But now it is more than half a year on, and the post-partisanship of Iowa has given way to the post-nationalism of Berlin, and it turns out that the vague overture is the entire symphony. The golden rhetoric impresses less, the evasion of hard choices strikes one more.
Much of the rest of the speech fed the illusion that we could solve our problems if only people mystically come together.
The great illusion of the 1990s was that we were entering an era of global convergence in which politics and power didn’t matter. What Obama offered in Berlin flowed right out of this mind-set. This was the end of history on acid.
It will take politics and power to address these challenges, the two factors that dare not speak their name in Obama’s lofty peroration.
But he has grown accustomed to putting on this sort of saccharine show for the rock concert masses, and in Berlin his act jumped the shark. His words drift far from reality, and not only when talking about the Senate Banking Committee. His Berlin Victory Column treacle would have made Niebuhr sick to his stomach.
Obama has benefited from a week of good images. But substantively, optimism without reality isn’t eloquence. It’s just Disney.