September 15, 2009

"Just for the taste of it!"

The Christian Science Monitor offers some views on the current German election race at their global news blog:
Chancellor Angela Merkel debated Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on TV Monday, ahead of Sept. 27 elections.

A televised debate between the two candidates for Germany’s highest office was declared a draw by unimpressed Germans, as an election looms two weeks away for Europe’s top economy.

The election will pit center-right incumbent Angela Merkel against her current foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, from the left-leaning Social Democrat party.

At stake is whether Germany will chart a course out of recession with tax cuts and other business-friendly measures (Merkel) or pursue more state-led strategies such as funds for emerging industries, higher minimum wages and tighter regulations on executive pay (Steinmeier).

But many Germans have been left cold by both candidates. Playing on US President Obama’s campaign theme, the German newspaper Bild ran an analysis of the debate with the mocking headline, “Yes, we gahn!” (Yes, we yawn).

Deutsche Welle called the debate “uninspiring” in a roundup of the German press reaction; other descriptions included “shop talk between the chancellor and her deputy,” with “no real verbal sparring.”

The Associated Press said surveys were mixed, and cited a political analyst saying that the “well-mannered duel” was unlikely to change many voters’ minds.

Surveys carried out by three television stations after Sunday night’s duel found that viewers rated it a virtual draw, two putting Steinmeier marginally ahead and one giving a slight advantage to the conservative Merkel.

The debate, like much of the campaign, lacked passion and personal attacks between rivals who govern together in a “grand coalition” of right and left — the result of an indecisive 2005 election.

But the Wall Street Journal said undecided viewers favored Steinmeier, and gave the left-leaning candidate good reviews for a “snappy, vigorous debating performance.”

He argued for new tax rules to deter high executive pay and bonuses, and for minimum wages to slow the growing gap between Germany’s highest and lowest earners.

Mr. Steinmeier warned that the right-leaning government Ms. Merkel is seeking would pursue free-market policies of deregulation that he said had caused the global financial crash. “The thinking that got us into this crisis can’t get us out of it,” he said.

Merkel, by contrast, stuck to a pro-growth message, according to the Journal. The Journal said the candidates’ only significant foreign policy difference was on German troop deployments in Afghanistan, which two-thirds of Germans oppose.

Steinmeier said Germany should by 2013 “lay the groundwork” for pulling its troops out; Merkel offered no timeline.

To start on a negative note: It is not Germany's "highest office" that the debaters are aiming for. It is the most important office. We have a head of state and that is NOT the chancellor. Frankly, lack of basic knowledge like that doesn't inspire much faith in a political commenter. Get some education. In such a light, it doesn't really amaze that Merkel and her Christian Democrats are dubbed "conservative" all the time by Americans. But hey! Can they really be blamed for it? Germans are doing it all the time themselves. One the other hand, Germans don't know what "conservative" means, Americans do, or at least: they ought to, and, apart from a some issues dear to a Catholic's heart that can be linked to a conservative world view, there is nothing "conservative" about the CDU, never was, never will be. The CDU was founded post-WWII as the successor of the "Zentrum" (which translates, notabene, to "Center") the party of political Catholicism, devoted in considerable parts to the Catholic social doctrine, something which will remind Americans painfully of liberal leftis pinkos, the more dumber ones even of commie marxists. And that knowledge is just a couple of keystrokes and mouseclicks away at Wikipedia.

Now Merkel: During the entire debate she managed to totally and utterly avoid terms like "Christian" (even "Christian-Democratic"), "values", "family", "ethics", "human dignity" and "Lebensschutz" (= "pro life"), and even those who notice that at all and predict that Merkel will thus lose her "party stalwarts" are barking up the wrong tree. What "party stalwarts"? Those who voted for the CDU because they are Christian/Catholic, are dying out rapidly.

Merkel was socialized in the former GDR. Her parents went with baby Angela, who had been born in Hamburg, to the GDR. Only hardcore Socialists went voluntarily to the Stalinist GDR to live there, so this sheds a light on the political proclivities of her father, a Protestant pastor. (By the way, that knowledge, too, is just a couple of keystrokes and mouseclicks away at Wikipedia.) She was never heavily involved in official Communist party politics and described her FDJ youth movement years as "cultural work" later. It is not too amazing for a Protestant pastor's daughter either that she she did not take part in the secular coming of age rite "Jugendweihe", the acid test of a line-toeing party member, but was confirmed instead. She chose science as a career, like many bright and gifted students did in the GDR, because it provided a relatively politics- and hassle-free environment. But all that does NOT say that Merkel is NOT a Socialist. Pure and simple, she is. Four years ago, the amount of power she granted to her junior partner in the coalition was amazing. It isn't anymore. They are making HER politics and what she is doing now is aiming head-on at another four years of coalition with the Social Democrats. Why? Any other choice would bind her to the free-market Free Democrats (FDP), and that is exactly what she does NOT want. And if Steinmeier, who is bound to know that quite well, is blathering about "the right-leaning government Ms. Merkel is seeking" he is an even worse hypocrite than Merkel herself. Steinmeier, by the way, belonged, together with current minister of justice in Merkel's Cabinet, Brigitte Zypries, to the editorial staff of the leftist quarterly "Demokratie und Recht" (DuR) published by Pahl-Rugenstein-Verlag, who was at that time under observation by the office for the protection of the constitution (Verfassungsschutz). So far about some major members of "conservative" Angela Merkel's Cabinet.

We are heading for a diet version of the GDR -- "Just for the taste of it!". Mark my words.