Obama kicks off European leg of tour

July 24, 2008 7:49:52 PM PDT
Barack Obama tried to play down expectations as he kicked off the European leg of his eight day tour, saying maybe only tens of thousands would show up to hear him speak. But German police estimate more than 200,000 were at Berlin's Victory Column to cheer the presumptive Democratic nominee.

"The walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand," Obama said. "The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls be between races and tribes, natives and immigrants, Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down."

Obama said the U.S. cannot go it alone in combating terrorism, the spread of nuclear weapons and global warming.

"The scale of our challenge is great, the road ahead will be long," Obama said. "But I come before you to say that we are the heirs to a struggle for freedom."

In sharp contrast, Thursday John McCain visited a German restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. He shook hands, posed for pictures and told reporters he would like to give a speech in Germany.

"But I'd much prefer to do it as president of the United States, rather than as a candidate for the office of presidency," McCain said.

ABC7's political analyst Bruce Cain said McCain's decision to visit a German restaurant and speak to a very small crowd is likely no accident. McCain's choice also contrasts the amount of media attention.

"The perception of media bias will grow and that could mobilize people on the right," Cain said. "And in fact, McCain, some of the things he's said recently has been using that."

It is not just media attention when 200,000 turn out. Germany's Consul General Rolf Schutte said the size of the crowd did not surprise him, but the composition did.

"Most of the people in the crowd were in their 20s and 30s," Schutte said.

Schutte said German young people, who do not remember the Berlin Airlift, or even the Berlin Wall, have been accused of being anti-American; and yet they turned out in big numbers.

"The young people really show it's not anti-Americanism, but many people had some problems with some foreign policy decisions of the current administration," Schutte said.

In a recent poll, 72 percent of Germans questioned said they supported Obama; which could explain why McCain would like to give a speech there, as the president.


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