Friday, June 03, 2005

The Iron Frau?

In this coming Weekly Standard I've broken down the recent state election results in Germany, what it means for Gerhard Schröder, and the prospects for Angela Merkel, who could become her country's first female chancellor.

There's been much talk about Merkel as Germany's Margaret Thatcher. But that would be inaccurate--the chairwoman of the CDU/CSU isn't facing anything as daunting as Thatcher faced in the early 1980s. In addition, as one German told me, Merkel's aim is not to make Germany "great" again. (And you know what I'm talking about.)

On the other hand, comparisons of Gerhard Schröder to Bill Clinton are more accurate, according to Michael Werz of the German Marshall Fund: "trailer home, single mom, white trash, and [Schröder] had to make his way up into the higher echelons of society." Not to mention his love for the ladies. (Schröder has been married four times--a fact that did not escape his rivals who printed bumper stickers that read: "3 out of 4 wives can't be wrong.")

My friend Matthias Rüb of Frankfurter Allgemeine says that if Merkel wins, her challenge will be considerable: "It takes a true political leader to tell Germans, still spoiled by the experience of the Wirtschaftswunder of the 1960s and still pampered by the rampant welfare state known from the 1970s, what they will face, to revive the economy and to restore self confidence." For Galley Slaves readers who understand German (there must be at least a few of you!), I recommend Matthias's book, available at

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