CNN Calls Obama's Brandenburg Speech 'Historic'

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux called President Obama's Brandenburg Gate speech "historic" on Wednesday afternoon, while a CNN headline later proclaimed that he "speaks to the history books." This despite the President speaking to a crowd of less than 5,000 at the same location where he addressed 200,000 Germans five years before.

"President Obama calls for freedom, equal opportunity and a reduction in the world's nuclear stockpiles. This is in a historic speech in Germany," touted anchor Suzanne Malveaux. "The images are awesome. You can't be at the Brandenburg Gate without harkening back to so many moments in history," hyped anchor Ashleigh Banfield.

And CNN did the reduced fervor of Germans toward the President, though in liberal overtones. Correspondent Jessica Yellin generously offered this excuse: "his reality couldn't have met those extraordinarily exuberant expectations."

She added that many Germans were disenchanted because Obama has "continued so many of the policies of George W. Bush, from Gitmo to drones and now NSA surveillance."

Banfield helped paint a historic backdrop to the President's speech: "Back in Berlin, Barack Obama in the footsteps of Reagan and JFK, taking a stand against nuclear weapons, urging Russia to join us in slashing nuclear arsenals."

Below is a transcript of the segments, which aired on June 19 on CNN Newsroom:

[11:00 a.m. EDT]

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD: Back in Berlin, Barack Obama in the footsteps of Reagan and JFK, taking a stand against nuclear weapons, urging Russia to join us in slashing nuclear arsenals.

(...)

[11:08]

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD: Famous place, famous faces, Jessica Yellin is traveling with Mr. Obama, joins us live from Berlin. The images are awesome. You can't be at the Brandenburg Gate without harkening back to so many moments in history. But let's talk about the politics and the reaction to what the President's been saying and what the President's been doing, Jessica.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN chief White House correspondent: Well, Ashleigh, it is a remarkable sight to see, a U.S. president on the east side of the Brandenburg Gate, a place no president has been able to stand, no U.S. president, because the walls stood there for so many years. When Reagan came and when John F. Kennedy came, they both stood on the west side. And now that the wall is down, President Obama was able to address a crowd on the – where the Soviet bloc once took – had total control.

President Obama made remarks that both touched on, as you say, the reduction of the nuclear arsenal. He called for a reduction by one third. But he – by both U.S. and Russia. But he also more broadly talked about U.S. values, the U.S. vision for his second term around the world, and spoke to a crowd that had a very different sense of the Obama that came here five years ago.

There were such high hopes, a crowd of 200,000 that turned out to see him then. This time a crowd of less than 10,000 people, probably closer to 6,000, and that's because President Obama is – well, first of all, the hopes, you couldn't have met – his reality couldn't have met those extraordinarily exuberant expectations. But also, he's continued so many of the policies of George W. Bush, from Gitmo to drones and now NSA surveillance. He addressed all of them in the speech, the loudest applause coming when he talked about still his dedication to shutting down Guantanamo Bay, Ashleigh.

(...)

[1:13 p.m. EDT]

SUZANNE MALVEAUX: President Obama calls for freedom, equal opportunity and a reduction in the world's nuclear stockpiles. This is in a historic speech in Germany. This happened earlier today. The President spoke at the iconic Brandenburg Gate in Berlin that once symbolized the divide between east and west. His speech took place almost 50 years exactly after another U.S. president delivered these words.

(Video Clip)

JOHN F. KENNEDY, President of the United States: As a free man I take pride in the words "Ich bin ein Berliner."

(End Video Clip)

MALVEAUX: That, of course, John F. Kennedy declaring, "I am a Berliner." The Brandenburg Gate is also where President Ronald Reagan said this back in 1987.

(Video Clip)

RONALD REAGAN, President of the United States: Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.

(End Video Clip)

MALVEAUX: In his speech today, President Obama called for the U.S. and Russia to reduce their nuclear arsenals. Listen.

(Video Clip)

BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States: I'm announcing additional steps forward. After a comprehensive review, I've determined that we can insure the security of America and our allies and maintain a strong and credible strategic deterrant while reducing our deployed strategic nuclear weapons by up to one-third. And I intend to seek negotiated cuts with Russia to move beyond Cold War nuclear postures.

(End Video Clip)

MALVEAUX: I want to bring in our Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger. Gloria, first of all, the President obviously touching a lot of broad themes, but specifically about reducing nuclear weapons. What do you think he accomplished in the speech?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN chief political analyst: I think this was a legacy speech for this President. I think he had to look back to the speech he gave five years ago in Berlin and expand upon it as somebody who has now served as President of the United States. But it was a broad-themed speech. He talked about peace with justice. That was his sort of overarching theme here. And I think he tried to remind people who were there what we've been through in this world and what we are still going through, and the fact that there is no more wall there, he said, doesn't matter, we still face enemies.

And that was his opening, to talk about the balance between liberty and security, which is so important to people in Germany, and also nuclear disarmament, which is also important over there and around the world.

So I think this was an opportunity for him, which, by the way, Suzanne, you know, he doesn't get these kind of moments at home very often. He gives these speeches on particular issues. He's in fights with Congress constantly. He's in a position of explaining and explaining and explaining, as he is with the National Security Agency controversy. This was sort of a moment for him, out of the country, to take a place on the world stage, which is exactly what he did.

MALVEAUX: Yeah. And those are the kind of moments I think that the President, the administration really wants.

BORGER: Sure.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014