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I don't think that the "scandal" was the armpit, but concerns that press photos would be retouched. If that became common practice no photo could be trusted anymore. It's true that a photo can be manipulated just by cutting but retouching it crosses the line even more. To many reminders of Winston in 1984 removing persons fallen into disgrace from archived photos. Well it was already done in Stalinist times.

In Merkel's case that might have been a "harmless" correction but it must not occur because other "corrections" could be less than harmless and distort the photo. It's an iron rule that press photos must not be retouched in any way. Any press journalist who is caught doing it (and most press photos are made digitally now) will be fired immediately and rightfully so.

I would laugh at you stupid Germans for obsessing over this woman's underarm sweat. But then I realized that the US media is even more stupid that yours.

Have to agree with Lou...our media is capable of being just as vapid as this scheisse from Der Spiegel. I really wish I knew Deutsch as I'd love to communicate with Ms. Merkel and find out her family lineage as she just might be a distant relative. My surname is Markle but it is derived from the name Mercklen and there are various alternate spelling including Merkel. The line would most likely have LONG been separated as Johannes Christian Merklen came across the pond, having been born in Metz and lived in Amsterdam (he eventually married Jemina Wuertz who was the sister of the Grand Admiral of Holland), around 1700. I have reasonably reliable information going back a few hundred years before that also to ancestors in Nuremberg and Lubeck. I just went to a reunion over the weekend and got to see some old (for the US) homes built by my family in the 1700's and trade stories and trivia...and I just thought it would be really interesting if Angela Merkel happened to be a relative. Heck, I'd even invite her to the next reunion which won't be held until 2007 (we had people who travelled over 2000 miles to get here so we decided to space them out a bit) - not that I think she'd be able to show.


I never thought I was ever going to say this, but I agree with most of what you said. You just earned a lot of my respect. And I'm not trying to bribe my way out of the programme that I owe you. I realize there is no way I can come up with something sensible within a reasonable amount of time. I'm just a political amateur... I'd be happy to share my expertise in biotechnology though :)

The structural conservatism you're talking about becomes especially obvious when you live in the US and go back to visit Germany. Germans have everything, first class autobahns, a good communication system, public transportation, universal health care, free college education, etc. and yet they are so pessimistic and passive and disgruntled. Where is the optimism, where is the can-do attitude?

@ Niko:

So what are you trying to say Niko, that there is no bias in favor of Schroeder and against Merkel in the German media? Are you trying to imply that the German media is simply neutral and Schroeder is just more of a media pro? Common...

As for the FDP, yes, they did govern for long periods. But as the junior partner in coalitions. They did not give up their ideals, but there was only so much they could realize in the context of coalition politics. Just because they were limited by the CDU and SPD does not mean they have sold out on their beliefs. On the contrary.

As for German-American relations, the FDP has repeatedly stood up to the excesses of the left. For your information, no German political party supported the war in Iraq without heavy reservations. Just because Westerwelle disagrees on one issue does not mean that he isn't for a more robust German-American relationship. We shouldn't lose sight of the forest for all the trees.

And as far as the term "conservative" goes. It is not my object to engage in definitional tail chasing. I think it is clear in what sense I meant conservative. Certainly one could also say that a conservative is simply one who is in favor of the status quo, but that is not how I have chosen to use the term. I did, however, find your comment as to the complex and often intermingled nature of German politics to be correct and relevant. Certainly there are exceptions to every rule. But the general trends are clear.

As far as Westerwelle and Merkel being dishonest. I say let's give them a chance in office before we write them off. It is far too early to pass judgement as to their abilities as leaders.

@ Querdenker

Was the touch up unprofessional? Sure. Could the editor have just selected another photo from a different angle? Sure. Is this a cover-up on the same level with Stalinist revision of history? Give me a break! Let's not go overboard in our comparisons. Certainly this is embarassing, but it is not the sinister attempt to revise history that you make it out to be. It is a sweaty armpit. That's it. Not front page news in an election with millions out of work as far as I'm concerned.

No, you get me wrong here. The idea is not to retouch ANY photo in order not to destroy the trust in the veracity of a photograph (it's hard enough to fully "trust" a photo today anyway). Merkel's case just showed that retouching was done. And people ask: Was it ONLY done in this case or is it common practice? Sure this is as "harmless" as it gets. But it's a principle.
Imagine a less "innocent scene": A worker shakes the hand of Schröder or Merkel. When the photo is examined you discover that the man has a little tattoo on his arm which looks like a swastika. Now should that be retouched?
You are right in that the case was completely overblown and it was given political implications that it very likely never had.
I'd simply have chosen another photo because a sweaty armpit has no political meaning.

Quote:"The CDU (42%) and FDP (6%) have a combined 48% of the vote. But the left-wing parties, the SPD (29%), the Greens (8%) and the New Left (11%) have the same percentage."

Due to the heavy polling expected I bet the FDP will not make the 5% it needs to be elected into the Bundestag.
=> No grand coalition
=> Schröder resigns
=> Red-red-green government
=> Next chancellor: Dr. Hans Ulrich Klose (SPD)

@ Querdenker:

excuse me for saying this, but you are using the Spiegel's ludicrous rationale: we are 6 weeks away from national elctions and you are telling us, the story about one of the leading candidate's physical appearance on a press photograph is all about veracity ? get real, you don't believe that yourself, do you ? don't get me wrong, you may have a point about alterations to photos in the press in general (even though i disagree when it comes to "flattering" touch ups such as erasing minor flaws like a sweaty armpit; btw: wouldn't you agree that arranging press photos with Chancellor Schroeder standing on a footstool to hide his actual height is a bit manipulative, too ?). But this is not the message the Spiegel is really trying to get across.

The thing is: This report (and many others the Spiegel is coming up with these days) only serves one single purpose: to discredit Mrs Merkel and undermine her chances in the upcoming elections. just like yesterdays report about mr Stoiber standing in rainy Hamburg, fighting a shouting match against leftist troublemakers during a speech (what does that really say ?) or today's hypocritical outlash against him for bashing up the new left party as "frustrated".

@ Niko:

you are asking for too much. this country is not (and never was, i am afraid) ready for a purist attitude as yours. yes, Mr Westerwelle has declared reservations against the war in Iraq, but anything else in this country with its predominating anti-American sentiments would have been political suicide and he has emphasized the importance of the German-American frienship over the axis Paris-Berlin in the same interview.

no matter how many times they have changed political partners and how many compromises they had to make in the past as a small party: the FDP is still the only party that actually supports the idea of deregulation, a free market economy and a government that favours chances over security. and they were the only ones that defended foreign investors defiantly against the "locust debate" this spring.

i have not forgotten infamous Mr Moellemann and his anti-semitic outlashes. and i do agree he should have been stopped by the party's leaders long before he lost them the national elections (and by far not just because of that). but: one does not a pattern make, and i don't think the whole party is to blame for his blunder.

Great posting Niko!
I also doubt that a government out of CDU/CSU and FDP would do our economy any better than our current one. The conservatives would even weaken our foreign politics and would not advance german interests like Schröder does.
So the only good solution would be a Grand Coalition out of SPD and CDU - but please not with Merkel as chancellor. Like you pointed out she doesnt have the ability to exercise leadership - she would be a catastrophe for germany.

With a decent chanellor leading a grand coalition, we could achieve many things - since they could govern the country pretty much forever. And if they were successful, people would love them for this, and we would finally get rid of all those small parties like the FDP, Linkspartei or the Greens, who never did our country any good when it comes to really important matters.

In inner affairs policy, SPD and CDU/CSU resemble each other so much in their law and order policy, these hardliners would get along very well. Of course, the CDU would not want to confront the US like the SPD did as regards foreign policy, but in a grand coalition they would also have to put german interests as absolutely primary ones.

So if everything works well this might turn out like the CSU government of bavaria - its working for decades. There s no opposition and people are confident with this, since this way the government can actually DO something.
Oh not to forget: That 2/3 majority for changing the constitution would also be provided by SPD + CDU/CSU, so we might easily get rid of some unpleasant articles that hinder effective politics.

@ Toby

Sure the FDP has some good ideas as regards tax policy and so on. I like their idea of pretty much unlimited cloning research without hindering ethical borders - But do you really think they could convince the conservatives of doing so in a CDU/CSU + FDP coalition? I hardly think so...

Schröder also wants our country do to unlimited research on that sector, he simply has to convince his party. And he proved many times that he is able to do that - recall the "Machtwort" :)

What really strikes is that the FDP does not have a good inner affairs agenda - they always point at constitutional rights when there are suspicious muslims to be arrested or to be thrown out of the country.
With Beckstein (CSU) AND Schily (SPD) leading the ministry of inner affairs though, those muslims sure would have nothing to laugh about anymore!
Thats exactly what they are doing right now - those radicals are laughing at us. Thats why we need a government that provides them a grand kick in the ass, and not those wimps of the FDP or the Greens who cant stop defending them.

Right now, suspicious muslims are thrown out of the country when there are no precise evidences for crimes available. That was a nice invention of the current government. But the problem is that in most countries to which those suspects shall be sent "home", they are threatened by death penalty or torture. That way, german authorities are not allowed to send them back.
Maybe you ve heard that the conservatives want those who cant be sent home to be arrested until they can be sent home - What do you think the FDP is going to say to that? In a coalition, they will go crazy until those plans are dropped!

That - for another time - proves that the FDP is uncapable of doing effective inner politics, and why they are unqualified for government.

Look what i just discovered - Merkel in her private environment.


Yap its her, in the middle of the picture.

A woman that believes such pictures will support her election campaign is supposed to govern our country? Hell no!

Well, Zyme,

i get it, so you are a true Schroeder fan, who thinks the man just needs to crack down on his left-wing party members. you believe a grand coalition will eventually help make unneccessary all those small parties and enhance big constitutional changes.

i don't think so. grand coalitions, in this country, even though not totally unsuccessful, tend to work only in transitional times. they enhance compromises and mainstream ideas, leaving aside the "radical" wings of both parties. that, in return, will lead to the manifestation of protest in those left-aside and will eventually spur on the small parties rather than quash them. in the end, the coalition members end up with declining polls and a desire for bashing each other up, eventually leading to a renewal of one of classical blocks.

as to reforms, renewal, modernization ? forget, the mainstream won't allow any of that. if you, however, as i do, believe, that this country is doing exceptionally poorly and that we need American style reforms asap (and i am not only speaking of "tax policy and so on" but of groundbreaking reforms of our centuries old social security system), you will agree that a grand coalition will achieve - zero.

as to the WOT and matters of inner policy - i agree, the liberals tend to have a soft spot there, but so what ? when it came to homeland security i can't remember a single legislative change in the past they have not ended up endorsing (quite unlike the constitutional court, by the way), even if grundgingly so.

well, zyme, what say you ?

What you describe about the compromises and mainstream ideas in a grand coalition does apply for the past, not for today. This is because in earlier times, the conservatives and the SPD did have a lot of different ideas and approaches to problems. This has changed, they are pretty similar today in many political aspects. So I think there are no more radical parts of each party left behind than there are in our current coalition - and i believe the SPD has more in common with the CDU/CSU than with the Green Party.

The same applies for the CDU/CSU and the FDP, for the reasons i mentioned (inner affairs, research policy and you could even add defense policy, since the FDP wants to abolish the drafting system while the conservatives want to keep it)

So all in all, to my opinion a grand coalition includes the least compromises and the greatest power to renew our country.


Schröder, when in doubt, advances _turkish_ national interest at the expense of german interest. He's Erdogan's vassal and lackey; and in the olden days a Kurt Schumacher rightfully might have called him the Chancellor of the Turks. Keeping in mind that the SPD need the turkish settler vote and that Erdogan is an islamist; a grand coalition even w/o Schröder could not work effectively against islamist terror. Germany would become a safe haven/staging area and in turn not be a target for islamist terror, but nothing more.

In any case the proper reaction to the war (and a war it is) is not to go on the defensive and turn our countries into police states. Against terrorism there is no defense, there's only preemption and deterrence. Thus the proper course of action is to wage the war where it originated, both to kill terrorists and to restore deterrence.

Schröder's Iran policy of making a peaceful resolution the absolute priority is suicidal madness that might, with a little bit of bad luck, cost us one or two cities in the end. Any such peaceful resolution will just be "Peace For Our Time", Iran will acquire nukes and then nuclear war will be all but inevitable. Even if we don't suffer any direct hits a nuclear war in our neighborhood will be an unprecedented disaster. Our survival interest dictates a non-nuclear Iran, not necessarily peace.

It was a de facto "Grand Coalition" of catholic and non-catholic socialists that made reunification a catastrophic failure. A formal grand coalition with the majority to dismantle the checks and balances in our constitution would fail on the economy, and cause a backlash that would get people elected who _will_ not peacefully relinquish power any more.

And what about Berlin's grand coalition in the late 1990's ? Leading eventually to a left-wing coalition ? the same is true of mecklenburg-vorpommern.

@ alan
You said: Germans have everything, first class autobahns, a good communication system, public transportation, universal health care, free college education, etc. and yet they are so pessimistic and passive and disgruntled. Where is the optimism, where is the can-do attitude?

Let's analyse that statement. First class Autobahns, yes, they are good, but not not plentiful enough anymore to accommodate the flow of traffic. (Remember Staus? Possibly, the increase in Gas costs to Euro 4 per liter will help out)
Communication system is ok, but lags behind the US.
Public Transportation is excellent. It does have to do with the proximity of the Towns and cities. In the US you have tremendeous distances that make a public transportation system like that not feasible.
What is Universal Health care? Describe it please. (Operative word being "UNIVERSAL") Costs are 15.6% of income x 2
Free college Tuition: That's changing, the system is broke.
There has always been a basic difference between Germans and Americans. Pessimism vs Optimism. Explain how a can do attitude can emerge in a cradle to grave socialist society which rewards you for laziness? They have even become too lazy to breed, thus the demographic and economic problems the country is facing. In 20 years 60% of the population will be over 60 years of age. Who will pay for it? Hard to be optimistic when confronted with that future.

I just took a look at the nice pic of Angela Merkel. It may not fit into Schroeder´s Armani and Cuban Cigar world but if this ain´t down to earth then what the ..ck is it ? Mrs. Merkel may lack a long experience in government but she has the right convictions and was one of the few german politicians who did NOT condemn the US-led invasion of Iraq in public though this could´ve been political suicide. She showed more backbone than Stoiber, Gerhard and Westerwelle combined (not to mention all the leftist whimps)so be ready for more surprises as soon as she´s chancellor. If the CDU can´t turn the tide, who can?

@ abc

> Costs are 15.6% of income x 2


What's this factor 2 supposed to mean?

The average costs are 15 % of your income, half of which are paid by the employee and the employer each. Furthermore, there's a cap at € 42.300.


So what are you saying? It's understandable that they are pessimistic because all those things they once had are falling apart? Or they're pessimistic by nature?

I was just describing my astonishment because I would think that all those socialist benefits would make you happy and that you would be unhappy if you didn't have them. Yet the opposite seems to be the case.

In terms of health care. It was quite painful to find out how expensive a dentist can be and how fast deductibles for medication add up. In Germany, I never paid a cent, even and especially when I didn't have a high income. People should appreciate that more.

Martina I meant to say "divided" by 2, sorry. however, it is 15.6 and rising.

Alan, When the social Benefits consume most of your money, 50-80% including taxes, depending on income, you just don't have much left.
Dental coverage has been severely restricted in Germany.
Having been born and raised there, having lived there off and on for 35 years, i can say that, in my opinion, the negativity seems to be a trait.
I still visit every 3 months. I am now retired and have time. My large family is overall very pessimistic about everything, even though they all have succeeded, have their own home, etc. I can't figure it out.
Remember the 2 sides of the coin? Here you do have more disposable income and can spend it the way you want to, rather than being told how to spend it.

It has just come to my attention, that unlike our media in the States, much of the German print and electronic media is firmly anchored financially with the SPD in Germany.

This is an outrage for a country calling itself a democracy. Are Germans really so dumb to make the same mistake they made with the Nazis, by allowing a political party to influence the news media in such a way???? I am speechless .....

Ah well, us dolts of Americans will never understand the sophisticated nature of German politics. That much is clear.

A chancellor who presided over 8 years of economic decline and even (then) challenged the electorate to judge him on that basis. Against a challenger who has sweated her dress and also misused a couple of words. I'll bet the chancellor never did that. He's got all the right language on his way to adding hundreds of thousands to the unemployment rolls.

Guess that means he's the better choice?

Sarkozy in France is not going to be sleeping so well tonight.

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