Unfortunately it seems to be the norm rather than an exception that political leaders or decision-makers preach one thing but practice another. On Feb 23 President Bush responded to questions from young professionals at the Electoral Palace in Mainz. In the public part of the meeting he outlined his viewpoint on freedom as an essential human desire: “Free societies are peaceful societies.” Nice thought. And perhaps even honest - if “free” implies “uncritical towards those who lead.” Initially planned as a town-hall meeting open to average citizens, President Bush’s gathering with German “non-officials” ended up being a meeting with carefully selected young professionals whose “airtime” was limited to a minimum. Fearful of too many unpleasant questions -and instead of more or less official censorship - the greater part of the meeting was declared internal and hence closed to the public.
The selection process of the up-and-coming VIPs behind the scenes was even more nebulous. At first, various institutes with a U.S.-focus were asked to provide names of talented individuals capable of leaving a good impression on Germany’s distinguished guest. Also the German Fulbright Commission was asked to present suitable candidates. From initially 20 the list was cut down to eight young delegates. In the end one star remained and joined the meeting. Neither decision-making nor line of argumentation brought forward by the German Foreign Office were conclusive. The noble claim for freedom as a universal value stayed behind as an empty notion.
What is left is a strange aftertaste. The greatest strides forward in terms of spreading the gospel of democracy will be made when decision-makers start to walk the talk. Everything else will be interpreted as hypocrisy.