Thursday, May 19, 2005

It couldn't happen to a nicer guy: Schroder

Quite a few bills seem to be coming due lately: first, Australia's Howard; then, America's Bush; next, Britain's Blair; and now our dear friend and ally, Germany's Schroder, who is about to be presented with a small but pressing little bill of his own.

The pending German election is not a national one--that won't happen till 2006--so it hasn't gotten much media coverage here. I didn't even know about it until I caught this in the New Republic. As it turns out, according to TNR assistant editor Clay Risen, even though the election is only local to the state of North Rhein-Westphalia, there are national repercussions. The indication is that Gerhard may be in more than a little bit of trouble. And, like so many politicians, he is doing and saying whatever he can to stay in power.

Here's an excerpt:

Largely ignored on this side of the Atlantic, German state elections this weekend in North Rhein-Westphalia could be the beginning of the end for Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. Germany's most populous state and home to Düsseldorf, Cologne, and Bonn, NRW, as it is known locally, has been governed by the Social Democrats (SPD) for 39 years. Polls, however, show the party headed for an embarrassing defeat by the right-of-center Christian Democrats (CDU). A loss in NRW could render Schröder a lame duck between now and the 2006 federal election--not only because of the region's symbolic value as a longtime SPD stronghold, but also because a win there would give the CDU enough of a parliamentary majority to veto the chancellor's agenda.

Both friends and enemies regard Schröder as an enormously skillful and ruthless politician, so it's been no surprise to see his party's leadership take a sharp populist turn over the last few weeks, lashing out at "international capital" and the "Anglo-Saxon" business model as a threat to the German social system. In some ways it's a repeat performance of his 2002 federal election strategy, in which to save his post he demonized Bush on Iraq and all but tanked U.S.-German relations. Fortunately, Schröder has been able to repair some of the damage done by that first attack, sending soldiers to Afghanistan and training Iraqi troops. This time around, though, the debate engendered by his party's rhetoric is both more virulent and more likely to spread uncontrollably, influencing not just bilateral government relations but business relations as well. And that's bad news for both sides of the Atlantic.

Although I have my usual difficulty evaluating the actual economic arguments on the merits, it does seem pretty clear that Schroder's stance is a strategic one, designed to cover his political hindquarters, but shortsighted and potentially damaging to Germany's already at-risk economy. And furthermore, it doesn't seem to be working; the polls show his party likely to lose the upcoming North Rhein/Westphalian election.

It couldn't happen to a nicer guy.


At 3:13 PM, May 19, 2005, Blogger Michael B said...

Related. An interesting discussion of German political themes and basic social philosophy over at this post at American Future, comments section very good as well, longish read with two or three relevant links, but informative, thoughtfully done. Very much touches on themes John Rosenthal has discussed at Transatlantic Intelligencer at times, JR being the prime commenter in the AF post.

At 3:26 PM, May 19, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re Schoder, Chirac, et al, I recommend this WSJ column

on Europe's economic decline. As one reads it, please keep in mind the need, and the Democratic party's failure, to address the growth of entitlements, which if unchecked will get us to the same position -- with fewer bucks available for defense. The Europeans allowed their "generous" state programs to develop courtesy of the U.S. defense umbrella.

The article, in its way is a compelling argument in favor of partial privatization of Social Security -- with the privately owned portion being just that "privately-owned" and not part of the federal budget.

At 1:27 AM, May 20, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Schroeder and Chirac deserve each other. As a Southerner let me put it this way-sounds as if the chickens are coming home to roost !!

At 1:59 PM, May 20, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re Schröder’s “lashing out at ‘international capital’ and the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ business model as a threat to the German social system,” there’s a good article, “Anti-Americanism, Anti-Semitism, Anti-capitalism,” in the current issue of The Spectator ( dealing with just this. Here’s a view into just how low a road Schröder is willing to travel:

“Franz Müntefering, the chairman of Mr Schröder’s Social Democratic Party (SPD), has managed to combine the three big As in a single campaign for the forthcoming state elections in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s largest state. He compared foreign financial investors to ‘locusts’ — the kind of language that the Nazis used to describe Jews. This was no slip of the tongue. He repeated it. Even worse, he drew up a list, the ‘locust list’, of financiers of mostly Jewish–American origin, whom he accused of making exorbitant profits by asset-stripping German companies. Publishing lists of Jewish names was a hallmark of Nazism.”

All this, sadly, reminds me of this in Jay Nordlinger’s column in yesterday’s NRO (

"Readers may remember something I quoted David Pryce-Jones as saying: that, in the 1930s, the cry in Europe was, 'Jews to Palestine!' Now the cry there is (in effect), 'Jews out of Palestine!' I commented, 'You can’t win with these people: You just have to beat them, or survive despite them.'

I received an interesting note from Jeff Jacoby, the invaluable columnist for the Boston Globe. He wrote,
'I was in Israel with my family over Passover, and went to see the new Yad Vashem museum in Jerusalem. There is a display of anti-Jewish signs that materialized throughout Germany during the early Nazi years — towns would put these up to publicize their anti-Semitism. One in particular struck me. It said (in German, of course), ‘Attention Jews! The road to Palestine doesn’t pass through this town.’ Another one showed a replica of a railway ticket. It said, ‘Free ticket to Jerusalem — valid from every German station. No return. Fourth Class.’ When I saw them, I said to my father exactly the same thing you heard David Pryce-Jones say . . .'”

At 3:00 PM, May 20, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous, that is indeed very sobering news.

At 5:04 PM, May 20, 2005, Blogger Michael B said...

Agree with Anon,

Davids Medienkritik: Goebbels Would Have Loved This

Trans-Int: The Locusts

Trans-Int: Locust Round-Up

Nonetheless, "only" symptomatic.

Still, the convergence of the noted three "anti's," anti-American, anti-Semitic and anti-capitalist themes, reflect deep-seated Leftist interests, orthodoxies and assumptions more generally. If there is any hesitation in associating the complex matrix of anti-Semitism with the Left, recall that fascism itself grew out of Benito Mussolini's lengthy and deeply committed relationship with orthodox Marxism, not out of any conservatism per se. In point of fact, Mussolini, in taking the reins of power (circa '22), deposed a royalist, historically the most traditional form of governing authority associated with "the right."

At 11:51 AM, May 23, 2005, Blogger Michael B said...

Oliver Kamm expands upon the fascist/Left correlate. Kamm's primary target is Galloway's Respect coalition, but he lays out a broad, historically based introduction, alluding to Mussolini, along with other actors who variously partook in this social/political nexus.


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