Sep 252002
Authors: Becky Waddingham

German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has much to do and little time to bask in the glow of victory. Granted, it’s a dim glow – Schroeder won re-election Monday by one of the narrowest margins in postwar German history – but his halved majority has a lot on its plate.

Among his tasks at hand: he must overhaul the embattled German economy, the world’s third largest, which many economists say is highly taxed. He must bring Germany into compliance with European Union regulation of interest and inflation rates.

He must reunite a fracted nation following a very close election.

He must strike a deal with the combined opposition parties in the German government, if his Social Democratic Party (SPD) wants to reach any semblance of market reform or progress in a nation accustomed to prosperity.

He must face powerful vested interests in trade unions, industry lobbyists and an upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat, dominated by opposition parties bitter at the man who robbed them of victory.

And he must deal with the wrath of The Donald.

Rumsfeld, that is; not Trump.

“We can’t afford to take any time off,” Schroeder told Reuters Monday.

No, ot at all, especially not in light of sour grapes from Washington.

The United States is unhappy with its Teutonic friends because of Schroeder’s jaw-droppingly selfish refusal to participate in a possible attack on Iraq, even if said attack were United Nations-sanctioned. The chancellor argues it would spark turmoil across the Middle East and possibly damage the world economy.

Egads! A European ally unwilling to bend to the cowboy whims of the nucular-hatin’ American president?

President Bush is so mad that as of Wednesday, he had still refused to give Schroeder the customary congratulatory phone call.

The administration is probably also unhappy with former Justice Minister Herta Daubler-Gmelin’s comparison of George W. Bush to Hitler, a comment that got her sacked just after the election. One also doubts that it enjoyed hearing the Social Democrats’ parliamentary floor leader, Ludwig Stiegle, associate Bush with Augustus, the Roman emperor who subdued the Germanic tribes.

I was told a senior Bush administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Schroeder “has a lot of work to do” to repair damage to U.S.-German relations.

Rumsfeld wasn’t afraid to be quoted.

“I have no comment on the German elections outcome, but I would have to say that the way it was conducted was notably unhelpful,” he said Monday in a meeting with the Polish president in Warsaw.

He later added that it “has had the effect of poisoning the relationship,” according to the BBC.

My. I can think back to a time when accusatory, inflammatory comments “poisoned” relationships or caused culture-wide tension and disdain. It reminds me of the Old West, where a man would shoot you for slander toward his wife. Or of the early British Empire, where His or Her Majesty could cut off your head for disagreeing. Or of the ancient Romans.

Or of the third grade. Or was it the Third something else….

-Becky is a senior majoring in history and journalism. Her column appears every Thursday.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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