June 20, 2013
President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Brandenberg Gate. (Jewel Samad/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Brandenberg Gate. (Jewel Samad/Getty Images)

President Obama took his listless, pointless malaise act on the road. Washington has been aware that the Obama presidency is fading, but we were hoping overseas powers wouldn’t notice. Just in case cables from embassies weren’t enough to fully capture how exhausted the administration is, this White House put the president in front of Brandenburg Gate, in the heart of Europe, with nothing to say. It was certainly avoidable; therefore it was inexcusable. The speech location invited comparisons with Presidents Reagan and Kennedy — comparisons that are only justified in Obama’s mind, and maybe in the minds of a few others in the measly crowd who attended the speech.

The president’s farewell tour has started three years too early. We have real problems that need the president’s attention, and the world still needs American leadership.

Read what The Telegraph in London had to say about our president. In Nile Gardiner’s piece, “Barack Obama bombs in Berlin: a weak, underwhelming address from a floundering president,” Gardiner called the speech “pure mush” and “little more than a laundry list of Obama’s favorite liberal pet causes.” He also observed that Obama’s speech “was a combination of staggering naiveté, the appeasement of America’s enemies and strategic adversaries, and the championing of more big government solutions” coming from “a floundering president whose leadership abroad is just as weak as it is at home.” Gardiner also points out that Obama gave his speech to an “invitation-only crowd of 4,500,” a far smaller crowd than the 200,000 Germans who turned out for his speech in 2008 and the 450,000 who came to the gate to hear President Kennedy speak in 1963.  Wow.

I fear the president doesn’t have anything to say, but he doesn’t know it. Clearly, no one on his staff had the guts to tell Obama that his speech was pure pablum, and I’m certain they were all celebrating on Air Force One on the way back home.

It’s easy to say this trip doesn’t matter, but we should all be afraid that it might. It may matter a lot if current or new adversaries sense a weakness in America’s president.  We could quickly find ourselves in the land of Donald Rumsfeld’s “unknown unknowns,” where anything could happen if bad actors feel emboldened.

Politics is all relative. Every time I worry about how Republicans may fare in the 2014 midterm elections, I see Democrats, led by the White House, discovering new ways to demoralize their voters and contributors. International travel is supposed to be easy and flattering for a president. The elections are still 16 months away and things could turn around. But increasingly it seems like any change in fortune will be the result of the White House reacting to an as-yet-unforeseen event, not because they are controlling their own fate.