Noting tomorrow’s 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on Sunday’s Today show, former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw claimed East Germans were “still adjusting to the harsh economic realities” of life after communism. But a recent poll of former East bloc countries by the Pew Research Center actually discovered that the people of what was East Germany are actually the biggest enthusiasts of the shift to capitalism, with 82% approving, higher than any other ex-communist country.
Brokaw did note, however, that the current “center-right” Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, was “born and raised in East Germany,” implicitly acknowledging that her youth spent under communism obviously did not make her a fan of leftist economic policies.
The suggestion that capitalism is somehow “harsh” compared to communism echoes what many liberal journalists argued after the fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago. “The transition from communism to capitalism is making more people more miserable every day,” CBS reporter Bert Quint argued in 1990.
“After four decades of standing in communism’s food lines, capitalism has created a new place to wait: at the unemployment office,” NBC’s Mike Boettcher claimed later that same year. For a full run-down of how the media reacted to the fall of communism, check out the MRC’s new Special Report, “Better Off Red?”
After Brokaw — who was in Berlin this morning — related what he saw 20 years ago as an eyewitness to the Wall coming down, co-host Lester Holt asked him, “how do Germans today remember that event and the reunification that followed?”
Well, you have to remember that there's a whole new generation of Germans who have been born since then. Those who were alive at the time — they're still finding their way, trying to find their way into a new Germany in the 21st century. Many who were raised in the East are still adjusting to the harsh economic realities, especially during this economic downturn. What was once West Germany decided to have a unified Germany -- that was a big economic burden for everyone. So I think that this is a country still in search of its identification, and as a result is looking more inward than it is outward.
A few minutes later, Brokaw stumbled as he announced the list of VIPs who will take part in the ceremonies tomorrow:
There'll be the leaders of the present and the past. Mikhail Gorbachev — whom I saw last night — will be here. Dmitri Medvedev, who is the new president of Russia, obviously; Harold Brown from Germany — pardon me, from Great Britain; Hillary Clinton will represent President Obama here, President Sarkozy of France; of course, Angela Merkel from Germany, the first woman to be chancellor of this country, born and raised in East Germany, now a center-right politician. So it will be an all-star line up as they take stock of where we've been, where we are now, and maybe even try to determine where we may be headed from here.
Of course, Harold Brown was Jimmy Carter's Secretary of Defense in the 1970s. Britain's Prime Minister is Gordon Brown, and he will be among the speakers in Berlin tomorrow. Merkel invited President Obama, but he is sending Clinton instead.