Monday, March 28, 2011

This Day In History

It was on this day, 47 years and nine months ago, that President John F. Kennedy gave his famous "Ich Bin Ein Berliner" speech in Berlin, West Germany. It marked the beginning of a proud tradition of American foreign policy speeches delivered on German soil.

The first president to follow up on Kennedy's precedent was Ronald Reagan, speaking from Hamburg. Roosevelt, Truman, and Kennedy had led the nation astray, asserting that government could do good in the world. Reagan knew better. He announced in Hamburg that any country whose citizens averaged less than $40,000 a year in income would no longer receive food and medical supplies, but instead would be sent the beautifully restored and digitalised collection of all his Hollywood films. Poor people didn't need food, Reagan knew. All they needed was a swift kick in the butt, and Reagan's all-American films would teach that ideal to lazy, no-good foreigners. The "Bonzo Speech" is remembered fondly by conservatives for the first four words Reagan uttered on taking the podium at Hamburg City Hall: "Ich bin ein Hamburger."

The Trickle-Down Gipper was followed by George Bush Sr., who visited Frankfurt in March, 1989, to sign the Union Carbide-sponsored Western Trade Frankfurt agreement. The WTF was the first free trade agreement between the United States and Europe. It specified that American and European factories and chemical plants built in developing countries would be barred from installing expensive safety equipment or pollution controls. Any such controls, Bush noted in his eloquent speech, would hamper poor countries' efforts to become competitive in world markets. Cities like Bhopal, India would no longer have to suffer the oppression imposed by government regulations and petty liberal ideas about saving the environment. The WTF agreement was a hallmark of conservative thought, made famous by Bush's opening words at Frankfurt City Hall: "Ich bin ein Frankfurter."

The little-known trip of George Bush Jr. to Vienna in March, 2001, is marked by conservative historians as a milestone in right-thinking diplomacy. Bush is unfairly accused by liberal pundits of having developed an arrogant foreign policy. Conservative historians correctly point out that Bush sought European approval for his "Unredressed Knocks" treaty (using the quaint Texas word "knock" in place of the stuffy term "grievance"). The National Unredressed Knocks Emergency Exemption Mandate (NUKE EM) gave any head of state whose father had been insulted by a dictator full authority to invade the dictator's country, kill hundreds of thousands of his people, and destroy the country's infrastructure. Bush had insisted on signing the treaty in Vienna due to his fondness for the sausage bearing that city's name. He had planned on making this his "Germany" speech, but one of his aides, a left-over civil servant from the Clinton Administration, told him only moments before the speech that Vienna was, in fact, in Austria. The ever-resourceful Bush thought for a moment, then said, "Hell, nobody knows where Australia is, anyway. You say Vienna's in Australia? We'll just pretend it's in Germany. Nobody'll give a hoot." Reminded that Vienna is Wien in German, Bush, with a gravity befitting the occasion, mounted the steps of City Hall and said, "Ich bin ein Wiener."

One has to wonder how our country could possibly have managed to become a world leader, universally revered and adored, without the brave and insightful conservative leadership of visionary presidents like Reagan, Bush, and Bush Junior. Whether you consider yourself a hamburger, a frankfurter, a wiener, or just an ordinary, patriotic ditto-head or tea partier, you ought to feel a special pride this day in the great foreign policy initiatives that are your heritage.

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