Barack Obama couldn’t squeeze a visit to Berlin into his schedule to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, but he did carve out enough time to make a video for the celebrations. The thrust of his video greeting to Berliners was that the fall of the Wall was a good thing — almost as good as Obama getting elected. The Boston Globe’s Jeff Jacoby wasn’t terribly impressed:
PRESIDENT OBAMA was too busy to attend the celebrations in Germany this week marking the fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago. But he did appear by video, delivering a few brief and bloodless remarks about how the wall was “a painful barrier between family and friends” that symbolized “a system that denied people the freedoms that should be the right of every human being.” He referred to “tyranny,” but never identified the tyrants — he never uttered the words “Soviet Union” or “communism,” for example. He said nothing about the men and women who died trying to cross the wall. Nor did he mention Harry Truman or Ronald Reagan — or even Mikhail Gorbachev.
He did, however, talk about Barack Obama.
“Few would have foreseen,” declared the president, “that a united Germany would be led by a woman from [the former East German state of] Brandenburg or that their American ally would be led by a man of African descent. But human destiny is what human beings make of it.”
As presidential rhetoric goes, this was hardly a match for “Ich bin ein Berliner,” still less another “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” But as a specimen of presidential narcissism, it is hard to beat. Obama couldn’t be troubled to visit Berlin to commemorate a momentous milestone in the history of human liberty. But he was glad to explain to those who were there why reflections on that milestone should inspire appreciation for the self-made “destiny” of his own rise to power.
Was there ever a president as deeply enamored of himself as Barack Obama?
Instead of “Ich bin ein Berliner,” the message to Germans was, “You are all Obama-ers now.” Because, in the end, the fact that free nations faced down tyrants and despots over that wall and prevailed isn’t really what mattered. It certainly didn’t matter enough to Obama to join the ceremonies despite the critical role of the nation Obama represents in the fall of that barrier, or even to mention who and what those tyrants were. All that mattered to Obama was how Obama could make it about … Obama.
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