The week after next, Barack Obama is coming to the Berlin for the first time as a U.S. president. At Angela Merkel’s invitation, he will be permitted to give a speech at the Brandenburg Gate. In 2008 he was refused this honor — but now the chancellor is in an election campaign.

The difference between good and bad timing is very nicely illustrated by the example of the Berlin plans for Barack Obama.

When Obama expressed the wish in 2008 to speak in front of the Brandenburg Gate, he was still a senator and in an election campaign. Angela Merkel had no way of knowing who would win the fight for the White House. She was also irritated by the hype surrounding the charismatic Democrat, whom she vaguely placed in the Social Democratic Party camp. Bad timing then; Obama had to divert to the Victory Column.

With a Pinch of Chutzpah

Obama is now coming to Berlin the week after next for the first time as president. This time Merkel is in an election campaign. Now, Obama is not only allowed to speak at the Brandenburg Gate, but will also do so expressly at the invitation of the chancellor. What to Obama’s people was an imposing, symbolism-laden backdrop in his first election campaign is now a reasonable concession from Merkel’s side, strengthening a glamorous appearance of the Merkel brand in the arena of world leaders. That is good timing with a pinch of chutzpah.

And Obama? He could do with any strong historically-laden image to combat misery at home. Additionally, he will find — in view of more favorable prognoses for her — that a favor for Merkel is well-invested. It is not as good for the Social Democratic Party, which likes to place Obama in their camp. A valid observation: Good timing for one is bad timing for the other.