Berlin Looks a Lot Different to Obama in 2013 Than It Did in 2008

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Barack Obama returned to Berlin today, almost five years to the day from when he delivered his famous "Victory Column" speech that cemented his reputation as an international rockstar. Unfortunately, his reception this time was a lot different.

An estimated 200,000 people turned out in July 2008 to see then Candidate Obama deliver an address in front of one of Germany's most notable landmarks. He took a lot of criticism from Germans for his choice of location and from his U.S. political opponents who weren't happy about seeing an American presidential hopeful being adored by tens of thousands of foreigners. The Berlin event was larger than any of his U.S. campaign stops, though some critics even disputed the crowd figures. (Republicans in the heat of a campaign, obviously found other flaws with the speech.)

2008 (AP Photo):

Fast forward to 2013, and many are now saying that Obama's reputation is "tarnished," by his recent snooping scandals, his extensions of the war on terror, and the hard luck realities of failing to deliver on all your promises. (Even ones you didn't really make.) He's "demystified" and "no longer a superstar" in German eyes. Now he's just another world leader on a state visit, and whatever problems people have with U.S. policy are on his shoulders.

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And instead of opening up the speech to the whole city, Obama spoke in front only about 5,000-6,000 spectators, all of them invited guests.

His speech today (you can click here for a detailed comparison vs. the 2008 speech) called for a reduction in global nuclear weapons (through more negotiations with Russia) and defended the idea of Western intervention in Syria. Hammering on the theme of "peace with justice," he also discussed closing Guantanamo Bay and taking action on climate change, calling it the "global flood of our time." (Much more on that here.) But it was notably different in tone than 2008's more sweeping view of the world, which was a speech more fitting for a candidate. (It's now Angela Merkel who is in the middle of an election year, as she stood next too and introduced Obama.) 

The whole thing also looked a lot different to the cameras, too. (And not just because Obama was sweating through is shirt in the scorching sun.) Today's speech was at the Brandenburg Gate — where he wanted to speak in 2008, before German politics and symbolism forced a switch to the column other end of Berlin's Tiergarten. He also spoke on the Eastern side of the Gate, the first U.S. President to ever do so. But the crowds weren't quite as loving or as large as last time. Check out the photos below for some comparisons.  


(AP Photo/Fabian Bimmer)


via Chuck Todd/Instagram


(AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)


(REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz)


(AP Photo/Jens Meyer)


(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)


This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.