exotic politician, part rock star. And a rock festival-sized crowd of more than 200,000 gathered to see him.
BARACK OBAMA, IN SPEECH: Tonight I speak to you not as a candidate for President but as a citizen.
PHILLIPS: But they had come to see the candidate, to see if an Obama presidency would, in fact, be different from the current one. He told them a lot of what they wanted to hear -- that Europe and the U.S. had drifted apart and that he would pull them back together.
OBAMA: In Europe, the view that America is part of what has gone wrong in our world rather than a force to help us make it right has become all too common. In America, there are voices that deride and deny the importance of Europe's role in our security and our future. Both views miss the truth.
PHILLIPS: The truth and the future, he said, lay in cooperation. This is the city known for the wall that once divided it. The wall Ronald Reagan famously said here should be leveled.
PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN, JUNE 12, 1987: Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.
PHILLIPS: Barack Obama said new walls now needed the same treatment.
OBAMA: The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes, natives and immigrants, Christians and Muslims and Jews cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down. (Applause)
PHILLIPS: However warm the reception here, the real audience for the speech, of course, is at home. It's part of the Obama pitch that his approach can heal the rifts with America's allies in Europe and restore American prestige abroad. The speech is the first foreign test of that idea. And if the reaction was any indication, here, at least, the idea works. On all the hot-button issues, from climate change to trade protectionism, to the fight against terrorism, his "we're all in this together" approach won applause.
OBAMA: 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. (Applause)
PHILLIPS: But there's a danger in all this cooperativeness, one seen even here.
CONSTANZE STELZENMUELLER, GERMAN MARSHALL FUND OF THE U.S.: He, obviously, can't afford back home to be seen as somebody who panders to Europeans.
PHILLIPS: Barack Obama isn't running for office here, but if he were, opinion surveys show he would out-poll John McCain by as much as four to one. Mark Phillips, CBS News, Berlin.
ABC's World News:
CHARLES GIBSON, IN OPENING TEASER: Welcome to World News. Tonight, Barack Obama in Berlin: In a city steeped in history, before a massive crowd, the candidate calls on the world to tear down this generation's walls.
GIBSON: Good evening. Barack Obama stepped to the center of the world stage today. Speaking in Berlin before a sea of humanity, he called for the U.S. and Europe to tear down the walls between continents. "This is the moment," was his constant refrain. To his admirers, it was a soaring speech with a new vision. To his detractors, it was presumptuous that a candidate for President would deliver a speech as if he were President. Jake Tapper starts our coverage tonight from Berlin. Jake, good evening.
JAKE TAPPER: Good evening, Charlie. Well, it was, on its face, quite unusual. A Democratic presidential candidate coming to Germany to describe his vision of the world. Barack Obama spoke before his largest crowd ever, more than 200,000 people, almost none of whom could vote for him.
BARACK OBAMA: Not only have walls come down in Berlin-
TAPPER: In the shadow of the Victory Column celebrating a 19th century war, Senator Barack Obama today shared his vision for peace.
OBAMA: 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. I know that I don't look like the Americans who've preciously spoken in this great city.
TAPPER: But it isn't just that Obama does not look like the Presidents who have spoken here before him.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: Ich bin ein Berlinner.
RONALD REAGAN: Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.
TAPPER: It was that they were Presidents, Obama a mere candidate. Today, Obama alluded to Ronald Reagan's speech and the fall of the Berlin Wall in his call to meet 21st century challenges.
OBAMA: The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes, Christians and Muslims and Jews, cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down.
TAPPER: The crowd of more than 200,000 here in Berlin received Senator Obama's speech rather warmly. The bigger question, of course, how was it received on the other side of the Atlantic, in the United States, where Senator Obama has had trouble reaching that Commander-in-Chief threshold with many voters. Towards the end of his speech, Obama seemed almost apologetic about the last eight years.
OBAMA: I know my country has not perfected itself. And there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions. But I also know how much I love America. I know that for more than two centuries, we have strived, at great cost and great sacrifice, to form a more perfect union.
TAPPER: And as for the people who came here today, many of them gushed about his speech.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: I think he's the new President of America.
TAPPER: And as if that weren't glowing enough-
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: I thought it was brilliant. My new messiah.
TAPPER: There was another message implicit in Senator Obama's speech today, Charlie. And that is, it might not be such a horrible thing for the United States to elect a President who is applauded by Europeans, not just protested. Of course, not every American thinks that the approval of the Europeans is to be desired.