Wednesday, December 21, 2011

German President Wulff dirty, Chancellor Merkel squeaky clean?

Not that I'm suspicious of Angie or anything. But even with Karl Rove thousands of miles away from German politics, this just looks too good to be true for German Chancellor Angela Merkel: Nico Fried, Kanzlerin Merkel und die Wirtschaft.Erst denken, dann handeln (Chancellor Merkel and Business: First think, then deal) Süddeutsche Zeitung 20.12.2011.

Just after Angie's latest disastrous EU summit that failed to solve the eurozone debt crisis, news broke that German President Christian Wulff had concealed hundreds of thousands of euros in private loans that he had been required to report. In Germany, the President is the head of state, the Chancellor the head of government. Spiegel International explains and offers some English translations of German press commentary on the scandal in 'President Wulff Lied' 12/19/2011:

In Germany, the office of the federal president serves as a sort of moral compass for the nation. Largely symbolic in nature, the president gives a televised prime time speech on Christmas day offering guidance to Germans on the political and moral issues of the day.

Allegations that the president made misleading statements about accepting a sizeable loan from an individual businessman and friend at a favorable interest rate are not becoming to his elevated position. Thus, one week into his personal loan affair, pressure continues to mount on Christian Wulff.

The president is under fire for not disclosing the 2008 loan when asked by the Lower Saxony state parliament if he had any business ties with friend and millionaire entrepreneur Egon Geerkens. Wulff said he had none. But last week it emerged that Wulff and his new wife at the time had accepted a private loan for some €500,000 from Egon's wife Edith. For months, Wulff had fought attempts by journalists to obtain information pertaining to his 2008 purchase of a home near Hanover.
Gosh, it's just a €500,000 loan (appox. $850,000) from a businessman - excuse me, the businessman's wife - who I'm sure happened to be good buddies with ole Christian. A loan that Wullf tried to conceal. I'm sure there weren't any quid pro quos involved!

Shoot, those Occupy people would probably think this was some kind of cynical one-percenter arrangement. But who listens to those people? And heck, who hasn't borrowed a few hundred thousand dollars on the sly from one of their friends to buy a house? People do it all the time!

Wullf comes from Angie's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party. Just last year, the previous President, Horst Köhler, resigned, the first President in the history of the Federal Republic to do so. His sin was to blurt out too bluntly that he supported Germany's participation in the NATO war in Afghanistan because he thought it was good for German business. So Angie muscled him out. (The Spiegel piece linked above delicately says he resigned "following widespread critique over comments he made suggesting the German military should pursue German economic goals abroad".)

Wulff was the candidate of Merkel's center-right coalition in the 2010 election for Köhler's replacement.

It's doesn't strike me as convenient for Angie at such a time to have her party's President under fire, especially for something so crassly corrupt (whatever the technical legalities may be), especially since she's in the process of destroying the euro, wrecking the European Union and impoverishing millions of Europeans with her austerity economics.

But the Süddeutsche Zeitung piece above made me wonder about other angles. It's a puff piece about how scrupulous and moral Angie is dealing with businesspeople, the soul of rectitude even. Why, she never goes on vacation with rich businesspeople the way her President has been doing. And if there's any hint of secret loans or similar shady deals with Angie, you wouldn't know it from Nico Fried's article. On the contrary, she's so little cozy with the one-percenters she's wrecking the EU to serve, she's practically a hermit!

Yes, the American media disease seems to be spreading to Germany, unfortunately. This story reeks of being a puff piece to secure the Access that is so precious for American reporters who write fawning stories about high officials. But to show he's a tough-minded journalist, Fried does allow that a wealthy publisher with whom Angie was friendly gave her some cookies in public! On the whole, Fried gives us to believe, she'd much rather be hanging out with union types than with one-percenters.

This kind of suck-up article is standard fare for the American press. But it's kind of sad to see it in the Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Since this reads like a the Chancellor's office typed it up for him, I'm going to guess this represents Angie's preferred spin. Unlike that President feller with such bad judgment, she's so squeaky clean it hurts. Fried actually says that Angie is "painfully exact" to spend as much time with journalists as she does with business lobbyists leaders. What, she gets her marching orders from the financial lobby and then goes to her favorite suck-up "journalists" and tells them what to write?

We can't harsh on Angie too much for trying to put distance between herself and a guy who looks like he may be the second German President to resign in the middle of his term. Politics is politics, as Joe Stalin said on a famous occasion (when he was about to conclude the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of 1939). And as another of Angie's fanboys, Michael Lümann, writes with a rather sickening level of admiration, Angie is fast to dump even her closest allies when they become inconvenient for her.

But for an American used to watching for Karl Rove-type schemes, it could look just a little too convenient that the President has a scandal break at a time when Angie could use a little diversion from press attention on her. Of course, if she gets the kind of fawning fanboy attention Nico Fried provides in that article, she doesn't need any distractions.

And a jaded American might also think that it might enhance Angie's internal profile if another President, the office that is supposed to serve "as a sort of moral compass for the nation", were to have to step down for shady behavior. Especially if Angie's squeaky-clean scruples allow her to provide a more respectable "moral compass". Plus, it's unlikely that Wulff's shady relationships to generous one-percenters came as a complete surprise to CDU insiders. I'm just saying.

But having said all that, it's actually believable to me that Angie is too fastidious and careful to cozy up to business cronies in such a compromising way. I have the impression that Angie is attracted to rigid rules and that she is exceptionally careful to minimize risks to herself. She grew up in Communist East Germany until the Berlin Wall came down when she was 35. Being careful about exposing yourself to blackmail or discrediting revelations was something that she learned from childhood.

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