Monday, February 28, 2005

When I was in Mexico, I rarely talked about Mexican politics on the blog (perhaps never). That was mostly because I had very little background in Mexican history and was all but useless in the Spanish language until near the end of my time there. Well, maybe not mostly. The main reason was probably because I pay more attention to events in the US or things caused by the US.

The same pattern has followed me to Germany. The difference, however, is that I know quite a lot about Germany and my German language skills are more than adequate. I actually keep up with things here. Why I don't blog about it, I know not. Perhaps because most of the day to day stuff is pretty esoteric and of little concern to anyone outside Germany. Perhaps because I realize (or suspect) that my few regular readers don't much care. In any event, there is something going on which may end up being pretty important AND smells quite sinister.

Basically, a few weeks ago it dribbled out that some 100,000 folks from eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union are alleged to have gotten curiously easy entry visas for Germany in the last couple of years. This group, goes the story, included a number of mafia types, prostitutes, forced prostitutes, drug dealers, mafia-type prostitutes (and forced mafia prostitutes), and mafia-type drug-dealing prostitutes. In other words, the sort of folks most countries would welcome, because they are probably lots of fun, but Germany shuns.

Step Two: a member of the Green Party (which is the junior partner in the governing coalition) was hooked to this scandal through a connection he had to a seemingly shady travel agent. The member resigned from his responsibilities but admitted nothing (the travel agent denies all as well, and it goes without saying that the mafia-type-drug-dealing-forced prostitute contingent is keeping mum).

Step Three: a media and rightwing-political drumbeat has been trying to hang this around the neck of the foreign minister, Joschka Fischer (who is also essentially the leader of the Greens and is deputy Chancellor).

Evidence? None so far. At least nothing really tangible.

This, to me, smells very much like an American scandal, and I want to go on ahead and plant my flag on Mount International Rightwing Conspiracy.

Here's why: Fischer is (or was, until the scandal got legs) far and away the most popular politican in the country. He was so popular that, a few years ago, when photos came out from his (relative) youth as an anarchist in Frankfurt in the '70s in which he was *actually in the act of kicking a cop who was laying on the sidewalk*, folks shrugged and said "That was then, this is now." He was, in other words, untouchable. The Right, embodied by the CDU/CSU party, would LOVE to take Fischer down because as he goes, so goes the Greens (they think), and so goes the coalition, and so goes Schröder's government, and so comes their return to power (they lost in 1998, at the end of the scandal-riddled Kohl administration).

This new kerfluffle has all the classic hallmarks of a right-wing smear. You have 1) inefficient and/or criminally negligent government, 2) hypocrisy [in the form of it being Greens at fault], 3) corruption, 4) mafia, 5) drugs, 6) foreigners, 7) foreigners from THE EAST. In other words: too perfect. Very Rovian.

Of course, no one has yet come up with any motive for Fischer's alleged misdeeds.

My prediction: IF the Greens get it together and go on the offensive with this story, Fischer will shake it off, but if they continue to handle this like they have so far (and Fischer did give a speech the other day which seems to show that he's changing tack) the SPD and Greens will lose the next big state election (right here in North-Rhine Westphalia) in May (?) and probably not recover in time to win the next national election (whenever those turn out to be).

In the mean time, keep your eyes open for American rightwingers talking about this. I smell a Rove. Seriously.

SPIEGEL ONLINE has good coverage of this, but it is in German. Try some British paper, I guess.


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