Michael Barone finds it odd that Barack Obama can go to Oslo and Copenhagen for mainly personal reasons, but somehow can’t find the time to travel to Berlin to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall — the climax of the Cold War and the West’s triumph. Given the key role played by the US in the collapse of Soviet Communism, people have good cause to wonder why the leader of the free world can find time to pick up an award for himself and pitch his hometown to the International Olympic Committee, but not to say a few words in honor of the free world’s vindication in Berlin. Barone theorizes that an earlier Berlin speech may be haunting Obama:
In the Tiergarten, Obama spoke of “the terrorists who threaten our security in Afghanistan” and of the need “to defeat the Taliban and al Qaeda” there. That doesn’t mesh well with his recent reconsideration of the Afghanistan strategy he announced in March and reiterated in August or with the White House spin doctors’ suggestion that the Taliban and al Qaeda aren’t necessarily allies anymore.
In the Tiergarten, Obama asserted his “resolve to work with Russia when we can, to stand up for our values when we must and to seek a partnership that extends across this whole continent.” That doesn’t mesh very well with the “reset button” policy toward Russia that looks past its attacks on Georgia and Ukraine and propitiates the Putin regime with unilateral withdrawal of missile-defense installations from Poland and the Czech Republic.
In the Tiergarten, Obama said America must “stand with Europe in sending a direct message to Iran that it must abandon its nuclear ambitions.” But that message, if sent, has evidently not had the intended effect on the mullah regime, which is drawing out negotiations while presumably continuing its nuclear program apace.
Is Obama too embarrassed to give people an opportunity to compare Obama’s actions to his summer 2008 rhetoric? That seems too generous a view. Obama has had no difficulties in reversing himself publicly here in the US, where the media is only slightly less fawning than in Europe. Our friend Jim Geraghty created an axiom about expiration dates on Obama promises, and these examples from Tiergarten are more aspirations than commitments.
I think the answer is simpler: Berlin won’t be about Obama. It will honor previous generations of stalwarts against an evil empire that Academia defended for decades. Whether Obama joined them in that effort as a student is not material; after all, there is a time and a place for foolishness, and that’s college. It’s not that Obama doesn’t think that the fall of the wall is a good thing, but that it has nothing to do with him, and is therefore irrelevant.