Friday, July 18, 2008

Outdoing Oneself In Absurdity

Oh dear God in the most high heaven. Charles Krauthammer's column in today's Washington Post has perhaps the silliest, most absurd line I have read by a so-called "serious" political pundit. This is an instance where reading just one line makes me want to stop, because the line is so silly, the rest of the column might actually be kind of good. If you bottom out early, you have no where to go but up. I will present the wind-up, then the pitch, in italics (added by me, of course):
Barack Obama wants to speak at the Brandenburg Gate. He figures it would be a nice backdrop. The supporting cast -- a cheering audience and a few fainting frauleins -- would be a picturesque way to bolster his foreign policy credentials.

What Obama does not seem to understand is that the Brandenburg Gate is something you earn.

One can earn money. One can earn a reputation. One can earn a nickname. One does not "earn" a national monument in another country.

Now, I realize this is literal nitpicking. Or, at least sounds like it. Yet, if we are to take Krauthammer to be speaking metaphorically, it might be important to rephrase what he intended, as follows:
What Obama does not seem to understand is that only after proving oneself should one be allowed to speak in front of the Brandenburg Gate.

Is that true, however? Is it necessary to have achieved . . . something . . . in . . . someone's . . . eyes before one should be allowed to do something that others have done before? What, after all, had John Kennedy done when he stood at the Gate and said, in very bad German, "Ich bin ein Berliner!"? What had Ronald Reagan done when he stood in the same spot and said, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"? Obviously, Kennedy wasn't really a resident of West Berlin, fenced in by a foreign power (ironically enough, the wall was built to keep the East Germans from getting in, not West Germans from heading east; old satellite photos taken before the wall fell showed East Germany to be pretty dark, except for a small smudge of light - West Berlin). Reagan's exhortation to Gorbachev had an ironic coda, because Gorbachev (and Reagan) had nothing at all to do with the tearing down. The people of East Berlin did it on their own.

Krauthammer's notion that one can only "do something" once one has "done something" else is silly. Barack Obama happens to be the de facto Democratic nominee for the Presidency of the United States. Germany is a united country, an ally, and the plaza (or, to be properly German, der plast) around the Gate is a nice wide open space that would hold a sizable crowd. One should assume that Obama, being a historic figure, would attract a sizable crowd. Only in the minds of someone as silly as Charles Krauthammer does the sentence above have any meaning or significance.

If there's anything more in the column worth mentioning, let me know.

Virtual Tin Cup

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay Learn More