• Germany's news in English

‘The right speech at the wrong time’

The Local · 23 Dec 2011, 11:55

Published: 23 Dec 2011 11:55 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

"It wasn't forthright and I'm sorry about it," Wulff said in a televised address from his official residence in Berlin. "I have the need to address this matter. It's about trust in me and my office."

Wulff has been caught in a number of lies dating from his tenure as state premier of the state of Lower Saxony. Last week, it emerged that he had taken a €500,000 loan in 2008 from the wife of businessman Egon Geerkens, and failed to acknowledge it to the state parliament.

Anger then intensified when it was revealed that another businessman, Carsten Maschmeyer, paid to promote a book by the Christian Democrat Wulff in 2008 while running for re-election. Maschmeyer, for his part, denied that Wulff knew of his involvement.

While a recent survey found that 70 percent of the German population stood behind the president, believing that his faux pas were not enough to warrant his resignation, press opinion has been a little harsher.

The Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper, thinks that Wulff’s apology may have been sincere, but was too little too late. “A declaration offered under public pressure is worth little,” the paper writes in an editorial. “What did the president actually say about the matter in hand? Did he say it was wrong to take on a private loan? It was wrong to accept an invitation to a luxury holiday home? No. That shows that Wulff has only understood half of the issue. He might be more careful in the future. He hasn’t become any cleverer.”

Berlin’s Tagesspiegel newspaper also thinks Wulff’s waited too long to make this short speech. “It was the right speech, but at the wrong time,” the paper commented. “Finally Wulff has admitted at least one thing to the German people: That what he did and said, and above all what he didn’t do and say was not appropriate for a man in his office. That is true. It would have been better if we hadn’t waited so long for this confession.”

Other papers were more forgiving, however. The conservative daily Die Welt admitted, “There’s no question that Christian Wulff behaved stupidly, and several times.” But the paper said, “The important question is: Are his actions enough for a resignation? Was his mistake so great that we have to shield children’s eyes when they walk past the presidential palace Bellevue?” The paper said the country would do better to forgive and forget: “Forgiveness is also a form of democratic hygiene. Someone who makes mistakes and is punished for them is maybe the better president, because he’s reformed.”

Lamenting the relentless and unforgiving news cycles of the 21st century, the Süddeutsche Zeitung also argued that Wulff deserves a second chance. “As unappetizing as certain things about the loans-from-amigos affair are, they are clearly not enough grounds for resignation.”

The Financial Times Deutschland, meanwhile, had a slightly more original take. Giving the impression it was a bit bored of the whole affair, the financial paper suggested Germany should do away with the office of German president completely, which it says has degenerated into the role of a “benevolent uncle who greets foreign dignitaries and rewards deserving citizens.”

Story continues below…

This was in marked contrast to the times of the Weimar Republic, when the president had the power to dissolve parliament and government by emergency laws. “The tasks of the head of state can be divided among the chancellor, the president of the parliament and the constitutional court. And we’d be able to come up with something for the Christmas speech too.”

The Local/bk

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
German hospital uses therapy to 'treat' paedophiles
A poster from the campaigne "Don't offend", which offers therapy to paedophiles. The sign reads "Do you love kids more than you'd prefer? There's help." Photo: DB Scholz & Friends / DPA.

A unique German initiative is offering therapy to paedophiles to control their urges, with the aim of getting them help before they offend.

Minister: 'no tolerance' for clowns after chainsaw attack
Photo: DPA

Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière has called for a zero-tolerance approach to 'killer clowns' after a series of attacks culminating in two teenagers being chased by a clown wielding a chainsaw.

Baby who was auctioned on eBay taken away from father
Photo: DPA.

A German court ruled on Thursday that a man who put his one-month-old baby up for sale on the online auction platform eBay should only be allowed contact with the child under supervision.

Portugal's ruling party calls German minister 'pyromaniac'
Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble. Photo: DPA.

The head of Portugal's ruling Socialists called German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble a "pyromaniac" on Thursday after he criticized Lisbon for reversing course on austerity.

These are Germany's top ten universities
The new library of Freiburg University. Photo: Jörgens.mi / Wikimedia Commons

These are the best universities in all of Germany - at least according to one ranking.

Introducing Swabians - 'the Scots of Germany'
Photo: DPA

These Southern Germans have quite a reputation in the rest of the country.

Woman sues dentist over job rejection for headscarf
Photo: DPA

A dentist in Stuttgart is being taken to court by a woman whom he rejected for a job as his assistant on the basis that she wears a Muslim headscarf.

Isis suspect charged with scouting Berlin attack sites
Photo: DPA

German federal prosecutors said Thursday they had brought charges against a 19-year-old Syrian man accused of having scouted targets in Berlin for a potential attack by the Isis terror group.

Berlin Holocaust memorial could not be built now: creator
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, in Berlin. Photo: DPA.

The architect of the Berlin Holocaust memorial has said that, if he tried to build the monument again today, it would not be possible due to rising xenophobia and anti-Semitism in Germany and the United States.

'Liberal' Germany stopping Europe's 'slide into barbarism'
Ian Kershaw. Photo: DPA

Europe is not slipping into the same dark tunnel of hate and nationalism that it did in the 1930s - mainly thanks to Germany - one of the continent's leading historians has said.

10 German clichés that foreigners get very wrong
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
10 ways German completely messes up your English
Germany's 10 most weird and wonderful landmarks
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd