Trittin was speaking for the Green party, not Germany

As Mitch noted here, German Environment Minister Jürgen Trittin has made some highly offensive remarks in an op-ed in the Frankfurter Rundschau. Even so he wasn’t speaking for Germany, Chancellor Schröder did in his condolonces sent to President Bush on the same day:

August 30, 2005

Hurricane Katrina: German Chancellor Schröder Expresses Sympathy to US President Bush

German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder sent the following telegram to US President George W. Bush, in which he expresses sympathy for the death and destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina:


The Honorable
George W. Bush
President of the United States of America
Washington, DC

Mr. President:

The news of Hurricane Katrina, which is currently ravaging the Gulf Coast, left me deeply shocked.

Many Germans know and love the City of New Orleans and feel deeply the great worries the people there and in the region have regarding their safety and future. The hurricane has already claimed numerous lives and caused immense damage.

Let me assure you that my fellow Germans and I sincerely share in the suffering and grief of all those affected.

Gerhard Schröder
Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany

Besides, if Trittin had really wanted to speak for the German government, he would have done so in an official bulletin, instead of an opinion piece in the press. While I would have liked Schröder to fire him on the spot, that’s unfortunately too much to expect, for the government would have lost the impending elections by default in that case. Either way, it seems as if they’ll lose, if the polls are anything to go by.

16 thoughts on “Trittin was speaking for the Green party, not Germany”

  1. Thanks, Ralf, for putting this up. The offers of relief from other countries has been heartening. This week-end, in our town which has taken in just a few thousand from NO, they were turning away help and certain donations (taking money, making lists of volunteers, etc.) as well as organizing aid to Houston. The tragedy is great but the response is lovely, too.

    Of course, comments like Tritten’s are graceless, but it isn’t as if America didn’t have its own graceless citizens. I do suspect, however, that we bash one another to win elections – scapegoating other nations doesn’t work well here. Mud does.

  2. Either way, it seems as if they’ll lose, if the polls are anything to go by.

    If memory serves, the polls were pretty bad the last time. He pulled through by banging the ol’ anti-American drum. (Sure to get you votes in any election on Continental Europe, it seems.)

    It also seems to me that Schroeder got a lot of free press when Herta Daeubler-Gmelin compared Bush to Hitler the last time around, even though he played both sides against the middle by denouncing her remarks yet keeping her in government employ until after the election.

    Sure, Trittin hasn’t gone anywhere near as far. It looks like the op-ed was more a rather vigorous I-Love-Me piece with some attempts to kick the US thrown in to garner some attention. And one has to expect stuff like this to start appearing in the press since an election is looming. No one could make the claim that history is repeating itself.



  3. This isn’t the first time that the Schroeder government has done a “speaking out of both sides of their mouth” act. There was the cabinet minister who made a speech comparing Bush to Hitler.

    Schroeder apologized to Bush for that one, but did not sack the minister, and thus did the ruling coalition hope that they could be anti-American at home without actually turning America into an enemy.

    Frankly, I think the exact same thing is happening here. The fact that Schroeder hasn’t sacked Trittin speaks a lot louder than the pro forma telegram does.

    I judge actions, not pretty words. Insincerity has become the signature characteristic of speeches from the leadership of France and Germany in the last two years.

    If you want to know what a politician is thinking, ignore what he says and watch what he does — or does not do.

  4. That was a thoughtful gesture Ralf and much appreciated. I was also happy to see that the US Has Accepted Aid offered by Europe, Kuwait, Qatar, Honduras, El Salvador and others.

    Specifically, on the aid offered by Europe:

    More than 55 countries have offered assistance to the United States in response to Hurricane Katrina, but U.S. officials have only just begun to respond with specific requests.
    A European Commission spokeswoman said the European Union could have acted sooner if asked.
    “If the request would have come earlier, we would have been very happy to act earlier,” Barbara Helfferich told Reuters news agency. “We have [had] no positive signals from the United States that they wanted help or needed help up to this stage.”

    It’s a sad commentary on the state of relations between the United States and the European Union, who logically should be the closest of friends and allies considering our shared values and interests, that the EU waited to be asked before offering any help and that the US State Department didn’t bother to ask.

    We really need to work on that.

  5. Ginny,

    I’ll do an update about foreign contributions later.

    James and Steven,

    this time around the gap in the polls is much wider.

    Schröder hadn’t fired Däubler-Gmellin until after the elections because such an act of attrition at that point of time would have cost him the votes of the radical, anti-American leftists. It’s the same with Trittin, only that this time its the Greens who would stay away from the polls.


    Trittin is quite unpopular among the general elctorate, but also quite popular with the Green voters. Such is the arithmetic for coalitions in parliamentary rather than presidential democracies.


    it wasn’t quite that problematic. The Bush Administration waited until it had a specific list before it asked, and the Europeans said that they would help if asked. Given the distance that is pretty standard peocedure, for it wouldn’t do to haphazardly ship goods across the Atlantic.

  6. Yes, ‘contrition’, of course. I know the difference, but the thought of having Schröder experience some serious attrition is just too attractive. :)

    I know what you mean, but Germany has contributed to the relief effort. Mpre on that tomorrow.

  7. Sorry Ralf. I wrote to the German embassy the day Trittin’s comments became available. The response talked about notes and willingness to assist but said nothing to repudiate Tritten’s comments.

    You can parse where it was written etc. till the cows come home; but the fact remains that those were some pretty low comments that resonated with a sufficent portion of the German electorate and did not sufficiently offend the balance of the electorate that Schroeder did not feel compelled to repudiate them, let alone fire the SOB. As far as I am concerned, the handling of this by the German government and people indicates there is a very high level of anti-Americanism in that country. If my understanding of the German reaction is incorrect, I would love to hear about the calls for Tritten’s resignation from someone other than Merkel and the rest of the opposition.

    All one has to do is imagine what would have happened in the US if similar comments had been made here during the Rhine floods. The jerk would have been out faster than you can say Earl Butz. But nothing from Germany. Sure they’ll send some assistance, but I cannot help imagining the resentment with which it will be shipped. We should turn it down, just like Castro’s physicians.

  8. Let’s give back any money from Schroder’s government. We don’t need it that bad.
    (Remember Giuliani and the check from the Saudi Prince.)

  9. Richard,

    As far as I am concerned, the handling of this by the German government and people indicates there is a very high level of anti-Americanism in that country.

    Of course there is anti-Americanism, but it isn’t as if these remarks resonated with anyone except a couple of Greens. It also isn’t as if the aid were shipped over with resentment.

  10. Steve,

    Let’s give back any money from Schroder’s government. We don’t need it that bad.

    yes, Some Germans are unfriendly to America, but tha doesn’t make Germany a hostile country like Saudi Arabia. ;)

  11. Ralf,

    Exactly my point is that I have seen no evidence to support your contention that these remarks resonated with only a couple of Greens. In fact, the absence of any comment from the German media and Schroeder’s willingness to tolerate them to please a “couple of Greens” indicate that they are fairly broadly held by the German populace or at least are acceptable to them for a German governement minister to express them.

    Interesting that you should choose Saudi Arabia as a comparison. To get a favorable comparison you have to choose a monarchy that raises its children to become mass murdering suicide bombers and tolerates the generation and distribution of wacko theology.

  12. Richard,

    Trittin has been widely criticized inside Germany, too:

    Der Spiegel:

    At a moment when the dead on the Gulf Coast are still being counted, the German minister of the environment could think of nothing better to do than — in an essay published Tuesday in the center-left daily Frankfurter Rundschau — to blame the US itself for the catastrophe. The piece is 493 words long, and not a single one of them is wasted to express any sort of sympathy for the victims of the storm. The worst of it is that Trittin isn’t alone with his cold, malicious tenor. The coverage from much of the German media tends in the same direction: If Bush had only listened to Uncle Trittin and signed the Kyoto Protocol, then this never would have happened.

    Bullshit. Trittin’s article is a slap in the face to all the victims. Let’s just assume that the environment minister is right, that there is a direct relationship between greenhouse gases and Hurricane Katrina. Even still this would hardly be the time for yet another round of America bashing and finger pointing. Three years ago, just before the US election, former Minister of Justice Hertha Däubler Gmelin compared US President George W. Bush to Adolf Hitler. This time, with German elections looming, the environment minister is using a natural catastrophe as an excuse to once again campaign with subtle anti-Americanism and to unabashedly pat himself on the back. A “Kyoto Two” is “desperately needed” screamed the headline over his insensitive attack.

    and a quote from the Bild Zeitung:

    “Instead of standing by the Americans as they try to get to grips with the hurricane catastrophe, our environment minister Trittin shows the world the face of the ugly German,” the mass circulation Bild Zeitung wrote Friday

    That’s the part available in english from IHT, but Bild went on to call on Schröder to fire Trittin.

    I mentioned Saudi Arabia only because Steve did in his comment.

  13. Ralf, I’m anxious to see the results of the upcoming election. It should answer a lot of questions.

    “Anti-Americanism” is the media front for internationalist, environmentalist, pacifist socialism. I hope it is as unpopular in Germany as you suggest.

    I’m afraid 6-long years of ridiculous public commentary from Schroeder’s cabinet and Germany’s elite national media are beginning to grate. A sympathetic editorial in Der Spiegel is a rare bird and it should be noticed, but Germany’s socialist elite is to blame if Germany’s common folk are getting a bad rap.

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