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Boring Steinmeier charms his way back into Germany's heart

The Local · 8 Apr 2011, 11:00

Published: 08 Apr 2011 11:00 GMT+02:00

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The poll for daily Die Welt and broadcaster ARD further confirms the radical upending of the political landscape in Germany: As leader of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), Steinmeier led his party less than two years ago to its worst ever election result.

The survey also illustrates the government’s complete reversal of fortune. It puts even the Greens’ Berlin mayoral candidate Renate Künast ahead of Chancellor Merkel in popularity.

With the dashing Bavarian Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg out of the picture owing to the doctoral plagiarism scandal, the field was wide open for two Social Democratic Party (SPD) politicians, Steinmeier and former Former Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück, to seize first and second places.

The survey also reveals the ever-growing cognitive dissonance in the minds of voters between their personal fortunes and their happiness with their government. Three quarters of voters felt their own economic circumstances were good or very good. Only about one in five said their situation was not good and just six percent said it was bad.

Two thirds regarded the overall economic situation in Germany as good or very good, while 22 percent said it was not good and 12 percent thought it was bad.

Pollster Infratest Dimap quizzed 1,000 voters for the poll.

Still fewer than one in four people spoke positively about the ruling coalition of Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP), while three quarters were not very happy or unhappy. Barely half of Merkel’s own supporters are happy with the government’s performance.

Steinmeier has risen to become the most popular politician as parliamentary leader for the SPD. Six out of 10 voters are happy or very happy with his efforts – a jump on the 53 percent he rated a month ago. It has been two years since an SPD politician led the field – and in that case it was also Steinmeier, when he was foreign minister, a job that normally attracts high approval ratings. It has not brought the same joy, however, to Guido Westerwelle.

Many voters discovered a personal warmth for Steinmeier last year when he donated a kidney to his wife Elke Büdenbender, who was suffering what Steinmeier called an “advanced kidney ailment.”

Former Finance Minister Steinbrück ranked second, despite no longer holding a prominent position on the political scene. He is favoured by many SPD supporters as candidate for chancellor. He was just one point behind Steinmeier, with 59 percent of voters happy or very happy with him.

Just a few months ago, Merkel and Guttenberg had the highest approval ratings in the country.

Story continues below…

Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble and Labour Minister Ursula von der Leyen, both from the CDU are the most popular government figures with 57 percent and 54 percent respectively.

Greens parliamentary leader and candidate for Berlin mayor, Renate Künast, jumped 12 points to fifth place on 50 percent, ahead of Merkel in sixth place on 48 percent.

Meanwhile Merkel lost five points since a month ago. Defence Minister Thomas de Maizière dropped eight points to 47 percent.

The Local/djw

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

13:11 April 8, 2011 by Landmine
In America, newspapers could never print anything saying a person looked "owlish" without worrying they could be sued for saying it. I am amazed the German Media can write that but are too scared to say anything negative agains Muslims...
13:42 April 8, 2011 by Gretl
@landmine - you're kidding, right?
15:02 April 8, 2011 by Landmine

15:20 April 8, 2011 by Aelfgifu1
Perhaps Landmine is thinking of a different word or is confused about the meaning of "owlish."
15:52 April 8, 2011 by Krim

I think you are confusing Muslims with Jews. German media have been cultivating hate against Arabs and Muslims since 9/11 and you are telling Germans are scared-

That Steinmeier is becoming popular in Germany shows the sad situation Germany is in. May be that´s why Von Guttenberg got some support.

If you look for a descent politician with principles, then the desert.

Steinmeier was the one collaboarting in keeping this poor guy from Bremen in the dangeon in Afghanistan.He is one of ther architect of Harz 4.
16:22 April 8, 2011 by Landmine
"The first sentence says Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the owlish Social Democrat" To a native English speaker, that means he looks/acts like an owl. In itself, that context would be viewed as a negative connotation. You can't say that about someone in American medi and I find it interesting Germans say that about one of their own ( a now very popular politician at that) but wont say anything as such about Muslims or other minorities they actually don't like.
16:49 April 8, 2011 by digital47
All of you are nuts. The Americans are calling their President a whole lot worse things.
16:51 April 8, 2011 by Aelfgifu1
It does seem that you are unclear about the meaning of the word "owlish" defined as:

owlish [ˈaʊlɪʃ]


1. like an owl

2. solemn and wise in appearance

The first meaning is not necessarily negative and the second is complimentary. Furthermore, there's no reason the American media couldn't use this term to describe someone. There's no reason the media couldn't say this about someone for fear of being sued. America isn't as lawsuit-happy as you are imagining it is. In order to have a case in court, the suit would have to based on more than just a disagreement about the author's choice of adjectives, particularly if simple referencing of a dictionary demonstrates that the word is not hurtful. In any case, use of this word would be based on the author's own subjective opinion and libel or slander would be very difficult to prove - particularly since the word is not insulting in any way.
17:30 April 8, 2011 by trash head
We are not in america, the "land of the free" Lol
18:05 April 8, 2011 by Landmine

There is nothing about my being unclear about the meaning of the word Owlish. Anyone comparing a human being to an animal is insulting that person. If they meant he is wise, then the proper word is wise, not owlish. Owlish describes the physical characteristics of the person, wise describes the character of the person. You wont find any serious reporter in America putting something like that on print about a public figure unless they want to be sued.

On another note, America is as lawsuit happy as I stated earlier, the fact there is one lawyer for every 300 citizens, or 36% of the US population tells you that. I don't know your nationality, but by your statement, I can tell you aren't American. No harm in that, we are all people, but there is a fine line between what you can say in Germany and what you can say in America. Many non native Americans, especially Germans, for example use the word SH!T as an everyday verb. But really to any American, it comes off as condescending and they imagine you just don't know your English as well as you think you do. Likewise for us Amis when we say similar words, Germans just laugh at us and think we are ignorant. This owlish thing may be a cultural thing, however, as I stated above, this statement would be condensing back home.

As trash head pointed out, and he is correct in this, we are not in America, but this paper is in English and aimed at English speakers so one would imagine the syntax used here would reflect this as outlined in the terms and consitions of posting on this media.
21:07 April 8, 2011 by Gretl
@landmine - the reason there are so many lawyers in the US is that we are not obligated to pay for the opposing sides attorney fees if we lose.

In addition, the US has both freedom of speech and freedom of press and the most liberal laws in the world regarding both. In fact, American papers and TV shows often get themselves in trouble when discussing non-Americans because they get sued for libel. In the EU, you have to prove it is correct, in the US you just have to prove it did no harm.

American Business Law.
21:49 April 8, 2011 by Landmine
Well folks, from all the entries on here, Germans know more about America that native Americans do.

23:03 April 8, 2011 by Aelfgifu1
Landmine: I wonder if you are who you say you are or if you are just pretending. I am a natural born American, born and raised in a suburb of Detroit, until I moved to Ohio ten years ago. I suggest that you don't make ridiculous assumptions about people in lieu of proper evidence. You know what happens when you assume.

No one would be offended by being called "owlish." Furthermore, there is no reason for the author of this article to follow your personal guidelines for word use. If he wants to use a synonym for the word you would have chosen if you had any say in the matter, then so be it.

It seems you have some kind of personal hangup or sensitivity about being compared to an animal, but as you can see from the definition of the word that I posted above, it does not necessarily have to do with one's personal appearance. Furthermore, it's not an insult. You are pretending that it is not complimentary, but this interpretation of the word is incorrect and exists only in your mind/imagination.

I've already explained why suing someone over a physical description wouldn't get you anywhere in a US court, but you've chosen to ignore it. That's your problem, not mine.
01:00 April 9, 2011 by Freeman
Do a backround check on this bird. I see a nest of politicians, wagering again, like it never stops.
02:53 April 9, 2011 by Gretl
Landmine - I suggest you are the one who is ignorant.
05:17 April 9, 2011 by DrStrangelove
Steinmeier is the kind of person that grows on you - not a shooting star like Guttenberg by any means but he comes across as level-headed, dependable and authentic.

He also is not stupid. It would be folly to sue over petty stuff like being called "owlish" on some obscure place on the web. He would only draw more attention to it and in addition present himself as dour and vindictive.
05:52 April 9, 2011 by Chicago1996
Some of you turkeys are a hoot! I see a lot of hawkish commentators bickering over a silly little word such as ¦quot;owlish¦quot;. Your peacocking, parroting, and batty behavior sure make for an interesting read. Some of you sure do have a crow to pluck with others... Needless to say, sometimes my eagle eyes almost cannot believe what they are reading, and I have to cackle out loud…

Dare I ask…. Wouldn¦#39;t a more dovish discourse with one another suffice in getting ones point across? Especially, if you take another gander at the article and realize that the core subject matter was never really chirped about by most readers? Instead, everyone just simply flocked to the headline like a bunch of geese and started gaggling about a bunch of nothing …

Anyway, if I have ruffled any feathers or upset the pecking order of this forum, you may tweet my comment to all of your friends and tell them what a lame goose and silly little buzzard I am.
08:14 April 9, 2011 by Landmine
From Ohio, figures.... Owlish wouldn't be something bad for you all out there now would it Snuffy???

I'm from DC, and really I am kinda tired of you fools arguing a small point which was only a part of what I originally stated. So all of you, including Gretl,, biteme...
10:36 April 9, 2011 by oneforall
Steinmeier for Chancellor!
12:00 April 9, 2011 by Aelfgifu1
@Landmine: "From Ohio, figures...."

No, I'm from Michigan. I moved to Ohio. It's right there in my first paragraph. Figure it out. You also need to recognize that your cocky and arrogant attitude is what got you into this mess.

@Chicago1996: You made my morning! Thanks! :)
13:20 April 9, 2011 by Landmine
I did figure it out and don't need to recognize anything other than you lived in Ohio and that says it all.... So like I said, Bite me...
16:05 April 9, 2011 by Aelfgifu1
And you lived in DC, so as long as it's okay to make judgements about people based on geography, what does that say about you?

Nothing? Because such criteria are meaningless? Oh yeah, that's right.

I guess you get nasty when you get pwned. Suck it up.
18:45 April 9, 2011 by Englishted
I don't give a hoot if he is owlish ,but why is he standing with all those zombes?
19:54 April 9, 2011 by Landmine
Whatever Aelfgifu1

Keep wasting your rabling on breath and giving me laughs. with your yada yada. I bet you won't be able to resist writing back lol.... I'll be waiting for the next giggle......
20:25 April 9, 2011 by Aelfgifu1
I do so love feeding the trolls. And from they way you're eating it up, you must be starving. German food not agreeing with you?
20:32 April 9, 2011 by Landmine
ha ha, can't resist can ya?...
13:17 April 10, 2011 by Deutschguy
Landmine, what are you? 12?

A journalist could describe a public person as "owlish", without fear of being sued or even being criticized for it. And his/her editor wouldn't even blink.

Your statement is ridiculous and false. And, then you stoop to implying someone who "isn't from DC" must be unsophisticated or as knowledgeable as you are. If you had really lived in DC, you would know that about 80% of folks who live in N.W. DC are from somewhere else.

I'm American, btw. I have read three newspapers everyday for the last two decades, including the Washington Post. So, I know journalistic standards in several kinds of writing.

You're just here to get attention, rather than to make a serious point.
16:32 April 10, 2011 by Landmine
Just so you know Deutscheguy, I AM a journalist. And I AM a native of DC, born and bred there. And yes, it si true, 80% of those in DC are not from there, but I am. And sure, you could describe someone as owlish, but you could get sued if the other party doesn't like it. So many armchair journalists nowadays. As for me being sophisticated and knowledgeable, I didn't say that you did. I'll agree on the latter one, but that comews from doing that job for 7 years, not from assuming you know what you can print and what you can't w/o the risk of your paper or you being sued.

You need new batteries for your crystal ball...
17:32 April 10, 2011 by Gretl
@landmine - So, wherever you got you degree in journalism, you should give it back, or better yet, sue them for fraud.

From "The Legal Environment of Business" 9th ed. Meiners, Ringleb and Edwards, pg. 98 "In the United States, there are very few restrictions on what the media may investigate and publish. Unless the a statement is published about a person that the publisher knew was false [AND] harmful, there is little that the subject of a critical report can do in response. Suits against the media for defamation...are rarely successful. In the rest of the world, there are more restraints on speech. In the UK, it is quite common for politicians to sue the media successfully for defamation. In many European countries, books asserted to contain hateful material may not be published.

Hans Tillack, a reporter for a leading German magazine, Die Stern, was arrested in 2004, all his files were seized, and he was not allowed access to a lawyer. What was he accused of doing? Publishing articles alleging that many members of the EU Parliment engaged in fraud by collecting pay when they are not working."

pg 159 Libel in Foreign Courts, "Many countries do not have constitutional freedom of speech. The news media in the United States can communicate defamatory material about public officials or persons of legitimate public interest as long as the material is provided without actual malice. In the UK, the news media do not have this extensive priviledge...To avoid liability, a defendant must demonstrate that the statements made were true or that they had been made in court or Parliment. As a result of this difference in law of defamation, a number of US communications companies, including Time, NBC and Dow Jones, have found themselves in foreign courts defending themselves against defamation suits."

So, yes, I do not think you understand the probability of successful lawsuit in the US vs. Germany or the rest of the EU. You have it exactly backwards.
17:52 April 10, 2011 by Landmine

Here we go again....

First of all, reread what I wrote. "In America, newspapers could never print anything saying a person looked "owlish" without worrying they could be sued for saying it. Operative words are " without worrying"

From your excerpt in The Legal Environment of Business" 9th ed. it states from your posting " Unless the a statement is published about a person that the publisher knew was false [AND] harmful, there is little that the subject of a critical report can do in response. The word "little" leaves the possibility open that there could be something albeit little. A lawsuit could be one of them. The fact that the next sentence in your post states "Suits against the media for defamation...are rarely successful" meaning lawsuits over this DO occur. Whether they win is not what I argued, I stated they could be sued for saying it.

As for Hans Tillack being arrested, it makes no reference of that taking place in the US. My statement started with "In America", not in Europe or Germany.

On your last example, you quote "The news media in the United States can communicate defamatory material about public officials or persons of legitimate public interest as long as the material is provided without actual malice". Who decides malice? More than likely a judge. Doesn't that mean it goes to court? Why would it then go to court to decide if there was malice or not if not because someone got a lawyer. What do lawyers do best? Could it be settle matters in court via a lawsuit?

Good try though....

Interesting how everyone here is just nit picking about the owlish comment and not at all seeing the rest of what I wrote....
19:27 April 10, 2011 by Gretl
So your assertion is that American newspapers live in fear of being sued? Sure, someone COULD sue, but given the plaintiff is paying for their own attorney, and the likihood of winning is rare, most people cannot afford to sue for defamation. Thus the fallacy of your arguement.

What people are responding to is your ludicrous assertion that US newspapers live in fear of being sued more than in Germany and that the US is a more litigous society due to the number of lawyers it has.

Same text book, pg 173 compares Japan and the US. "The US has 25 times more lawyers per person than Japan becuase the government of Japan allows only between 300 and 500 new attorneys each year. However, Japanese universities produce 50 percent more legal specialists per person than American universities. These "nonlawyers" do all the work except represent clients in court for a fee. Although the nonlawyers are not called lawyers, they are paid to do what Americans call legal work. A study of traffic accidents in Japan by American and Japanese law professors found that the American and Japanese tort systems are not all that different. The systems are organized very differently, but the results are much the same. Japanese plaintiffs win a higher percentage of tort liability suits than American. Payments to Japanese plaintiffs are close to those given Americans in similar suits."

In plain English for you, the amount of lawyers per capita does not predict a more litigous society.
20:40 April 10, 2011 by Landmine
Give it a rest will you. You seem intent on proving me wrong and you can't. The reason being is it's my opinion. You can't disprove an opinion, it's like arguing whats worse, a sore throat or a runny nose or what tastes better, chocolate or vanilla. You keep quoting books, but you won't find any book telling you you are right and I am wrong. You'd think you'd learn that from the last post I put on there that found a hole in your quotes. What are you trying to do, censor me? Lol, can't do it. So go get a life, you probably won't be as pissed off as you sound on your posts intent 100% on proving me wrong. All you are doing like Aelfgifu1 did was give me a good laugh.
08:07 April 11, 2011 by proclusian
Well, this really IS a niggling point and not worth arguing over.

But just one remark here (I can't resist): when any German (or any well-educated German anyway) hears the adjective "eulenhaft" or hears mention of the "Eule" in relation to a person or to human character, his or her first thought is probably of Hegel and the 'Owl of Minerva' reference that Hegel so famously made in his Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts.

But even if one does not know Hegel's writings, one should know -- if one knows at least a bit about the Romans -- that the owl was associated with Minerva (the Roman version of Athena) because the owl is a symbol of wisdom.

So, in a German (and in a classically-educated) context, to call someone 'owlish' might very well be the same as, in English, to call them 'bookish' or intellectual.

Hence the lede here goes on to note that he was deemed too "boring" to be Chancellor. Often intellectual or bookish or overly philosophical types are not very prepossessing and don't do a very good job in public office (although of course there are exceptions).

One doesn't need a legal degree to see here that the article (and the German articles on which it was no doubt based) are not comparing him to an animal. To call someone "eulenhaft" is not the same as to say that they are like an owl in some way -- it is merely to say that they are wise and perhaps bookish or overly intellectual.

It's been a long time since America has had a president about which one could say those things. Perhaps Truman was the last one.
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