- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 21, 2002

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has let a wildfire of anti-Americanism rage out of control in a desperate attempt to secure a victory in tomorrow's elections. Justice Minister Herta Daeubler-Gmelin's comparison of President Bush's method in confronting Iraq with Adolf Hitler's tactics is outrageous, but unfortunately not surprising. In the last month, Mr. Schroeder has used criticism of America's threats to invade Iraq as a platform to gain points with voters and it has worked. Mr. Schroeder's party has moved from five points behind his challenger Bavarian Premier Edmund Stoiber's conservative CDU/CSU coalition in the polls to a dead heat.
The most recent war of words began when the justice minister told a group of trade unionists that, by pressuring Iraq, "Bush wants to distract attention from his domestic problems. That is a popular method. Hitler also used it," the southern daily Schwaebischen Tagblatt reported. The report also quoted her as saying that "Bush would be sitting in prison today" if American laws against insider trading had been in place when he worked in the oil industry in Texas. The justice minister denies making the comparison between Mr. Bush and Hitler. But the paper, which says it even read the quote slowly back to the minister before it was published, is standing by its story.
When the rest of the world grieved on the anniversary of September 11 and expressed sympathy for the United States, Germany was in the height of its anti-American election campaign. Mr. Schroeder had warned the United States the week before against putting Germany in a position of "subordination" by threatening military intervention in Iraq, and said there is no need to call the president to discuss the differences between the two leaders. And at a September 11 memorial service held at a Berlin museum next to Checkpoint Charlie for American Embassy officers and their guests, young German students wedged anti-American rhetoric between messages of condolences. In a dramatic reading of letters from young Germans to America after September 11, warnings for America not to use the same tools as the terrorists were found among the thoughts from well-wishers.
As critical as Mr. Stoiber has been of Mr. Schroeder's anti-American sentiment, Mr. Stoiber has remained conflicted over supporting the United States in any potential military intervention in Iraq.
Neither Mr. Bush nor Hitler will be on the ballot tomorrow. Both Mr. Stoiber and Mr. Schroeder have made clear what and whom they are against, but German politicians and voters must now decide what they are voting for. Starting with aiming toward positive trans-Atlantic relations may not be a bad idea.

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