“There are many people in the world who really don't understand-or say they don't-what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world. Let them come to Berlin!” — John F. Kennedy, Berlin, June 26, 1963.
Barack Obama returned to Berlin on Wednesday, almost five years to the day from when he delivered his famous "Victory Column" speech that cemented his reputation as an international rock star. Unfortunately, his reception this time was a lot different.
An estimated 200,000 people turned out in July 2008 to see then Candidate Obama deliver an address in front of one of Germany's most notable landmarks. He took a lot of criticism from Germans for his choice of location and from his U.S. political opponents who weren't happy about seeing an American presidential hopeful being adored by tens of thousands of foreigners. The Berlin event was larger than any of his U.S. campaign stops, though some critics even disputed the crowd figures. (Republicans in the heat of a campaign, obviously found other flaws with the speech.)
Fast forward to 2013, and many are now saying that Obama's reputation is "tarnished," by his recent snooping scandals, his extensions of the war on terror, and the hard luck realities of failing to deliver on all your promises. (Even ones you didn't really make.) He's "demystified" and "no longer a superstar" in German eyes. Now he's just another world leader on a state visit, and whatever problems people have with U.S. policy are on his shoulders.
The White House pool report revealed that only 6,000 will be in attendance for Obama's Berlin speech on Wednesday:
“The stage for the president's speech is set up on the East side of the Brandenburg Gate, in the old East Berlin. The sun is pounding down and there are around 6,000 invited guests according to German authorities. There are bleachers set up either side of the square, with a big two story riser facing the stage which has a row of bullet proof glass and 12 U.S., German and EU flags and the grand backdrop of the Gate. There is a large standing crowd between the bleachers.”
The actual crowd count at the Brandenburg Gate speech was 4,500.
His speech on Wednesday (you can click here for a detailed comparison vs. the 2008 speech) called for a reduction in global nuclear weapons (through more negotiations with Russia) and defended the idea of Western intervention in Syria. Hammering on the theme of "peace with justice," he also discussed closing Guantanamo Bay and taking action on climate change, calling it the "global flood of our time." (Much more on that here.) But it was notably different in tone than 2008's more sweeping view of the world, which was a speech more fitting for a candidate.
Nonetheless, directly out of the Brandenburg gate, the president commenced with injecting race and gender into the conversation when he said "Angela and I don't exactly look like previous German and American leaders." Obama then informed the audience, consigned by invitation to stand in the blistering heat listening to his blather, that Michelle, Malia, and Sasha, rather than endure his grueling speech, chose instead to experience the "beauty and the history of Berlin" (at American taxpayers' expense).
But probably the most amazing aspect of Obama's Berlin speech was his typical lack of self-awareness when making assertions that conflict with everything he does. For instance, although President Obama is actively persecuting the "unoriginated birthright of man," he quoted German philosopher Immanuel Kant, who said "freedom is the 'unoriginated birthright of man, and it belongs to him by force of his humanity.'"
Obama even posed questions Americans ask about him:
“Will we live free or in chains? Under governments that uphold our universal rights, or regimes that suppress them? In open societies that respect the sanctity of the individual and our free will, or in closed societies that suffocate the soul?”
In Berlin, Obama attempted to one-up Ronald Reagan's "Peace through Strength" strategy by stealing John F. Kennedy's "Peace with Justice" mantra and scheduled the revision to take place at Brandenburg Gate, where his social justice spiel paled in comparison to authentic Reagan strength.
The president's references were pitiful attempts to support the liberal dream of a daisy-holding, Kumbaya-singing utopia that the human condition prevents.
Ignoring nations stoking the nuclear flames, President "Ich bin ein Dumbkopf" cited JFK's famous 1963 "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech when suggesting that Germans "lift their eyes beyond the dangers of today to the day of peace with justice." Caught up in the rapture of the moment, Obama apparently missed the contradiction in mentioning Kennedy's assassination five months after he promoted "peace with justice."
Speaking of contradictions, Mr. Obama shared that Kennedy's words are "timeless because they call upon us to care more about things than just our own self-comfort." This from a president who's about to embark on a $100 million African vacation, toting along a wife whose "self-comfort" demands recently included bunking in a $3,300-a-night Princess Grace suite in Ireland.
President Obama has been facing increasing scrutiny both at home and abroad as scandal after scandal rocks the administration. From Ireland the president went to Germany to talk about the dangers of global number of nuclear weapons, climate change and his views on social justice.
After encouraging youthful unemployed Germans to relinquish self-comfort, citizen of the world Obama shifted to "For we are not only citizens of America or Germany — we are also citizens of the world. And our fates and fortunes are linked like never before." That is, unless linking "fates and fortunes" means sharing a $3,300-a-night hotel room with Michelle Obama.
Never mentioning pressure cookers, hijacked airplanes, banana hammock bombers, or wild-eyed Muslims gunning down American soldiers, and after riding around in an armored limo and building a mysterious underground bunker beneath the White House, Obama proclaimed, "We may no longer live in fear of global annihilation, but so long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe."
President Obama also seemed to imply that food stamps and unemployment checks may be the answer to the threat of worldwide terrorism, which he claimed results from the "agony of an empty stomach or the anguish of unemployment."
Then, after dissing Catholic education in Ireland, Obama dredged up sins that penitent nations have already remediated when he unnecessarily brought up intolerance and abuses "based on race, or religion, gender or sexual orientation."
Obama then advanced a concept that he doesn't apply to Christians or American conservatives, which is that "When we stand up for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters and treat their love and their rights equally under the law, we defend our own liberty as well."
That's when the "Peace with justice" rant began. Obama cited free enterprise and freedom, neither of which he's a huge fan of. From there, he segued into environmentalism, closing Guantanamo, ending the Afghan war, controlling the drones he has surveilling U.S. airspace, undermining the Constitution and calling it "balancing the pursuit of security with the protection of privacy," and meeting moral obligations that have nothing to do with morality.
Funny, Obama proves he's vulnerable to nuclear self-destruction whenever the Teleprompter is unavailable. Yet, he imagines peace can only be realized through sending a message to America's enemies that in a nuclear-aggressive environment the most powerful nation in the world is voluntarily reducing the number of its nuclear warheads.
Not to worry though; Barack quoted James Madison and then claimed that he too is moving "beyond a mindset of perpetual war." The president cited a 2016 'secure nuclear materials' summit, which despite the growing threat of international terrorism, Obama believes is a "step" toward "creating a world of peace with justice."
The problem is that the guy who said "Threats to freedom don't merely come from the outside. They can emerge from within" is the one threatening America's freedom, and the perpetual warfare he speaks of is not America's doing.
Appearing on MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports on Wednesday, NBC's chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd came up with a long list of excuses for President Obama's poor speech performance in Berlin: "I want to give you a little context here there was an attempt to shrink the crowd size. Maybe they would have gotten 25, 30, 40,000 people. President Obama feeds off a crowd very well."
Todd then grasped at other reasons for the lackluster event: ".you had that very distracting glass and you could just see that the President himself wasn't feeding off of the crowd. And I think look, part of it, it was hot. Those folks were out there for two and a half hours it can sap your energy a little bit. And I just wonder if that added a little bit to this."
Barack Obama ended with a Martin Luther King Jr. quote crescendo:
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
In the end, so too does "loss of freedom in America threaten freedom everywhere." That loss is precisely why, both in Germany and here at home, free people must grasp the potentially harmful impact the 'peace-loving' guy riding around in a million dollar armored vehicle and standing behind eight inches of bulletproof glass seeks to impose on the Western world.