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Merkel Denies Bush Pressure Over Berlin Obama Speech


From left, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, U.S. President George W. Bush and German Chancellor Angela Merkel after a G8 photo session on July 9, 2008 in Toyako, Hokkaido, Japan. (Associated Press)

By Jonathan Weisman and Craig Whitlock
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's government today strongly denied that Bush administration officials had pressured her to publicly oppose a speech by Sen. Barack Obama at Berlin's famed Brandenburg Gate, and officials said an amicable appearance by Obama as early as next week could be worked out.

"We are confident that we will reach a mutual and good solution which does justice to the interests of all involved," Ulrich Wilhelm, a Merkel spokesman, told reporters in Berlin.

Officials on both sides of the Atlantic were trying yesterday to tamp down what some political bloggers are calling "Brandenburg Gate gate," after reports surfaced in the European press about efforts by the Bush administration to squelch Obama's speech before the symbol of Berlin's division and reunification.

The German tabloid Bild reported that Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert Kimmitt may have played the heavy when he told a group of German businessmen, "it would be nice if the German government would focus on strengthening its contacts to us rather than already beginning to look for our successors."

But Brookly McLaughlin, a Treasury spokeswoman, said Kimmitt's remarks were misquoted and that he was merely saying he hoped the Merkel government remained engaged with the Bush administration as it reaches out to its successor.

Besides, she said, Kimmitt, a former ambassador to Germany, made those comments last week when he was in town for the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, days before the Brandenburg Gate issue even came up.

Asked if any Bush administration officials had discussed the matter with their German counterparts, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said, "not that we're aware of." He added: "Our position is that each candidate is going to have to make decisions on their own about their campaigns."

What is clear is that Obama's trip to Europe is being treated as big news in London, Paris and Berlin. British papers were buzzing about his expected arrival on July 18, only to report today that London was being snubbed because Obama would touch down first in Berlin. He will also head to the Middle East to visit Israel and Jordan. Although not an announced part of his itinerary, Obama has said he will go to Iraq soon, as well.

By Web Politics Editor  |  July 11, 2008; 3:21 PM ET
 
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: "It's Embarrassing" to Speak Only English, Says Obama
Next: Hagel to Join Obama on Iraq Trip

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As a candidate, he should probably concentrate on his own country. He was invited to a townhall meeting on cancer at OSU to describe his plan to fight cancer- John McCain accepted and will speak there, with Senator Obama being in Berlin, it makes you wonder about his priorities.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2008 5:25 PM | Report abuse

Just to clear things up, JFK never spoke in front of the Brandenburg gate. His famous speech was held in front of the city hall Schöneberg. The only two American presidents who held speeches in front of the Brandenburg gate were Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2008 5:17 PM | Report abuse

It is a bad idea for Obama to speak at the Berlin wall as a US presidential candidate. It will show that he lacks respect for the German people. His campaign will lose support among many Americans.

Posted by: Maggie | July 14, 2008 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Seems like everyone, even politicians from other countries, are afraid of Obama. It won't be surprising if someone makes hum disappear.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2008 2:31 PM | Report abuse

At what stage in his political career did JFK make that speech at the Berlin gate? I think he made it as president. Obama isn't president. He is a candidate. And he has done nothing to advance freedom, etc. He is simply running for president as an untested candidate. He belittles JFK's accomplishments if he is going to give a speech at the Berlin wall. Obama writes his campaign's funeral if he does that. The American voters who have backed him so far will not like it.

Posted by: Kevin | July 14, 2008 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Hi,
I'm German and I'm also a fan of Obama. He seems to be the better candidate to raise America reputation back to normal - Bush was quite succesful in ruining it in recent years (Iraq war, "old Europe", Kyoto, etc.). But I'm against Obama's plan to speak in front of such an important national monument as the Brandenburger Tor. I think Amercians would also be not very happy, if a German chancellor candidate would use an American national monument for election campaign purposes.

Posted by: Hanno | July 14, 2008 7:20 AM | Report abuse

Republican ideology seems to be becoming more and more irrelevant.

There truely must be a God!

Posted by: Reggie Boykins | July 14, 2008 6:37 AM | Report abuse

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Posted by: krnxds5n9n | July 14, 2008 3:46 AM | Report abuse

It's my understanding that Obama did not request to speak at the site of the Brandenburg gate and instead, he was invited to Germany by the mayor of Berlin.

Posted by: Ceee | July 13, 2008 10:50 PM | Report abuse

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Posted by: 53fgepeppy | July 13, 2008 10:29 PM | Report abuse

'...Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert Kimmitt may have played the heavy when he told a group of German businessmen, "it would be nice if the German government would focus on strengthening its contacts to us rather than already beginning to look for our successors."

But Brookly McLaughlin, a Treasury spokeswoman, said Kimmitt's remarks were misquoted and that he was merely saying he hoped the Merkel government remained engaged with the Bush administration as it reaches out to its successor.'

So the Bush Administration is admitting that Obama will be its successor?

At least they can count, then.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 13, 2008 9:11 PM | Report abuse

Wheb Obama gets to Israel, I hope that he will visit the Palestinian towns and look at the wall built by the Israelis----and that he does not voice the usual bromides about heroic Israel (more and more of its young persons do not do military service, rather like our own belligerent commentators and Congressmen), Perhaps, he can ask, indeed--what a nation with 150 nuclear weapons is so afraid of. There is an answer which has nothing to do with Arab or Iranian threats---internal dissolution due to its total absence of a political or cultural consensus. But about that Presidential candidates are expected to be discreet......

Posted by: norman birnbaum | July 13, 2008 5:43 PM | Report abuse

All the comments posted here came from the Obama Campaign, confirming what I have said about the new viruses, a new tactic that they have just launched.

Posted by: Premier | July 13, 2008 12:09 PM | Report abuse

What's the bloody big deal? The location is a historic site and Obama's visit will also be historic. Obama is already a historic figure. They should feel bloody honoured that Obama chose their country to make a historic speech there. She(Merkel) probably is thinking that all Americans, including Obama, are just plain arrogant and demanding. There is some truth in the presumption but it is stretching a little too far if they want to accuse Obama being arrogant. He is anything but arrogant. I have difficulties recalling any politician who is so approachabl, pragmatic and dynamic apart from Tony Blair in his early days in 10 Downing Street.

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Posted by: 453we6gone | July 13, 2008 3:35 AM | Report abuse

There's a history of this in america ... if you think a group may excel deny them the opportunity to show case their talent. Thus its been in baseball ... football ... basketball and now politics.

Afraid Obama might go there and give a world class speech before millions Bush resorted to backstabbing Obama by asking he not be given an opportunity to speak where the other great orators Kennedy ... Reagan spoke.

Deny the black guy(Obama) the opportunity to excel ... an american(now german) tradition.

Scared MF ... you scared http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tckg3XZkHCE (a slice from tupaq ... not bad for a wb ehhh)

Posted by: beaupritchard | July 12, 2008 5:07 PM | Report abuse

Anyone that travels knows Bush is not liked in the majority of the world.
The people that he draws in Europe are not friendly.
The thing that is real sad and you do not hear about it.
Canadian people thought that we were crazy, to elect him a second term.
The Mexican people are not happy with this Administration too.
The Majority of people that I have talked to are Business people.
I am 66 years old and we have not had anyone in the White House that had a relationship like this in the last 50 years.

Posted by: Charles Lopez | July 12, 2008 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Christina,
The Brandenburg Gate is not that special.
They even hold Rock Concerts there, so I guess it's not that much of a reach for Obama speaking there.

Posted by: Karin | July 11, 2008 11:41 PM | Report abuse

I guess Merkel wants another massage from Bush. Up to the time she met Bush at the Summit she never complained about the Brandenburg Gate location.
It must hurt, Obama has a 75% approval rating in Germany

Posted by: Karin | July 11, 2008 11:39 PM | Report abuse

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Posted by: huubmqrc5r | July 11, 2008 11:21 PM | Report abuse

Obama is such a rockstar in Deutchland! This could be scary for McBush because the reception will make Bush trip to Germany look like that of a mayor of Midland, TX. No wonder they had to implore Merkel to change it.
One thing is clear though, the reception will be huge. Even Merkel will see it politically convenient to give Obama a welcome reserved for head of states.

Posted by: BO'08 | July 11, 2008 9:48 PM | Report abuse

Isn't it up to the Germans to decide who does and doesn't speak at the Brandenburg Gate? it is their country, after all. Some folks seem to have difficulty understanding the people in other countries, like us, prefer to make their own decisions. And if Bush doesn't have the influence he would like to have in Germany, well, whose fault is that? He has had eight years to make his own bed, so now let him lay in it.

Posted by: Bob22003 | July 11, 2008 9:40 PM | Report abuse

The audacity of the Obama campaign for even asking this! There are many places in Germany where he could give a speech and hold a press conference.

If Obama is granted this opportunity, then McCain should be given the same opportunity.

Heck, let's send Bill and H.W. over there as ex-Presidents. They can make speeches, too.

Let's hear from everybody!

Posted by: Christina | July 11, 2008 8:44 PM | Report abuse

Some very knowledgeable Germans are questioning the appropriateness of using the Brandenburg Gate for an American campaign speech. Obama's little photo-op brainstorm shows incredible ignorance of diplomatic protocol. A discrete visit to the German leaders followed by a press conference would have been in order for a candidate. This incident shows that Obama is a neophyte.

Posted by: vb | July 11, 2008 8:18 PM | Report abuse

Let me see.... In American history, the Brandenburg Gate is synonymous with speeches delivered by John F. Kenney and Ronald Reagan. Both men were sitting Presidents when they delivered their famous speeches. Both men stood up to the threat of Communism, their dedication to the cause of the Western World unquestionable. Both men are widely recognised as great Presidents who changed history by scholars.

Here we are, Obama, who hasn't spent ONE DAY In the White House, who hasn't even been elected, basically demanding to be recognised in the same manner as JFK and Reagan. The sheer chutzpah is just breath-taking.

Posted by: Robert O. | July 11, 2008 7:57 PM | Report abuse

The odds are Israel put more pressure than Bushies. They are wetting their pants over the upcoming Obama landslide.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2008 7:39 PM | Report abuse

Go Obama..show the world how true US leadership ought to be.

God Bless the USA

An Obamacan from TN

Posted by: Knoxville Ned | July 11, 2008 7:25 PM | Report abuse

Oh, listen to the Bushies pi$$in and moanin about Obama's upcoming world tour.
I think Bush, himself, is going get a lesson in humble pie when the Obama caravan gets welcomed like a savior.
Man, will that stick in W's craw.
If I worked in the White House, that would be the time I took my vacation or retirement, because you know bully-boy Bush is going to take it out on someone...

Posted by: capemh | July 11, 2008 7:21 PM | Report abuse

Claudine 1000 first needs to take her medications and to get back to her remedial English classes and stop wasting her time on these message boards. The second thing Claudine 1000 should do is to start the Nazi Party in the USA with Merkel and Bush with the primary objective to put all the colored people like the "arrogant obnoxious lying phony Messiah Barack Obama" in their places like in Gitmo or the Gas Chamber.

Posted by: Swapan Chatterjee | July 11, 2008 7:20 PM | Report abuse

How was he "misquoted" when he confirmed that he said exactly what he said he didn't say? I know that the Bush administration folks have a lot of chutzpah, but do they really expect us to swallow a lie like that?

Bush should've been run out of the country years ago.

Posted by: Q | July 11, 2008 7:19 PM | Report abuse

Good for German Chancellor Merkel as it high time someone confronted this arrogant
obnoxious lying phony Messiah Barack Obama
and told Obama to go to Hell since after
all both John F Kennedy and Ronald Reagan
were President when they spoke at the old
Berlin Wall and all that village idiot pompus arse Obama is just merely the Marxist Socialist Democrat Presumpted
Presidential Nominee a fact that arrogant
smirking out of touch with reality Obama
keeps forgetting. However Obama does love
to lord it over his own black people and
now all the rest of the world as well,so
shades of arrogant King George 43 W Bush
and Obama Relative Draft Dodger Cheney here
as well. Dump Obama! What a loser.

Posted by: Claudine 1000 | July 11, 2008 6:35 PM | Report abuse

I am a big Obama supporter but I think he looks better campaigning at home and letting McCain run all around.

Posted by: fmjk | July 11, 2008 5:48 PM | Report abuse

Obamamessiah. All speak well of him.
Hey I'm gonna vote for him. Obama for world president. The whitey has messed things up bad so far why not give him a chance?

Posted by: JD | July 11, 2008 5:46 PM | Report abuse

The self-absorption and arrogance of Obama is trully breath taking. Demanding to use the Brandenburg gate as a campaign prop. What an ass....

Posted by: N3 | July 11, 2008 5:43 PM | Report abuse

I'm brethless at the tought of Obama man
repeating the 'feling' of the Kennedy speech.

positively brethless.

will someone tell the under 35 crowd that the draft will be reinstituted because we need it.

Posted by: JohnAdams1 | July 11, 2008 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Are any denials by the Bush administration believable. Consistently they have lied, why not with this affair too?

Posted by: hayden | July 11, 2008 5:29 PM | Report abuse

I bet those Bush emails are lost now as well....

Clearly this is just at the moral level of our scumbag president. I'm sure Bush and McCain are going to use EVERY dirty trick they can to undermine the truth, and by doing so, they continue to undermine America!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2008 5:14 PM | Report abuse

This story reminds me of when I was A young
afro-american soldier,I remember white people would tell me how racist the people were toward blacks, and I believe them,but when I over their,I use to have a pocket full of money,and you know I could't even buy self A brew, the people were so nice and friendly,towards me,and the girls chose little ole black me to dance with,and my white fellow soldiers use to so jealousy,because I was getting all this special attention, and I just want to take out time to thank the europeans for acceptance and for showing us so much love. CHANGE (08)

Posted by: Horny for Hannity | July 11, 2008 5:11 PM | Report abuse

Methinks she doth protest too much.

Posted by: Daddio on the Paddio | July 11, 2008 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Merkel is a smart politician. She quickly moved to dispell rumors that made her sound like Bush's latest European poodle. She, like most other leaders, wants to get on the right side of history and offer a robust welcome to Obama. The reaction of the European crowds to Obama's visit will be thrilling to behold. Simply having him as a nominee for president sends a new message of optimism and forward-looking resurgence around the world. Obama represents the America the rest of the world wants to believe in again.

Posted by: dee | July 11, 2008 3:33 PM | Report abuse

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