Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Curse of Being Chancellor

Being Chancellor of Germany means you head the government and the coalition which writes and gets bills passed through the legislative process.  Since the late 1960s, if you look at the history of the Chancellor's position....it's kinda cursed because each person comes to a point where their reputation or legendary status has dissolved.

Willy Brandt?  The SPD politician gained a lot of prominence in running Berlin as mayor, and still has a high reputation among SPD members today.  Oddly, if you look at his first four years.....he comes through with no big issues other than the Red Army Faction starting to develop.  At some point in the second administration.....the spy episode within his inner circle comes up and there's a fair amount of confidence lost by the public and by the Bundstag.  Brandt resigns half-way through the four-year period.  Some will say later that he was burned-out and depressed from the six-year period of work.

Brandt today has books and articles today still written on his legendary status....but having to resign leaves him with a question-mark.

Helmet Schmidt actually makes it through 2.5 administrations.  Politically, he knew when to turn and when to rise to the occasion.  His issue in the end circled around a bad economy which he just couldn't get ahead of the problems, significant cuts on welfare which didn't bode well for his own party members, and his security policy didn't really bode well with his own party members.  When he leaves in the fall of 1982....no one really wept any tears.  A decade later, after a re-examination of his period and over the past twenty years.....with dozens of books written....his period may have recovered in legendary status to some degree.

Helmet Kohl (CDU) actually made it through sixteen years (1982-1998) as Chancellor.  What did him in at the end was a bribe-type deal from a party sponsor....that he kept in an account outside of Germany.  It was in effect, a stash situation where he used to hidden money to fund CDU candidates throughout Germany who needed something extra in their campaign to win.

In today's environment....this one blemish is such that you have twenty major positive things to say about the guy, and then this bribe business gets discussed, and the conversation just ends at this point.

Gerhard Schroder? He makes it through 1.75 administrations.....seven years. What can be said is that he always looked and acted Chancellor-like.  At the conclusion of the first period....had 9-11 not occurred and this 2002 election not been about the US and the war.....Schroder probably would have been voted out of office at that point.  The public sentiment about Schroder, after four years.....was fairly negative.

What went wrong?  Schroder went to a remodeling of the welfare program.....which got a lot of negative publicity by state-run TV, and members of his own party.  Added to this....he did some changes on tax policy, which got public sentiment going negative.  A satire program did weekly coverage of Schroder and his character became a source of humor for most Germans.

With the win in 2002, you'd think that the public would have rekindled it's romance with his policies and vision.  Well....no.  Within days, the negative numbers were back in place and a large number of Germans were dissatisfied with him.

With the next election in 2005, he lost by a narrow margin....and walked away.  His next job?  A consultant job with GAZPROM (a Russian natural gas company).  This peeved a lot of people....political folks from his own party and journalists especially.  Even today...eleven years later....his name doesn't get mentioned that much.

So, we come to Chancellor Merkel.

Up until 2013, most Germans would have said that they thought she'd ride out the Chancellor's position in 2017 and be regarded as leaving on a high note.  Today?  With the immigration and asylum mess....that dream has ended.

Whoever gets the Chancellor job in 2017....ends up with the immigration, asylum, integration and refugee episode to mend and repair.  Merkel did enjoy a lucky stretch where the German economy was booming and unemployment was not an issue.  I doubt if the next Chancellor can enjoy that run of luck.

Maybe it's just the job itself....maybe the people rise to the position......or maybe just luck, but it's a cursed job for most who end up in it.

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