Back in 2012, because of legal issues with the CDU's guy who was serving as President.....there had to be a quick replacement. Because the CDU didn't have the number to ensure his replacement from their group.....the SPD put Joachim Gauck up for the job and got the Greens to go along with this.
Since then, what can be said is that Gauck has filled the shoes with no real complaints from anyone. Like most all German presidents prior to this period.....he's avoided critical commenting or political bickering. You can look over the list since 1949, and that's one of the features of this position. He is head of state but he doesn't run day to day affairs.....which is left to the chancellor.
At the beginning of 2016, most people expected Gauck to be reelected by the Bundestag to a second term. People from various parties were willing to go along with that. In June, he said "no".....he would not go up for the job again. Chief reason? He more or less hinted age (he's 76 years old).
To be honest, the job does involve travel. I would make a guess that he's on the road at least 60 days out of the year. His wife usually accompanies him (she's in her mid-50's).
The issue here is that this kinda left the door open. The CDU? They desperately talked around with possible acceptable replacements. Norbert Lammert would have been a great choice....as head of the President of the Bundestag. He was a very patient individual with limited criticisms. He said no.....he was 67 years old and intended to retire in the next year as well.
So the CDU searched and searched.....even considering a Green Party candidate. The SPD? They went very solid and strong.....early-on in this game....with the Foreign Minister....Frank Steinnmeier.
Resume-wise, Steinmeier has a four-star resume. He ran a number of years ago for Chancellor....against Merkel....and lost. Character-wise, no scandals. But typically, people who've occupied the chair of the President....have been people who didn't use the chair for critical comments. In Steinmeier, you have a guy who probably doesn't go a single day without wagging the finger at someone, or some problem, or some country.
In the past four months? Steinmeier has made a number of harsh comments at the BREXIT business, Brit Foreign Minster Boris Johnson, Hungary's Orban, and President-elect Trump. What will he do in roughly sixty days as he occupies the seat? Continue on with harsh criticism is my guess.
Here's the thing....politics in Europe is in a revolution of sorts, and various countries (with the exception of Germany) are heading strongly toward right-wing governments. One could suggest that that the AfD would be an example of the Germans heading toward right-wing status as well. For the September election in 2017 in Germany.....it would take a miracle for the SPD to win in this election. My thoughts are...somewhere back in the summer of this year, the SPD sat down and wrote out a script for how they'd orchestrate their victory, and the retirement of of Gauck would be the start of this episode.
Since summer of 2015, the German SPD Party (center-left) had expected Hillary Clinton to win, and that would have been part of their sales-job to the public. But with Trump, this can all still work out by using critical comments by a newly seated Steinmeier to slam the US government, it's foreign policy and President Trump.
Replacing Steinmeier? That's a curious thing. The SPD is bringing their four-star character at the EU....Schulz....back to Berlin. He's whispered to be the replacement to Steinmeier. Another guy prone to daily use of criticism? Yeah.
A lot of CDU folks look at the whole dynamic that they've edged themselves into and question how they got to this point in the game of politics.
In three weeks, the Austrian President's election will end, and the Freedom Party candidate (Hofer) will likely win. This will take the focus off Trump and the US for at least a month, while Berlin-crowd drums up negativity about this right-wing guy winning over the Green Party guy. You might sit back and watch for various criticisms by Steinmeier to already start.
My guess is that by February and March, Steinmeier's number one job is criticisms of President Trump's foreign policy and increased relations with Putin. As May comes, with an obvious set-up in France of a right-wing candidate versus a ultra-right-wing candidate.....the efforts of Steinmeier and German state-run TV will start to puzzle Germans and ridicule will start up about both. Rather than focus on internal German issues (immigration, asylum, crime, etc)...the effort is to focus on non-German issues.
By August as we enter the last month of the election, there's some worried heads over at the SPD on how this whole thing was orchestrated and expected to go a certain way, and it's just not going to be that way. The big loser of this orchestrated effort? In the end, I think German state-run TV will take the big hit for 2017.
Just my humble opinion.