Wasn’t Gerhard Schroeder fun? Didn’t Germany, maybe more than any other big country in Europe, need a leader who enjoyed things? Hasn’t public life gotten just a little grayer this late November Tuesday?
The election in ’98 showed that Germany could actually change governments at the ballot box, and not just through parliamentary maneuvers. One more doubt about German democracy laid to rest. The red-green government changed the terms of public debate about immigration, for which I am personally grateful. And I saw the difference in treatment at the local foreigners’ office in downtown Munich. For this honesty, Germany is better off. The SPD and the Greens sent German armed forces into combat in Europe, and on to missions in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Germany is shouldering its responsibilities as a major nation. For that, all of Europe is better off.
Sure, there were missed opportunities and many things still need to be done in Germany for it to really be ready for the 21st century. But the achievements of the last seven years are not small, and they will not be short-lived.
UPDATE: Another thing. By calling the election a year early, SchrÃ¶der ensured that her opponents in the CDU would not have time to push Angela Merkel out of the top position. Thus we will not have the insufferable Roland Koch as Chancellor. For the historic first of having a woman as German Chancellor, thanks Gerd.