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July 20, 2008

The Details are Everything...

...but are we really going to pretend to treat this as a major blunder? Some German politicians are complaining about Obama's new speech site underneath the Victory Column.

Still, even as the issue of his speech's location has now been settled, a number of politicians in Berlin are still dissatisfied with the site. The Siegessäule -- or Victory Column -- was erected in memory of Prussia's victories over Denmark (1864), Austria (1866) and France (1870/71). The column originally stood in front of the Reichstag, Germany's parliament building, but was moved by Adolf Hitler to its current location in 1939 to make way for his planned transformation of Berlin into the Nazi capital "Germania."

"The Siegessäule in Berlin was moved to where it is now by Adolf Hitler. He saw it as a symbol of German superiority and of the victorious wars against Denmark, Austria and France," the deputy leader of the Free Democrats, Rainer Brüderle, told Bild am Sonntag. He raised the question as to "whether Barack Obama was advised correctly in his choice of the Siegessäule as the site to hold a speech on his vision for a more cooperative world."

Andreas Schockenhoff of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats said, "the Siegessäule in Berlin is dedicated to a victory over neighbors who are today our European friends and allies. It is a problematic symbol."

If it were such a problem, you'd think they would have gotten rid of it. Or perhaps cautioned Obama about it after his Brandenburg Gate overreach. In fact, the column is so distressing that Germany has put out universally recognized do-not-approach markers in the form of a little giftshop and cafe. For a few euros, you can walk to the top and take pictures so you can immortalize the view from this Nazi-tainted artifact. Millions of visitors have done it. Banality of evil, I guess.

I think the objections have little to do with the appropriateness of the speech site. This is an opportunity for these politicians to continue to insert themselves into the election. Have you ever met a European who wasn't eager to share an opinion about American politics?


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posted by Gabriel Malor at 10:21 PM

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