It's total bullshit.
As I reported right after Obama's appearance, there was lots of beer available. There were half-meter long bratwursts for sale, too - I recall this because even though I loathe sausage, a friend of mine was almost hungry enough to buy one. They looked too nasty, and he decided to go hungry instead.
But the point is, they were for sale. No one was offering free food or drink to lure unsuspecting Germans to the event. And let me say I have a keen nose for free comestibles, since I was usually broke in college and grad school.
People need to use their pea-brains! The sheer cost would have been ridiculous. And just assume for a moment - thinking along with the conspiracists - that a candidate wanted to use beer as a lure. You'd then expect to see posters or other advertisements getting the word out in advance. I arrived in Berlin a week earlier than Obama, I've been out and about by bike, subway, and bus, and I can testify: There was no such publicity. The German press didn't make any mention of freebies either - not before the speech, and not afterward. (And yes, I'm highly fluent in German.)
So who's pushing these rumors? The first hits on Google led me to pro-Hillary sites, including this gem from the Hillary Clinton Forum:
Now we know why Obama had such a large crowd. Free Beer, Pizzas, Bratwurst, and two favorite rock bands. All for free. Obama supposedly help share the cost.Yes, the bands played for free (from the audience perspective). It's possible that the campaign payed for them. It's possible that they volunteered; there's enough grass-roots Obama love here in Germany that this is conceivable. While I'm sure some of the younger audience members would've known the bands, I didn't recognize their names. Everyone around me thought the music was too loud. We weren't there for the free concert.
A blog called Pagan Power is also pushing the rumor. It too seems to subscribe to Hillary revanchism and sports a big PUMA logo. (Since I left a very civil comment there, debunking the rumor, I'd like to refer anyone who followed me back from there to my comments policy at the top of the right column. Feel free to say hello - nicely.)
I'm sure that this rumor is mostly demon spawn of the wingnuts or other Republican ratfuckers. (Update 7/30/08: Two people already asked me offline about the apparent hypocrisy/hilarity of me breaking my own civility rule right after I invoked it for visitors. But ratfucking is actually a technical term. It's what Nixon's minions called their efforts to gum up the Democrats' campaign machinery. It goes back to Donald Segretti and the Young Republicans that came out of USC - including Karl Rove.)
But gosh, you'd think my fellow Democrats would have better things to do. Like rallying around the effort to defeat McCain in November. Because if he wins and we spend the next 100 years in Iraq, you can be sure none of us will be getting any freebies.
(I rarely have a chance to debunk actual breaking news/rumors, since I'm too lazy, too busy with kids and work, and too much a historian at heart anyway. So it's sort of fun to use my perch in Berlin to play journalist.)