Ich bin ein Berliner” – not!

The other intellectual leader of the GOP – the one whose first name isn’t Sarah – summed up the narrow minded and ultimately self-destructive “every-country-for-themselves” mentality of the modern conservative movement Monday.  Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was keynoting the biggest GOP fundraiser of the year for the Senate and House Republican campaign committees – standing in for the dithering Alaska governor (see WP‘s “Palin Sideshow Spotlights Cracks in the GOP.”

l had thought the Republican National Convention’s chant of “Drill baby, drill” was the moment the Republic died.  But if Republicans and conservatives continue blocking strong U.S. climate and clean energy legislation – and thwarting the international action needed to prevent this gravest of all threats to citizens of every country – then this statement by Gingrich might top it.

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Gingrich’s self-defining and self-defeating statement was doubly ignorant from a historical perspective.  First, he was attacking Obama for remarks that President Reagan himself had made a quarter-century ago, which CNN itself failed to report in its coverage of Gingrich’s remarks.  As Media Matters explains:

[CNN’s] Crowley and Allen reported that the line was a jab at President Obama, but failed to report that former President Ronald Reagan made similar remarks. In a July 2008 speech in Berlin, Germany, Obama described himself as “a citizen – a proud citizen of the United States, and a fellow citizen of the world.” In a June 17, 1982, speech to the United Nations General Assembly, Reagan similarly said, “I speak today as both a citizen of the United States and of the world.”

Indeed, if you go to the link, Reagan actually opened his UN remarks with those words.

Second, to compound the historical ignorance of Gingrich, who is often mistakenly viewed as the GOP’s “big ideas” guy, Obama was famously delivering this speech in Berlin in July 2008 – close to the 45th anniversary of Kennedy famous June 26, 1963 Berlin speech.  Everyone expected him to make some sort of nod back to Kennedy, especially since, as Obama himself noted, he has the pedigree:

I come to Berlin as so many of my countrymen have come before. Tonight, I speak to you not as a candidate for President, but as a citizen — a proud citizen of the United States, and a fellow citizen of the world.

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I know that I don’t look like the Americans who’ve previously spoken in this great city. The journey that led me here is improbable. My mother was born in the heartland of America, but my father grew up herding goats in Kenya. His father – my grandfather – was a cook, a domestic servant to the British.

Hardly black helicopter or world government stuff.

Let’s end with the remarks that inspired Obama, indeed, that inspired the everyone in the world – except Gingrich and his ever shrinking cohort of conservative compadres:

Two thousand years ago the proudest boast was civis Romanus sum [I am a Roman citizen]. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’… All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words ‘Ich bin ein Berliner!’

l am a proud citizen of the United States and a fellow citizen of the world.  Those who don’t see themselves as both are free to leave.

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