Monday, October 23, 2006

Anything But Anti-American

[posted by Callimachus]

The Associated Press report on former German leader Gerhard Schroeder's biography contains an odd and disturbing passage:

"I am anything but anti-American," Schroeder told Spiegel in an interview to accompany the excerpt of the more than 500-page book that goes on sale Thursday.

In it, Schroeder, who led the Social Democrats to power in 1998, recalls the tears in his eyes as he watched television footage of people jumping from the burning World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

Fortunately for my opinion of him, already sufficiently low, Schroeder didn't say those two things together in the interview. The interview (only available in German) did not turn to America, and then only briefly, until the end. Here is what he said. The reporter has been probing him about his fawning treatment of Russia's Putin, which Schroeder defends. Then the reporter notes that he was not so tactful in opposing America.

No, not at all. I am anything but anti-American. Otherwise half of the society in the USA would be also. We have the problem in Germany -- that is admittedly not the problem of your magazine -- in substantial parts of journalism that each essentially justified criticism at America is defamed as anti-Americanism. That is naturally wrong.

My translation. Yeah, sure, Gerhard. You see German journalists all the time rushing to the rhetorical ramparts to defend America. What he's really saying is, "I played on the populist and elitist German resentments of America till my opponents learned how to turn back the trick by pointing out in the media that this was all I really had to offer."

I also could point out that he never makes any sort of distinction between himself and whatever he thinks a genuine anti-American is. But then, this was not an important point in the interview. It's the AP's juxtaposition that I really resent. And I have seen it made by Europeans and others. "Why, how can you call me anti-American? I was very upset on 9/11."

If you saw innocent people blown to their deaths in flames out of tall skyscrapers without warning, and you managed to feel sympathy for them even though they were Americans, that doesn't exactly absolve you of being an anti-American.

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