Election 2008

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Markus Schreiber/AP
The Pariser Platz in Berlin, with the Brandenburg Gate (AP)

Planned Obama Speech at Brandenburg Gate Causes German Unease

July 14, 2008 03:21 PM
by Josh Katz
Barack Obama has created debate in Germany, even among the country’s leadership, over whether he should be allowed to speak at the symbolic gate.

30-Second Summary

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The Obama campaign had planned for the presidential candidate to speak at Brandenburg Gate, the arch of triumph considered symbolic of East–West German reunification, on July 24 during his European tour.

But on Sunday, Ill. Sen. Obama cast doubt on the possibility of making the speech at the gate saying, “I don't want the venue to be a distraction.”

The gate provided the backdrop for President Ronald Reagan’s famous June 12, 1987, speech when he referenced the nearby Berlin Wall and said, “Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” President John F. Kennedy also made history with his "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech at Schoenberg City Hall in 1962, visiting the Gate soon after.

But German Chancellor Angela Merkel has opposed the prospect of Obama speaking at the Gate because she feels it is inappropriate for such a symbol to be “used as a campaign backdrop.” Her spokesman said, “No German politician would come up with the idea to do such a thing at the National Mall in D.C.”

Germany and the U.S. government have also denied rumors that the Bush administration has tried to sway Merkel’s opinion against the speech, as a ploy against the Obama campaign.

However, Social Democratic vice chancellor, foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit have all shown support for the speaking arrangement.

The effectiveness of the speech on Obama’s campaign is also in question. Some suggest that warm welcomes in Europe could turn off some voters.

Headline Links: ‘Obama’s Brandenburg Concerto’

Opinion & Analysis: ‘Obama in Berlin: dividing opinion’

Reference: The Brandenburg Gate

Related Topic: ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’

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