As Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama continues his overseas tour with a stop in Berlin Thursday, tens of thousands in the German city are reportedly anxious to hear his address at the Tiergarten’s Victory Column, one of the city’s most famous monuments.
The Illinois senator is expected to emphasize a strong relationship between the United States and Europe in fighting global terrorism and building diplomatic cooperation.
Obama “wants to make the old alliances more meaningful by asking more of the allies,” Jan Techau, a transatlantic affairs expert at the Berlin0Garman Council on Foreign Relations, told Bloomberg News. “He will try and softly prepare the Europeans for what’s going to happen as soon as he enters the White House, if he does so.”
A police spokesman said “several tens of thousands” are expected to gather to hear Obama, although other media reports, such as the United Kingdom’s Guardian are projecting a crowd of more than 100,000.
Obama himself attempted to downplay media expectations while talking to reporters Thursday morning.
“I doubt we’re going to have a million screaming Germans — let’s tamp down expectations here,” Obama said, according to the New York Times.
Hype over Obama’s speech has been pulsing throughout Germany. The magazine Der Spiegel featured a cover photo of Obama with the headline “Germany Meets the Superstar” earlier this week.
Obama said the speech was neither a political rally nor meant to echo addresses from former presidents, but hoped it would be “viewed as a substantive, articulation of the relationship” Obama would “like to see between the United States and Europe.”
“I’m hoping to communicate across the Atlantic the value of that relationship and how we need to build on it,” he added.
After his speech, Obama will head to Britain and France on the last legs on his international tour. Over the past several days, he has made appearances in Iraq, Afghanistan, Jordan and Israel.
While both media attention swirls over the Democrat’s trip abroad, his GOP rival Sen.” John McCain”:http://www.pbs.org/newshour/vote2008/july-dec08/obama_bio.html” is making his own international connections back home.
The Arizona senator is set to meet with Tibet’s Dalai Lama in Aspen, Colo., Friday after speaking to U.S. troops in Denver, Politico.com reported.
The Dalai Lama is visiting an Aspen Institute conference called “A Celebration of Tibetan Culture,” and McCain has long been an outspoken supporter of Tibetan rights.
“I urge the Chinese authorities to ensure peaceful protests is not met with violence, to release monks and others detained for peacefully expressing their views and to allow full outside access to Tibet,” McCain said in March in response to protests against Chinese human rights violations in Tibet.
Also during his opponent’s trip abroad, McCain has been seeing a slight gain in popularity in key battleground states.
While McCain lagged well behind Obama in Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin in a Washington Post poll last month, the latest poll, conducted from July 14 to July 22, shows McCain slight gains in Wisconsin and Michigan and statistical ties in Colorado and Minnesota. The new survey shows McCain with a 46 percent edge to Obama’s 44 percent in Colorado and 44 percent to Obama’s 46 percent in Minnesota.
While most voters said the economy was their number one concern, the candidates’ stances on the war in Iraq seem to have played a part in McCain’s slight gain.
“While Obama’s initial opposition to the war plays well with voters, his plan to remove troops from the country within 16 months of taking office as president is less well received,” the Washington Post reported.