President Ronald Reagan almost did not deliver his iconic "Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down That Wall" speech at the Berlin Wall because of diplomatic concerns over the topic, speechwriter Peter Robinson told Newsmax TV
"That is a speech we can all hear in our minds now very easily," Robinson told "America's Forum" hosts J.D. Hayworth and Miranda Khan. "It's a speech that's memorable; it's a speech that the president almost did not give."
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He explained that when he went to Berlin to do research on the topic, the "American diplomat on the ground in Berlin warned me not to make a big deal of the wall because West Berliners had all gotten used to it by then."
However, Robinson explained he had dinner with some West Berliners and remembers one woman who became quite angry when talking about the wall.
"She said if this man [Mikhail] Gorbachev is serious with all this talk of Glasnost and Perestroika, he can prove it by coming here and getting rid of this wall," he recalled.
"And when he went back to Washington, he drafted a speech with that passage about tearing down the wall, and only got faint praise from Reagan, who said, 'well that was a good draft.'"
Because Robinson always wanted more from Reagan, he told him that depending on the weather patterns, "they'd be able to hear the speech on the other side, the Communist side of the wall. Maybe as far east as Moscow itself. Mr. President, is there anything in particular you'd like to say to the people on the other side of the wall?"
And after thinking a bit, Reagan said he'd want to say the passage about tearing down the wall.
"Then the speech went out to staffing and for three weeks between the meeting with the president and the day he delivered the speech the entire foreign policy apparatus of the government opposed the speech," said Robinson. "The State Department, the National Security Council, the diplomat on the ground in Berlin. They submitted alternate draft after alternate draft after alternate draft and finally the president himself had to redecide the matter"
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Reagan's Deputy Chief of Staff Ken Duberstein, who was at that meeting, told Robinson he'd sat Reagan down and explained that the State Department and the National Security Council all believe the speech sounded naive and that it would raise false expectations.
"They talked about it, and then he said there was a moment when that twinkle came into the president's eyes and he said, 'now, I'm the president aren't I?'"
And since Reagan got to make the decision, the line stayed in and the speech was delivered.
Robinson said that Reagan made the decision "because he was Ronald Reagan."
And Reagan, "was not interested in the bureaucratic intricacies and diplomacy of what negotiations might have been going on between the State Department and Moscow," said Robinson.
Reagan has become known as "The Great Communicator," but something else came first, said Robinson, and that was he had a "moral imagination" and could visualize a world without a Soviet Union.
"In the case of this speech, this came into play because the president knew he would be standing in front of the Berlin Wall," said Robinson. "You could not put Ronald Reagan in front of the Berlin Wall and give him a bureaucratic sounding, dull speech about minor diplomatic initiatives, which is what they wanted him to deliver. So he understood that if he was going to stand at that wall, he was going to call for it to be torn down."
And while Robinson wrote the speech, he told Hayworth and Khan that the speech "belonged to Ronald Reagan from beginning to end."
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