- The Washington Times - Friday, June 21, 2013


Berlin hadn’t seen bombing like this since the allies turned the city into a wasteland in the spring of 1945, when American B-17s and B-24s, British Lancasters and Russian heavy artillery took turns making the rubble bounce. This week the bomb was the bomber himself, and when the day was done, the legend of the irresistible eloquence of Barack Obama lay in shreds and tatters.

The allies required 363 raids between 1942 and 1945 to level the city, while President Obama leveled himself with only one. The allies required 200,000 tons of high explosives for the deed, finally including the famous blockbuster, while Mr. Obama made “mission accomplished” with a load of attitudes, platitudes and a ton of what one London newspaper called “pure mush.” It was mush ground from stale corn.

He delivered his remarks in the shadow of the Brandenburg Gate, almost exactly a half-century after John F. Kennedy thrilled the Germans and reassured Europe with his “ich bin ein Berliner” speech, declaring that he, too, was a Berliner resisting aggressive Soviet communism. Mr. Obama, fresh out of inspiring bloviation, gave the Berliners only a laundry list of fears to terrorize themselves with — the West’s inventory of nuclear weapons, global warming, Guantanamo, poverty across the world and the heartbreak of teenage acne.

Said Nile Gardiner, who once worked for Margaret Thatcher, in London’s Daily Telegraph: “It was a combination of staggering naivete, the appeasement of America’s enemies and strategic adversaries and the championing of more big government solutions.”

The Europeans are learning what many Americans are only just now learning, that the Barack Obama they lost their heads over in 2008 was a figment of the imagination of juveniles from 8 to 80. Five years on, says Ralf Fucks, chairman of the board of the Heinrich Boll Foundation and a man who spells his name carefully and pronounces it (“fukes”) even more carefully, the Germans have undergone “a brutal sobering up.” He decries “the permanent state of crisis” and the difficulty presidents and chancellors face when trying to guide and shape events under “a constant pressure to act.”

This mirrors the sobering-up just getting under way in the salons of the American elites, though for slightly different reasons. Like the Americans, the Germans, having lived under the boot of first the Nazis and then the Soviets, are frightened by the surveillance state and the ease with which many accept it as a trade for security.

They’re further alarmed by Mr. Obama’s drones and the ease with which he dispatches them to kill the guilty and occasionally the innocent. That doesn’t sound like the Americans they once knew, and it sure doesn’t sound like JFK, who had to act with grace under the pressures of the Cold War.

Mr. Obama might regret not asking whether this trip was really necessary. He stopped in Ireland en route, to hobnob with his counterparts at the G-8 summit, and made what Roman Catholics reasonably regard as an attack on their parochial schools, which the Roman church regards as a gift to society and a critical component of the mission of their church.

But church schools should be closed because they divide communities, the president said. “If towns remain divided, if Catholics have their schools and buildings and Protestants have theirs,” he told a crowd of 1.800 in Belfast, “if we can’t see ourselves in one another, if fear and resentment are allowed to harden, that encourages division. It discourages co-operation.”

Belfast was an odd place to make such a provocative observation. Feelings are still raw in Northern Ireland after decades of sectarian killing, and such observations from a man with children in an expensive church (i.e., Quaker) school seem odder still, and graceless besides.

If the president is concerned about “division”, perhaps he’ll make a stop, on his way back from Africa, in Saudi Arabia to lecture the Muslims about shutting their madrasses, schools financed in the West by the Saudis to preach hate, bigotry and jihad.

Or perhaps he won’t.

He blew an opportunity to lecture Angela Merkel about joining other Europeans in requiring the religious labeling of goods manufactured in Israel, the better to promote a boycott of the Jews, in support of the Palestinians. The Europeans, including the Germans, are wary of the rising tide of Islam across the continent. But since saying anything about the Islamist threat to the West is regarded as bad manners and dangerous besides, it’s easier to blame the Jews. That’s always worked before, even without bombs, so why not do it again?

• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.

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