The Newsweek piece sneered that while Obama and John Kennedy spoke to more than a hundred thousand people, Reagan spoke to a much smaller audience, “only about 20,000,” and they were outnumbered by leftist protesters the night before. They recalled, “Even some of Reagan’s aides were embarrassed by the ‘tear down this wall’ line thinking it was too provocative or grandiose.” Newsweek would concede only that “Reagan understood stagecraft,” and communism’s fall “made his words prescient.”
In other words, the Gipper was a showboat who got lucky.
This is nothing more than Newsweek’s continuing campaign to rewrite history. Back in 1987, Newsweek was not prescient. They came to bury Reagan’s speech as a desperate gesture of a crumbling lame-duck presidency ruined by Iran-contra. Their story on his trip began: “Ronald Reagan wasn’t the only lame duck at the economic summit in Venice last week, and he wasn’t the only allied leader to nod off when the proceedings turned soporific.”
Newsweek chronicled Reagan’s woes, then declared how only Mikhail Gorbachev could restore luster to the old man: “It is the ultimate paradox of Reagan’s lifelong opposition to all things communist that a U.S.-Soviet arms agreement and a third summit with Gorbachev officer the best, and perhaps last, hope for reinvigorating his presidency.” They saw Reagan with a foolish career of “opposition to all things communist” turning to Gorbachev as his savior, and painted Gorbachev as more persuasive and attractive to Europe. The magazine geniuses at the time seemed to adore Gorby as if he were....Barack Obama.
At least Newsweek in 1987 (but not in 2008) chronicled what Reagan told the pro-Soviet protesters there at the end of his speech: “I wonder if they have ever asked themselves that if they should have the kind of government they apparently seek, no one would ever be able to do what they’re doing again.”
But Reagan’s rhetorical daring in his time marks why Obama’s Berlin remarks sounded so phony. He declared: “People of the world – look at Berlin, where a wall came down, a continent came together, and history proved that there is no challenge too great for a world that stands as one….If we could win a battle of ideas against the communists, we can stand with the vast majority of Muslims who reject the extremism that leads to hate instead of hope.”
No adoring anchorman dared to ask: Who, precisely, Senator Obama, is the “we” who won a battle of ideas against communism? Who was the “we” who dared to insist that liberty was the superior ideal, that “Freedom is the victor,” and to demand that the walls of Soviet tyranny should fall? It was not America as a whole. It was certainly not Europe as a whole. To publicly declare such a bold wish for an end to the Soviet empire, to denounce the Berlin Wall as a “scar” across Berlin, and a “gash of barbed wire, concrete, dog runs, and guard towers” was seen by the international left, and the Democrats, and the press corps here at home as undiplomatic saber-rattling. It was, to quote the Hillary Clintons of the world, “cowboy diplomacy.”
Barack Obama is an arrogant pretender to a throne he has not earned. He wanted to stand at the Brandenburg Gate like Reagan, grasping desperately for a chance to look presidential. But he hasn’t in any way demonstrated Reagan’s resolve against America’s enemies. Instead, this power-hungry newbie has stood in about seven different places in the last four years on the primary controversy of our time.
In 2002, he opposed the Iraq war from his pews of his America-deserved-9/11 church.
In 2004, he stood staunchly and very temporarily by John Kerry’s vote for war. In 2006, he calculated that the best way to win the Democratic nomination was to play kissy-kissy with Code Pink and channel MoveOn.org’s demand that the president acknowledge all was lost in Iraq. Now, having defeated all those Democratic suckers who voted for war, he’s developing yet another position, that the success of the surge means that he didn’t have to be right about the surge or anything else, that the country is now ready for a rapid withdrawal of forces.
Ronald Reagan was willing to endure an entire career being mocked by the press and the political intelligentsia for standing firmly in one bunker of a war of ideas. Barack Obama has demonstrated only one cause, one idea he consistently believes in. Its name is Barack Obama.