Katrina and Angela offer hope for a better relationship between the United States and Germany. Katrina, who was no lady, nevertheless prompted the German government to open its strategic oil reserves to the United States, and Angela Merkel, a fast friend of Washington, is on course, maybe, to succeed a spoiler of the German friendship with the United States.
William R. Timken Jr., the new American ambassador to Berlin, received a warm welcome when he arrived to take up his duties last week, delivering a letter from President Bush thanking the German people for their assistance in the wake of the storm that battered our Gulf Coast. Two planes of the Luftwaffe, loaded with food and medical supplies, were dispatched to New Orleans.
Ambassador Timken's reception last week contrasted sharply with the roughing up he got in the German newspapers when his appointment was announced several months ago. Relations between the two governments have been less than warm for a long time. "In a way, the disastrous diversion was heaven sent for Timken," observes der Spiegel, the German newsmagazine. "Many Teutonic eyebrows have been raised by the impression that Timken only got his job by being one of President George W. Bush's many 'Super Rangers,' a somewhat hokey Bushism designating those who have raised at least $300,000 for the Grand Old Party."
More to the point, perhaps, some Germans figured that the new ambassador's company, which makes roller bearings in Ohio, prospers at their expense because of protective tariffs that kept German competitors out of American markets. But the rain that accompanies high winds can soften hard feelings into something like sympathy. Particularly in need of softening was the outburst by Jurgen Trittin, the Green environmental minister who characterized the damage wrought by Katrina as the fault of President Bush. "The American president is closing his eyes to the economic and human costs his land and the world economy are suffering under the natural catastrophes like Katrina and because of neglected environmental policies," he wrote in a German newspaper. Few scientists who study weather, even several passionate decriers of global warning, share Herr Trittin's eccentric science. He might just as well have blamed Prometheus' theft of fire from the heavens for global warming.
When Ambassador Timken was asked about the minister's remarks, he exposed the exploitation for what it was. "I would hope people are far more concerned about the people suffering, who have lost family members and houses, than about getting into scientific arguments that go on and on."