Mon Nov 21st, 2005 at 04:18:14 AM EST
From the front page ~ whataboutbob
Gerhard Schröder is about to leave his office as Germany's 7th post-war chancellor. Time for a farwell I have fought against his re-election proudly, but I have to admit I will miss him. Next wednesday, if Angela Merkel gets a majority on tuesday in parliament [not so sure, yet (in German)], will be the first day since 1990 that I will not have been governed by Mr Schröder who was also my Prime Minister in Lower Saxone.
Today again, he managed to make me laugh out loud and wholeheartly: every outgoing chancellor gets a huge military ceremony (Zapfenstrech) when he/she leaves the office. Soldiers will march and the Bundeswehr - Band will play some traditional military music and the national anthem.
Yet, every chancellor is allowed to add 3 songs to the programme and Schröder's selection says a lot about him ans his chancellorship:
- Frank Sinatras "My Way"
- Gershwins "Summertime"
- Berthold Brechts: "Mack the knife"
An awesome and fitting selection. For example the lyrincs of "My way" provide some great analogies:
Yes, there were times, I'm sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out
I faced it all and I stood tall and did it my way [...]
For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught
To say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows and did it my way!
Yes, he was a comeback politician. He came from nowhere and proved and once and for all that it is possible to becaome chancellor with no other agenda than your own personal biography and aim for power. Sometimes he reached to far, but mostly people were willing to forgive him. In the end he managed a surprise comeback. He lost his last election - but far from as devastating as many had predicted.
He did have formidable opponents: Oskar Lafontaine, Ernst Albrecht and many others. I believe it is no surprise he was beaten in the end by the only female politician who came close to his rank. Just like in 1993 when he lost his race for SPD-chairmanship against Rudolf Scharping because of the surprise entry of Heidemarie Wiezorik-Zeul, who now survives him in the cabinet as minister for economic coorporation.
And all the womanizing...very Sinatraesk. Schröder came into office in his fourth marriage. He managed to politically survive the mother of all scandals. He cheated on his wife Hillu on an oil-plattform in the North Sea with his later wife-then-hournalist Doris. That was pretty mean: Hillugate as it became known.
He was at his best, when he was lazy. As Gershwin put it:
And the livin' is easy
Fish are jumpin'
And the cotton is high
Your daddy's rich
And your mamma's good lookin'
So hush little baby
Don't you cry
One of these mornings
You're going to rise up singing
Then you'll spread your wings
And you'll take to the sky"...
He and his government manageg to trannsform Germany in a laid back and more open place. Gay Civil Unions, a new immigration law, renewable energy instead of nuclear power... only those who had to live through 16 years of Helmut Kohls conservative rule can understand how liberating it felt to have im gone.
Of course, it ended in disappointment. The German Anti-terror laws are harsh, his economic policies were at best inconsistent and most of the cabinet was second or third class.
But there were great times, too. The same chancellor that fought the illegal war against Serbia managed to stand up against the U.S. on the question of war against Iraq. He and his foreign minister Joschka Fischer were right on substance and in style.
It is worth remembering Fischer's great speeches to the U.N. Security council in 2003. Like this one:
All possible options for resolving the Iraq crisis by peaceful means must be thoroughly explored. Whatever decisions need to be made must be taken by the Security Council alone. It remains the only body internationally authorized to do so.
Military action against Iraq would - in addition to the terrible humanitarian consequences - above all endanger the stability of a tense and troubled region. The consequences for the Near and Middle East could be catastrophic.
There should be no automatism leading us to the use of military force. All possible alternatives need to be exhaustively explored.
They were right and it is on record.
Schröder was a master in the field of politics and he didn't take prisoners. He was indeed a little bit like Mack the Knife:
See the shark with teeth like razors
All can read his open face
And Macheath has got a knife but
Not in such an obvious place
See the shark how red his fins are
As he slashes at his prey
Mac the Knife wears white kids gloves which
Give the minimum away"
When they will play this one, not everyone of his former cabinet members and M.P.s will have a smile on his or her face.
He was a brutal political animal. For his policies towards China and Russia, he deserves to be prosecuted, but German politics will be poorer for his departure. A new, compentend, yet far more boring group of leaders is taking over. Schröder is gone. He will go down in history as the second best social democratic chancellor, between Brandt and Schmidt, the distant third.
In the end, I am glad he is gone but for whatever else, he was fun.