German papers took aim at U.S. President Bush’s State of the Union address, criticizing him for turning the speech into a campaign stump appearance. Other editorialists examined Germany’s search for a new president.
"Rather than a State of the Union address, George W. Bush’s speech was a presidential election campaign appearance," wrote the Süddeutsche Zeitung. The paper said the U.S. President presented himself as someone who is convinced that everything he has done so far was right and that he doesn’t regret a single decision.
The Dresdener Neueste Nachrichten maintained it was more important to hear what was not mentioned in the speech. "In Bush’s State of the Union address, there was no mention of the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction program, which no one has found so far; nor the fact that the end of the war in Iraq has been declared, but hasn’t materialized yet; nor any reference to the enormous costs of the Iraq invasion." The paper saw many indications in Bush’s speech that the Iraq war had only little to do with America’s proclaimed mission -- the fight against international terrorism.
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung predicted that it’s going to be hard for a Democratic candidate to win the upcoming elections. "The only thing which could help the Democrats gain the upper hand would be a catastrophe in Iraq or a severe decline in the U.S. economy," the paper commented.
German newspapers also reflected on remarks by German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder about the head of the United Nations Environment Programme Klaus Töpfer, whose name has recently come up as a possible candidate for the German Presidency.
"It’s quite clear that Schröder has his own reasons for praising Töpfer," wrote the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung. The paper argued that Töpfer is the right choice, saying that with him as their candidate the Christian Democrats might even win approval from the ruling coalition of Social Democrats and Greens.
The Mannheimer Morgen interpreted Schröder’s praise for Töpfer as proof that the German chancellor wants to create divisions within the opposition parties, which are still undecided on the issue. Schröder’s compliment from afar might do more harm than good and contribute to damaging the candidate as well as the post, the paper regreted.
The other big issue in German papers was the continuation of the Mannesmann court case. On Thursday six German managers will testify on their role in the company’s takeover by the British telecommunications company Vodafone.
The court case could help solve some outstanding questions, commented the Stuttgarter Nachrichten, namely, what are top managers allowed to do? Although there is no verdict yet, the paper wrote, the trial has already had some effect: It clearly signals that the German judicial system is prepared to prosecute the violation of corporate law regardless of defendent’s high-ranking positions.
"From the point of view of those who have to appear before the court, the trial is an act of revenge brought about by people who weren’t quite as lucky," observed the Leipziger Volkszeitung. "But this self-conception of some of Germany’s most influential business leaders is really sad," the daily added. "These managers seem to have lost all touch with reality and the sense of what is appropriate."
"Whatever the outcome of the court case, German legislators should define the country’s shareholders law more clearly, in order to avert detrimental consequences for Germany," wrote the Westfälische Nachrichten.