Never complain, never explain

Baerbock commits a cardinal sin

Dear Reader,

While Barack Obama is something of an oddity in the English-speaking world for writing his memoirs before coming to power, putting your name to 350 pages of Weltweisheiten is almost a compulsory qualification for the top table of German politics (that or plagiarizing a PhD).

Left-wing pop-politician Sahra Wagenknecht’s latest tome - the Self-Righteous - is currently ranked No. 4 on the Spiegel non-fiction bestseller list. It’s a rallying call to the left to stop following lifestyle trends and start listening to ordinary voters if it wants to beat the populist right. 

Green co-leader Robert Habeck spent the pandemic writing Von hier an anders (From now on differently) - a book that asks why the left has failed to stop the rise of the populist right.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas’s 2017 book Aufstehen statt wegducken (Take a Stand, Don’t Duck Away) was a prescription for (can you guess?) how the left should stand up against the pseudo-arguments of the populist right.

While all of these books are doubtlessly worthy contributions to the previously ignored field of populist politics, they aren’t necessarily grantors of political success. As the most forgettable foreign minister in living memory, Maas will no doubt turn up as a visiting professor at Harvard after the election. Meanwhile Wagenknecht and Habeck have been a bit too wordy to make it to the top.

None appear to have internalized the dictum deployed over the past two decades by die Königin - one she apparently learned from her English counterpart: ‘never complain, never explain.’

And so it doesn’t bode well for Green Chancellor candidate Annalena Baerbock that she has decided to bring out her own thesis on God and the world this week.

While Jetzt: wie wir unser Land erneuern is undoubtedly a brave attempt to tackle the rise of the far-right (the key lies in inclusive modernization of the German state!) almost any tangents into her personal life provide soft targets for complaint and ridicule.

The book critic at Die Zeit didn’t get past the first page before reaching for the red ink.

The book is dedicated to Baerbock’s grandma and “all the generations who have suffered, struggled and accomplished so much and on whose shoulders we stand today.”

“For a possible future German chancellor, this sentence is no good. It does not do justice to the historical responsibility of our country,” the Hamburg weekly tutted.

So the strebsame 40-year-old can probably count it as a success that public broadcast SWR could only muster three paragraphs for its review. “She avoids giving concrete answers to many political questions,” it concluded. “Readers only learn about private matters when they fit into Baerbock’s political narrative.”

All is not lost then.


What else has been happening?

  • A cack-handed Greenpeace protest at Germany’s opening Euro 2020 match almost almost ended in disaster when a man flying a microlight got tangled in wiring above the Allianz Arena and almost crashed into a stand. He scraped the heads of two crowd members, both of whom ended up in hospital, before landing uneasily on the pitch. If Bavarian police are to be believed, it could have ended much worse. A sniper apparently had him in his crosshairs but didn’t pull the trigger because the ‘Greenpeace’ emblazoned on the parachute convinced them he wasn’t a terrorist. “If the police had come to a different conclusion, the pilot could have paid for the action with his life,” said Bavarian interior minister Joachim Herrmann. The environmental group were protesting sponsor Volkswagen for its continued production of combustion engines.

  • The Bundeswehr has a problem: years of scandal have led to a general consensus that the army’s ranks are infested with Nazis. While this reputation is undoubtedly unfair on most soldiers, it has the unfortunate consequence that Nazis are some of the few people who still image it to be a convivial place to work. But then the pandemic manged to achieve what years of expensive advertising campaigns couldn’t - it brought ordinary people in contact with soldiers, who were manning vaccine and testing stations, and revealed them to be generally pleasant company. All that good PR has been ruined this week though by a tank unit who assembled a ‘birthday table’ for Hitler and sang anti-Semitic songs during a drunken night out in Lithuania. 30 soldiers have been called home, but the damage has already been done.

  • Infections with the coronavirus are lower than at any point since last September, but there is concern that another turnaround is on the way due to the rise of the ‘Delta variant’ (Indian variant). Believed to be both more infectious and more deadly than the Alpha (British) variant, it now makes up over six percent of new cases in Germany. On the other hand, the overall number of Delta cases has remained stable over the past month (it’s proportional increase is explained by a fall in cases of all other strains) leading to uncertainty over what the future holds. Long story short: people aren’t sure whether it’ll put a spanner through their Sommerurlaub plans. Enter the man who sees a rain cloud beyond every horizon to give a surprisingly upbeat assessment. SPD health spokesman Karl Lauterbach is convinced that “Delta has arrived in Germany too late to ruin the summer.” Get your adiletten out folks, we’re off to Mallorca!

J.L.