Atlantic Monthly Death Spiral Watch (Jeffrey Goldberg Edition)
Atlantic Monthly Death Spiral Watch (Marc Ambinder Edition)

Atlantic Monthly Death Spiral Watch (Ross Douthat Edition)

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?

Ross Douthat writes:

Obama In Berlin: I'd really like to know which genius on the Obama campaign thought it would be a good idea to have their candidate conduct a major campaign rally in Europe.... Overall, the overseas tour has been good to Obama.... But photo ops are one thing, Beatlemania-style rallies are quite another - and having your candidate appear in front of tens of thousands of adoring European fans when... "too many voters who are put off rather than attracted by his race and exotic background" strikes me as the height of political folly.

The Berlin rally probably won't hurt Obama - voters aren't really paying attention... it'll be forgotten by the time the fall campaign begins in earnest. But it could do some minor damage, and it certainly won't help him.... Is it too late to call the whole thing off?

Let us parse this. Ross Douthat says:

  • Obama and his staff are showing their incompetence by
  • Having a Beatlemania-style rally in Berlin, of course
  • There's nothing wrong with giving a speech in Berlin, and
  • A speech in Berlin will please Europeans, but
  • It shows a lack of political competence, because
  • It will turn off Americans, who
  • Are already put off rather than attracted by his race, thus
  • Even though Obama's speech in Berlin will impress Europeans, and
  • Make it a little bit easier for him to do diplomacy should he become president next year,
  • It is the height of political folly because it will hurt his chances of getting elected, but
  • It won't hurt his chances: voters aren't paying attention, and
  • It won't: it will be forgotten by October, but
  • He should call the thing off anyway...

Three obvious points that really should not need to be said:

  • The object is not to win in November, but to win in November in a position of sufficient strength to thereafter help make a better country and a better world. George H.W. Bush's victory in 1988 was a Pyrrhic one, as Ricard Ben Cramer detailed in What It Takes. If Obama's speech in Berlin gains him credibility and thus power with our allies in Europe, it is worth doing even if it does him no good or only a little bit of harm with respect to his chances in November.
  • Ross Douthat's background belief that America's swing voters would rather have a president whom foreigners fear rather than one whom foreigners like is... wrong, to say the least. America's swing voters actually like Europeans--especially the west Germans who stood in front of us on the Cold War battleline, and the British who kept the anti-Hitler party running for three years until we showed up with the refreshments in our own sweet time, and the French without whom we would not even have a country.
  • The meta-ness of a political commentator who says that a candidate is less qualified to be president because the candidate does something that the commentator thinks might lead some swing voter to be less likely to vote for said candidate--well, that's a level of metaness reached only by people who don't dare make any real arguments.