Debra J. Saunders
9/25/2002 12:00:00 AM - Debra J. Saunders
You know that old saw about how people often criticize others
for the very traits they themselves hold? It works for Herta
Daeubler-Gmelin, Germany's justice minister.
Oops, she just resigned.
There wasn't a wet eye in the White House, I'm sure, when her
resignation became official. Daeubler-Gmelin had schnitzel on her face last
week when a German newspaper reported that she told a labor group that
President Bush was beating the Iraq war drum because "Bush wants to distract
attention from his domestic problems. That's a popular method. Even Hitler
Then she looked even more like a dummkopf -- sort of like the
German caricature of Bush -- when she denied making that statement. She said
she didn't use the H-word, but had said "Adolf Nazi."
As if that makes a difference.
The best part is that it's her boss, Chancellor Gerhard
Schroeder, who promised not to send German troops to fight a U.S. war in
Iraq, after his re-election juggernaut seemed doomed because of his
With the highest unemployment rate in the European Union -- near
10 percent -- Germany's economy is in pathetic shape. If Schroeder had what
Daeubler- melin called Bush's "domestic problems" -- as in, 5.7 percent
unemployment -- he'd be dancing in the strasse.
Instead, Schroeder has to resort to Bush-bashing to win back
German voters, whom you can credit with a strong turnout -- around 80
percent -- and poor memory. Schroeder had said that he wouldn't deserve
re-election if he couldn't pull German joblessness below 3.5 million. More
than 4 million Germans are out of work.
Of course, the Germans have a right to opt out of any war
against Iraq. It's not as if they owe the United States any favors -- even
if the United States gave them money after they tried to lay Europe to
Schroeder also has a right to attack U.S. unilateralism, while
engaging in the unilateral position of announcing he won't send German
troops to Iraq as part of a U.N. mission. (The New York Times reports that
Germans expect Schroeder to flip on that position later, because they have
no faith in election promises.)
Still, it's weird when German leaders decide to insult
Americans -- by equating Americans with Germans.
During the election, Schroeder said he wouldn't "click his
heels" to do Bush's bidding.
Yo, kaiser, heel-clicking is a German military thing.
So you don't use it as a slur at the same time you're talking up
this new old idea of "the German way."
Besides, as the Cato Institute's Doug Bandow noted, it's not as
if the Bushies expected the Germans to occupy the Iraqi front line. "It's
not like we were going to ask them to contribute armored divisions from the
Bundeswehr," Bandow quipped.
My favorite line from Daeubler-Gmelin came when she said it was
"absurd and libelous to attribute to me a comparison between a
democratically elected politician and a leading Nazi."
Does that mean it's libelous to assume she knew enough about
German history to understand that Hitler was democratically elected? Maybe
"the German way" is forgetting the facts.
Meanwhile, the Germans can hurl all the Teutonic anti-American
insults in their arsenal and one thing won't change: No American official is
going to put them down by calling them cowboys.