Thursday, July 17, 2008

Obama Up Against The Wall

Original Link:

By PatRacimora

Obama’s globe-prancing, as if he is already the elected President of the United States, has instigated a dispute within a foreign country.

The distinction between elected state leaders and a partisan candidate (one who has yet to be formally nominated!) has not escaped German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was upset by the request by Barack Obama to give a speech at the Brandenburg Gate, calling such a rally “inappropriate.” She does not believe that Germany should give any impression that it is involved in American political races.

The Obama team is apparently surprised at the controversy, which in itself reveals a lack of understanding of the world community and international protocol. One cannot bluster into a sovereign foreign country without regard for its tradition and political situation.

To Germans, the site holds significant meaning. The Brandenburg Gate, built in the 18th century, became the symbol of peace and unification after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Speaking before this hallowed place is considered a honor that is reserved for already elected officials. Previous speakers include Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and John F. Kennedy. (Actually, Kennedy’s famous ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ speech was delivered at a town hall in the city, but he did visit the gate.)

According to Chancellor Merkel’s spokesman Thomas Steg. “It is unusual to hold election rallies abroad. No German candidate for high office would even think of using the National Mall (in Washington) or Red Square in Moscow for a rally because it would not be seen as appropriate.”

However, Merkel (of the more conservative Christian Democrats) does not have the last word in the matter, and the rival left-leaning government of the city-state has granted permission for Obama’s speech at the site. (UK Telegraph) One likely motivation would be to upset the Chancellor.

No matter how this matter ultimately resolves itself, Obama and his campaign started a squabble within the factions of a foreign ally. As Bill Galston, a one-time presidential adviser, told British newspaper The Telegraph, “It [the Obama campaign] shows a certain inexperience about complex foreign issues, which is, of course, the opposite of the impression they are trying to create,” he said, reports the UPI.

OK, this incident may not do signfificant or long-lasting damage between our two nations. But avoiding the matter in the first place seems like a no-brainer to anyone who knows just a little about Germany and the history and signficance of the Berlin Wall and the Brandenburg Gate. What could happen when the stakes are much higher?

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