Daily Israel Report

Angela Merkel Hopes to Salvage Her Beleaguered President

German President Christian Wulf is facing calls for his resignation for trying to pressure newspapers to quash stories about him.
By Amiel Ungar
First Publish: 1/4/2012, 8:59 PM

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has for the moment decided to back her beleaguered president Christian Wulff whose nomination she pushed in 2010. The Chancellor apparently believes that it is better to try to back Mister Wulff rather than diverting her energies from propping up the euro by finding and securing approval for an alternative candidate should Wulff be forced to resign. It would also mean that two presidents whose nominations were engineered by Angela Merkel were compelled to resign in short order.

Wulff who ascended to his position from his post as governor of Lower Saxony first got into trouble when it was reported that during his tenure he had received a  €500,000 loan from the wife of an influential interpreter. Wulff apologized for the impropriety and the story appeared to die down. It has flared up again because it was revealed that Christian Wulff tried to quash the damaging article about him in the mass circulation Bild by calling the editor and even leaving a threatening e-mail. Billed by the way is part of the Axel Springer chain that backs Wulf's Christian Democratic Party. The daily Die Welt the heavyweight paper in the chain chimed in by reporting that Wulff tried to prevent an article from being published last summer by inviting one of the authors to the presidential palace and threatening him with unpleasant consequences if the article was  published.

Wulff is in hot water for 2 major reasons:

The German presidency is a ceremonial one and therefore the president is expected to be a moral compass for the nation Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote in an editorial:

"The constitution imposes strict limits on the formal power of the president. That means the president's authority and credibility depend on what the incumbent says and how he or she behaves. But it's possible to gamble away even this limited power.

Due to memories of the Nazi dictatorship the issue of press freedom is sensitive in Germany. It is worth remembering the Der Spiegel affair of 1962 that effectively torpedoed the career of one of Germany's most powerful politicians, Franz Josef Strauss. Strauss had been incensed by a series of articles in the magazine exposing the shortcomings of his Defense Ministry and he had the federal police raid the offices of Der Spiegel. Reverberations from the affair eventually toppled Chancellor Konrad Adenauer in 1963 ending the grip on power that he had held since the Federal Republic of Germany was established in 1949.

Die Welt wrote on the current scandal:

A president who expresses his commitment to press freedom only to trample on it at the decisive moment seems out of place in an open society. Politicians, and that includes federal presidents, don't need to be and shouldn't be saints, and they can even have made big mistakes in their pre-presidential lives, but they must learn from those mistakes and obtain a kind of integrity by fire that shapes their future actions