Here are excerpts (hat tip Erik Svane) from John Vinocur's article in the NYT (Sept 27, 2005) "Schröder is Counting on a Lack of Indignation" (subscription only):
...First, Gerhard Schröder's fierce (some say scary) insistence on staying chancellor overrides what he mocks as the "formal grounds" of the election results on Sept. 18, like the Christian Democrats having the most seats in Parliament, or some 450,000 more votes nationwide than the Social Democrats. Instead, it's based, beyond the figures, on what he describes, eerily, as his reading of Germany's will.
There were references in this column a week ago to Schröder's bunkerish behavior, a political climate here more Bolivian in feel than Berliner Republik, and to the defeated chancellor's near self-destructive, ranting moment à la Howard Dean on national television. Written on Sept. 19, this turns out to be understatement gone wildly out of hand in comparison to later German descriptions.
A putsch attempt, chutzpah, absurdity, Schröder-running-beserk, hocus-pocus, megalomania, German commentators said for starters. Then the Social Democrats were reported on Thursday by a newspaper favorable to Schröder to be planning to rejigger the Bundestag rules so they would become the largest party before a vote on a new chancellor. This time, the anti-Schröder press compared him to Julius Caesar ("Ich, Gerhard Schröder") and spoke of his growing "Putinization" - a reference to the reverence of the rules of his friend Vladimir Putin, whom the chancellor has called a "crystal-clear democrat."
Here comes the second catch. At a roundtable discussion with a group of Germans here, I hardly heard, in contrast to the editorial roar, the hissing flame of German indignation. In fact, alongside the scorn George W.'s inaction during Hurricane Katrina or the U.S. failure to ratify the Kyoto pact reflexively receives in Germany, public evidence of some kind of massive revulsion with Schröder's democratic reflexes is in trace quantities.
The reality is that Germany can have a selective incapacity for outrage. Oskar Lafontaine
used a Nazi-era term to refer to foreign workers here, and his Left Party in the end performed comparatively better than the big mainstream parties did in terms of their and pollsters' expectations.
Schröder can gauge his behavior against this potential absence of indignation. His own opposition to German reunification, to the creation of the euro, to an Allied response to the deployment of Soviet missiles targeted on Germany, a bill of particulars of failed historical insight, didn't amount to a hillock of difficulty in his coming to power.
What is now described by part of the political class as Schröder's exceptional arrogance and contempt for democratic reality may in fact elude the view of so many Germans who consider that Schröder is just plain - and acceptably - forceful.
Successful demagoguery, populism? In any event, Schröder can now revert to a statesmanlike posture for the week while waiting for the results of delayed voting on Sunday in a Dresden election district. There's no plausible score that could erase the Christian Democrats' lead in Bundestag seats or popular votes (those "formal grounds" Schröder dismisses), but a chance all the same for Schröder to gain some new momentum.
In further weeks, Schröder can play for more time by dodging real coalition discussions with Merkel as long as their first order of business, as she insists, is deciding who's chancellor.
He'll be reckoning that, through the pressure of inaction, support from the Christian Democrat dukes and barons who see themselves as potential substitute chancellors will collapse around Merkel, whatever her legitimacy.
The truth is Schröder may be right to think that the likelihood of her fall is greater than him being sent home in a cloudburst of German popular indignation about a chancellor's disregard for the specifics of an election result.
These prospects do no good for Germany, a country without a constituency keen on seeing any drift toward the edges of democracy's gray zone. (emphasis added)