Obama campaign having second thoughts about Brandenburg speech?

Germany’s Spiegel Online reports on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s displeasure at the reports that Barack Obama is contemplating making a speech at Berlin’s famed Brandenburg gate as part of his upcoming European tour, but that some other German politicos are in favor of the idea:

Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she finds Barack Obama’s plan to give a speech at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin a bit “odd.” Obama’s spokesman now says Obama will find a Berlin location for his speech that makes the most sense for him and his hosts.

Barack Obama’s campaign team has responded to Angela Merkel’s apparent discomfort over his bid to hold a speech at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. A spokesman for the chancellor said his choice to hold the speech at the historic setting was “odd” and that Merkel has “little sympathy for the Brandenburg Gate being used for electioneering and has expressed her doubts about the idea.” But Obama’s planners are still pushing ahead as they prepare the visit in less than two weeks’ time.


“Senator Obama looks forward to his visit to Germany and his opportunity to meet with the chancellor,” Obama spokesman Bill Burton told the Associated Press on Wednesday He has considered several sites for a possible speech, and he will choose one that makes the most sense for him and his German hosts.”

A number of locations are being considered for the keynote speech on trans-Atlantic relations. Sources have told SPIEGEL ONLINE that a number of Berlin organizations have offered to host Obama for his July 24 address in Berlin.

On Wednesday, German government spokesman Thomas Steg, speaking on behalf of Merkel, said that events at the Brandenburg Gate have always been non-partisan in the past. “This kind of electioneering abroad is unusual,” Steg said, noting that an Obama appearance at the historically significant Brandenburg Gate would also likely trigger a debate back in the United States.

Ultimately, the decision on whether Obama can speak at the Brandenburg Gate will be made by the government of the city of Berlin. According to report in the Friday edition of the Hannoverschen Neuen Presse newspaper, city officials in Berlin’s Mitte district have reserved the Brandenburg Gate for the Democratic Party politician on July 24. Mayor Klaus Wowereit has also expressed his support for using the site for Obama’s speech.

Although Obama is unlikely to cancel his trip to Berlin as a result of the debate, the controversy could spur him to make changes to his schedule. It also conceivable that he could give a more modest speech in Berlin without the Brandenburg Gate as his backdrop.

There’s also another angle to this story, and it involves an alleged intervention by someone from the Bush administration:

And the German government isn’t just reacting out of respect for Bush during the twilight of his presidency, as some reports have alleged. The respected Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper reported this week that a member of the Bush delegation approached Merkel’s foreign policy advisor, Christoph Heusgen, at the G-8 summit in Japan to discuss misgivings about Obama’s planned speech. The government is also acting out of respect for Republican presidential candidate John McCain, who has long enjoyed strong ties to Germany and good personal relationships with a number of high-level government officials in Berlin. And it is in no way a given that McCain will lose the election.

Some on the left, predictably, are ‘outraged‘ over this possiblity.

One would hope that Barry Oh!, even as presumptuous as he is, would/will finally see the light regarding the sheer folly of speaking where much greater leaders who were already  President of the United States made their respective speeches.   In the end, will Obama’s obsession with purely symbolic gestures win the day? Or will common sense prevail?

Stay tuned …

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