Obama's NSA Interview; All that matters is... good vibes

Article published on Jan. 20, 2014
From the magazine
Article published on Jan. 20, 2014

Obama has fi­nally given his long-awaited in­ter­view with Ger­man tele­vi­sion. Fol­low­ing the NSA spy­ing scan­dal, Ger­many has been eager for an­swers. In the in­ter­view a few things stand out, but not what you would ex­pect. What is ap­par­ent at first glance is Obama's tal­ent for nod­ding his head sym­pa­thet­i­cally. This cre­ates 'con­fi­dence'. 

The fact that it was thanks to one man alone- Ed­ward Snow­den- that the true ex­tent of NSA spy­ing was re­vealed, well, there’s no men­tion of that. But that's log­i­cal, as the days of the USA watching over Europe as 'friends' are far from over. Obama evokes 'con­fi­dence' be­cause Obama doesn't actually have to do anything.

What re­mains in­stead are self-im­posed oblig­a­tions, such as the tak­ing for granted that Merkel’s mo­bile will cease to be wire­tapped. There will be no bi­lat­eral agree­ments to en­shrine such things in writ­ing. Obama has made one thing clear: what mat­ters is improving German sentiments to­wards the USA, not a bet­ter safe­guard against data theft. There was, there­fore, no apol­ogy for US intrusion into German society.

Even more as­tound­ing is how ZDF [Sec­ond Ger­man Tele­vi­sion, Ed.] ed­i­tor Claus Kle­ber still be­lieves in Obama's first speech de­liv­ered be­fore the Vic­tory Col­umn war mon­u­ment five years ago. Kle­ber de­scribes in great de­tail one of the most ex­cit­ing days in his jour­nal­is­tic ca­reer- the day he cov­ered Obama’s speech. He still en­thuses about the 'hope' which Obama promised. And with that, Kle­ber has done Obama a big favour.

Obama can smugly com­ment on how, day by day, he has given his best. Thanks for that. Kle­ber’s buoy­ant mem­ory de­flects our at­ten­tion away from the wire­tap scan­dal, one that should ac­tu­ally be at the fore­front of dis­cus­sion. But of course what really matters is getting the good vibes back.