I finally found something about which I can agree with the liberal editors of Slate. They ran a story yesterday about the televised hug between Germans victorious goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer, and that nation’s diminutive Chancellor, Angela Merkel. It’s a most appealing picture to see the young giant lean over, almost fall over, in a spontaneous gesture of affection for his country’s leader.
I was happy for Germany. This is a Germany we can cheer. And it is fine to remember that without the visionary leadership of George H.W. Bush, there would not have been an Angela Merkel in this photo. She was raised in East Germany. (So, for that matter was Germany’s current president, Joachim Gauck.) Chancellor Merkel and President Gauck are but two of the tens of millions of free Germans whose unification was staunchly supported by President Bush.
I distinctly remember the Fall of the Berlin Wall in November, 1989. And I was, I will admit, plainly irked that my president put out the word: “I will not dance on the Berlin Wall.” Why not, I thought then. Isn’t this a day to celebrate the triumph of freedom over oppression?
The senior Bush was forever being lampooned on Saturday Night Live for his commitment to “prudence.” But is prudence a bad thing?
Actually, it is the best thing for a statesman. When I studied American history in the years of the early republic—1797-1801—I could not understand how the Founders whom I so admired—Jefferson, Adams, Hamilton, Madison—all seem to have gone a bit crazy. Why were they clashing with one another like drivers in a Demolition Derby?
Well, the retirement of George Washington might explain it. He was the personification of prudence. And why did the United States survive the Civil War but find itself adrift before and afterward? Might it be that Presidents Buchanan and Johnson lacked that most notable quality of Abraham Lincoln: Prudence, with a capital P?
George H.W. Bush was almost alone among world leaders to want Germany reunited. West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl certainly hoped for German Reunification. His Socialist opponents certainly did not. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was hardly enthusiastic for the creation of a continental political and economic powerhouse. French President Francois Mitterrand, no doubt recalling Germany’s three invasions of his homeland in less than one hundred years, was decidedly cool to the idea of East and West Germany coming together. Lech Walesa of Poland was not beating the drums for a Germany reunited.
As for the USSR’s Mikhail Gorbachev, then riding a whirlwind in the Kremlin, he was the one who had decided not to send in the tanks. He would not order Communist border guards to shoot down spontaneous surge of East Germans toward the suddenly opened Brandenburg Gate in East Berlin. For not shooting his hostages, Gorbachev was being hailed by the Western media as a prince of peace.
If Gorbachev was really the wonderful reformer that Western journalists said he was, it was curious that all those vast crowds of West Germans did not flood through the suddenly opened Brandenburg Gate and throw themselves into his arms. There are no pictures of young West Germans hugging Mikhail Sergeivich, however, the way Manuel Neuer hugged Chancellor Merkel. A point worth noting on this festive occasion?
George H.W. Bush deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for his honorable, visionary, and yes, prudent statecraft at the time of German Reunification. He stood tall for America. This quiet and modest man said simply that America must keep her word to the German people.
For forty-five years, U.S. Presidents—Democrats and Republicans alike—has said America supports German Reunification. We would be unfaithful to our word if we did not back our steadfast NATO ally in the hour of need.
The fact that President Bush was able to skilfully chart his careful course, to support a peaceful Reunification of Germany, to bring that new and democratic Germany firmly under the NATO umbrella, and to achieve all this with the Soviets’ acquiescence (if not with their enthusiasm) is a tribute to statesmanship of the highest order. If anyone had said in 1988 that he would accomplish this all without firing a shot (or costing the U.S. taxpayers a dime) it would have been thought a delusion.
So this is President Bush’s victory, too. Now, Madam Chancellor, may I respectfully speak to you about not persecuting homeschoolers?