German Politics, US Politics


Have you ever watched Ally McBeal? When Ally could not convince the jury of the case she was presenting she asked Richard Fish for a quick Fishism or told John Cage to squeak and distract the judge or undermine the trustworthiness of a main witness. Apparently, we have arrived at point of the discussion where commenting on global political developments is being turned into an American Court Room – with the Washington Post’s readership as jury.

These day’s Ally is Michael Kelly, who has published a regrettable attempt to discredit German foreign minister Joschka Fischer because of his political biography. Even though most of the things he writes are actually true, Mr Kelly is clearly guilty of forgetting to mention most of what Mr Fischer has said or done after 1968. Sometimes omitting important facts is pretty close to lying.

Joschka Fischer was a member of a violent extra-parliamentary opposition group during the ’68 period. He has always said so. He has always explained – when asked – that he very much regrets his violent past. Moreover, just like Daniel Cohn-Bendit, and many others – he has become a respected and balanced politician. The streets of ’68 may have been an unuasual school, but they were indeed the breeding ground for some very talented political autodidacts. Times change. People can change. Joschka Fischer certainly has.

He has come a long way from being a violent pacifist to a statesman delivering his party’s parliamentary votes in Novermber 2001, when Schroeder put his government at risk by coupling a vote of confidence with the question of deploying troops for operation “Enduring Freedom” – I mention this just in case anyone would like to start another “gratefulness” discussion.

The fact that he has embarrassed Donald Rumsfeld by telling a world audience in English last Saturday that he is not convinced by the simplistic WMD based case for invading Iraq which the American government is consistently feeding its population should be taken seriously by those making this case. Cornering him is not wise. He’s the one who votes for Germany in the security council. And should he lift his arm – he’s the one who could single handedly split the ruling German coalition, his party and create a seismic shift in German politics reminiscent of the 1982 vote on the Pershing rearmament, when the FDP suddenly changed sides. This time, it’s not going to be the party. But it could be Joschka Fischer – indeed Germany’s Mr. Tough Guy – should he deem it necessary. I don’t think he will. And you know why – not because of German or party politics. But because he’s not convinced.

Before go on to read Mr Kelly’s commentary, I would like you to check the following excerpt taken from an interview conducted by CNN with George W Bush during the 1999 primaries. If you think that it is all there is to be said about President Bush (whatever your personal opinion of him is) then you might as well believe that Mr Kelly said all there is to be said about Joschka Fischer.

COOPER: […] Is there any lapse in judgment in your personal life that would make you think twice about running for president?

BUSH: No. I mean I have said many times that there’s nothing in my background that would disqualify me for being governor of Texas much less president.

COOPER: What about alcohol?

BUSH: Probably no more so than others that you know. But I quit drinking. I quit drinking for a couple of reasons. One I was drinking too much at times. But remember during this period of life I was a Sunday school teacher. I was a little league coach. I was a husband. I was a dad, but alcohol began to compete with my energies.

COOPER: Have you ever used drugs? Marijuana, cocaine?

BUSH: I’m not going talk about what I did as a child. What I’m going to talk about and I’m going to say this consistently: It is irrelevant what I did 20 to 30 years ago. What’s relevant is that I have learned from any mistakes that I made. I do not want to send signals to anybody that what Governor Bush did 30 years ago is cool to try.