Barack Obama is often compared with a pop star these days. That makes the job of being a politician all the more difficult for him.
In show business the performance is the finished product, where reality and appearance come together as one. What you see is what you get, as the Americans say. There is no morning after.
For politicians, on the other hand, words are not actions, rather they are announcements of future actions, often actions to be claimed or even just simulated. Reality and appearance are in conflict, whether by accident or design.
"America stands alone as the world's indispensable nation," Bill Clinton said, when a bit of patriotism was required. "The world's greatest democracy will
"If we're an arrogant nation, they'll resent us; if we're a humble nation, but strong, they'll welcome us," said George W. Bush during the 2000 election campaign. The worthlessness of this statement is now well known. Back then he was believed.
It's not possible yet to compare Barack Obama's words with his deeds. His name is not connected with any legislative project or reform concept, not even a concert hall in his hometown of Chicago bears his name. Until now he has been more of a popular speaker than a politician.
What is true is that he can make a speech like no one else. On Thursday evening he delivered a masterpiece in the art of political magic. He promised to heal the wounds of the world, from Israel to the melting polar ice caps. He wants to reconcile the world's religions, bring black and white people closer together, Europeans and Americans too. The genocide in Darfur should be brought to an end and he wants to end the problems of globalization with global trade that is not just free but also fair.
It's possible to be impressed by all this -- or to find it shameless.
Nevertheless he chose well when he picked Berlin for the announcement of his grand vision of the world. Berlin is the world capital of the bold speech. Since the end of World War II Berlin has been American politicians' equivalent of Hyde Park's Speakers Corner in London, where anyone can get up on a soapbox and speak. In Berlin it is the great and mighty who make speeches, and as well as, recently, those who have yet to prove their greatness.
The 200,000 onlookers who thronged to listen to Obama's speech should not deceive us. Listening is not the same as agreeing. Obama divides people, and not along traditional party lines.
It is, anyway, a great mistake to divide the voters in Western nations into left and right, aggressive and peace-loving, market orientated and critical of capitalism. In reality there are just two types of voters: the romantic democrats and the common-sense democrats.
The first type -- the romantics -- love the big moments and the pretty words. They prefer the higher tone and look at a politician's mouth first. They often have nothing but contempt for pragmatic politicians.
Then there are the common-sense democrats, who look at a politician's hands first. They are interested in what the politician does, not in what he or she says. They look for records of success and concepts for change and are often allergic to political preaching. Has the government really worked flat out for the people or has everything just been made to look that way? Does the candidate have solid alternatives or is he just a dazzler?
So far, Obama has been the candidate for the romantics. His skill lies in enchanting his supporters with words. Whatever is held against him, his supporters turn into his favor. The man is an unknown quantity -- no mud sticks to him! The man is measured -- no, he is visionary! He wants to save the entire world -- but it does desperately need to be saved, doesn't it?