The Breitbart headline made me chuckle: “Barack Obama and Angela Merkel Plan Globalist Reunion at Brandenburg Gate.”
The organizer of the event says O was invited last year, but when did he finally commit to attend? The circumstances seem too perfect to make the scheduling a pure coincidence arranged many months ago. As it happens, Trump will be in Europe that day too — at a NATO summit in Brussels, no less. Merkel is, of course, his least favorite European leader, criticized by the White House for not meeting Germany’s defense spending obligations as a member of NATO. The theme of the event seems Resistance-y too, “Being Involved in Democracy: Taking on Responsibility Locally and Globally.” And the location is symbolic for Obama, as the Brandenburg Gate was the site of his big international debut as a presidential candidate in 2008. If you had to arrange a time, place, and theme for him to reemerge from hibernation as a liberal political force, you might arrange something exactly like this — cosmopolitan, antagonistic to Trump, side by side with the world’s most famous “globalist” leader.
All of which assumes, though, that Obama decides to return from that desert island he lives on now or whatever.
Former President Obama will join German Chancellor Angela Merkel for a forum in Berlin next month in his first appearance alongside a foreign leader since leaving office in January.
The discussion, titled “Being Involved in Democracy: Taking on Responsibility Locally and Globally,” is in honor of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, which began in Germany in 1517. Obama was invited to Germany for the anniversary last May. The Obama Foundation is co-sponsoring the discussion.
“President Barack Obama’s attending the Kirchentag in Berlin, which will ring in the Reformation Summer, underlines the international character of our 500th anniversary celebrations,” Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, the Evangelical Church in Germany Council chair, said in a statement.
“Anyone who is pious also has to be politically minded,” he added.
Never mind when Obama decided to attend. When did Merkel decide to attend? As the leader of Europe’s most important country, shouldn’t she be at that NATO summit with Trump in Belgium? It may be that she wanted a photo op with Obama as much as O wanted a photo op with her. After all, as of last June, Obama was still a very popular leader in Germany. The German elections in September are already being framed by international media as a moment of truth for the populist tide in western nations, to see if it can sweep away the world’s most prominent liberal leader and punish her for her support for open borders amid the refugee crisis. If Trump has now become the embodiment of that populist tide, Obama remains a symbol of internationalism. And if Trump is now in disfavor in Germany, partly because of his antagonism with Merkel, it stands to reason that Merkel would want to heighten the contrast by emphasizing her support from O.
The big mystery: Will Obama stick to gassy abstractions about the virtues of protest and the importance of registering to vote or will he attack Trump more directly? (The old admonition about politics ending at the water’s edge probably doesn’t apply anymore.) I’m sure he has a lot he wants to get off his chest, and not just about those wiretapping tweets from last month. The moderator should wind him up and get him going about this, for instance. After Trump fires back, we’ll have blog content for weeks.
Update: Ah, my mistake. Although Obama did famously speak in Berlin in 2008, it wasn’t at the Brandenburg Gate. It was at the Tiergarten, a park in the city.