Herr Kohl Meets His Watergate

By Birnbaum, Norman | The Nation, January 12, 1985 | Go to article overview

Herr Kohl Meets His Watergate


Birnbaum, Norman, The Nation


Chancellor Helmut Kohl's visit to Washington last November confirmed my view that modern politics is indistinguishable from theater of the abusrd. His press spokesman announced that the Chancellor and President Reagan had discussed the detalis of the forth-coming talks on arms negotiations between Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko and Secretary of State George Shultz. Clearly, the announcement was designed to show doubting West Germans how influential their government is with its senior ally. It was followed, however, by a declaration from a "senior State Department official" that there had been no details to discuss, since the Administration hadn't formulated its positions for the talks. He was discreet enough not to mention that mastery of detail is not, after all, our President's strong point. In that regard, at least, trans-Atlantic solidarity is firm: the same may be said of Kohl. For the moment, however, Kohl has other and larger problems.

"I intend to fit out Herr Kohl exactly as we did the other gentlemen." With those words, the managing director of Friedrich-Karl Flick's multibillion-dollar industrial empire reported to his boss his plans for welcoming the new leader of the Christian Democratic Union following his selection in 1973. The manager, Eberhard von Brauchitsch, has since been dismissed by the firm, under indictment for bribing two former Ministers of Economics from the Free Democratic Party. The sums dispensed by Flick in the recent past are impressive. Fifteen million marks went to the Christian Democrats and their Bavarian ally, Franz-Josef Strauss's Christian Social Union. Six million marks went to the Free Democrats. Four million marks went to the Social Democrats. Much of this money was given in cash (a half-million to Kohl during his stint as opposition leader). The secret gifts violated laws requiring political parties to disclose the sources of their funding. All of it was provided with the explicit intention of influencing government and party policies, the composition of parliamentary committees--indeed, the entire public life of the Federal Republic. Flick may have induced the Free Democrats to abandon their coalition with the Social Democrats in 1982.

The public was shaken by the disclosures of the extent to which corruption in Bonn has become a routine affair. Defending himself before a parliamentary committee, Kohl said that everyone took money, even if it was illegal. He and his party have sought to depict their critics as agents of a plot to undermine the authority of the Federal Republic. This contemptible defense has evoked derision even among the many Wst German conservatives who always give authority the benefit of the doubt. The left, for its part, is astonished. Its crudest depictions of the role of capital in politics seem understatements. The Social Democrats are dreadfully embarrassed. At least two former S.P.D. ministers are under a cloud. West German democracy is undergoing a profound crisis of confidence, and until the Flick revelations and the ensuing prosecutions run their course, no end is in sight. The major parties have now agreed, apparently, to terminate the parliamentary inquiry. The S.P.D. is making a large mistake by identifying itself in this way with a system that cannot stand public scrutiny.

That these matters have come to light at all owes everything to the tenacity of a few Social Democratic back-benchers, to the honesty of a few prosecutors in the face of threats to their careers from higher-ups, and to the weekly Der Spiegel, which obtained the documents and published them in defiance of the government's over-up. The affair isn't like Watergate, which brought down a politically strong President. The governing coalition of the Christian Democrats, the Christian social Union and the Free Democrats was already in trouble and now may be seriously wounded. Kohl himself may or may not be indicted, but the possibility that he will have to step down in the spring is considerable. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Herr Kohl Meets His Watergate
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.