New Political Memoir Schröder Takes Potshots at Merkel and Bush

Gerhard Schröder is back with a memoir on his life in politics. He takes careful swipes at a few of his rivals. George Bush's religious fervor as well as Angela Merkel's leadership come in for criticism -- and he defends the plum Russian job he took after leaving politics.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder looks back at his political career.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder looks back at his political career.

Editor's Note: We have also published an excerpt from SPIEGEL's exclusive interview with former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder stepped back into Germany's spotlight with a memoir about his political career that defends his tenure in office and takes aim at his sometime rivals, like United States President George W. Bush and current Chancellor Angela Merkel. In advance interviews for the book, however, he's denied being "against" George Bush, or even anti-American.

"Bush is an entirely likeable and open negotiating partner," Schröder told the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag, when its interviewer suggested Schröder had been mild with his rivals in the memoir. "That's old age," Schröder, 62, quipped. But he repeated a charge from his book that Bush made political decisions based on his fear of God. "It's a problem that isn't unique to Bush and the United States," he said. "When (a leader) takes political action directly from prayer, in other words from a dialogue with God, it can be problematic for a democracy."

Before the 2003 Iraq invasion, Schröder won a tight re-election in 2002 by criticizing Washington's plan to topple Saddam Hussein and by keeping German soldiers out of any military campaign. His stance against America won him crucial support at home but chilled German-American relations, which have begun to thaw under his successor, Angela Merkel.

Schröder went on to tell Bild that he wanted to "distinguish between personalities and politics," insisting that he got along with Bush in spite of disagreeing with the Iraq invasion. The same went for Merkel. "In the end this book isn't about analyzing or criticizing the (current German government)," he said. But when Bild asked if some of the new government's work under Merkel's first year in office didn't make Schröder smirk, he said, "Sometimes, yes." But he dismissed accusations from critics that the current cabinet has failed to follow through with his own government's policies as "nonsense."

Schröder's memoir, called "Decisions: My Life in Politics," is being published not even a full year after the ex-Chancellor lost his job to Merkel in a snap election in 2005. The book will be launched officially in Berlin on Thursday. Since it's rare for retired German leaders to criticize incumbents, the rebuke of his rivals has already attracted protests. Volker Kauder, parliamentary leader of Merkel's Christian Democrats, said Schröder "had yet to overcome his defeat."

Schröder also defended his post-political life in an advance interview with SPIEGEL. Shortly after losing the 2005 election he took a job as chairman of a German-Russian pipeline project led by Russia's natural-gas monopoly, Gazprom. Since Gazprom is majority-owned by the Russian state, Schröder ultimately answers to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the job looked uncomfortably like a cashing-in of political contacts. Schröder insisted that taking the job was ultimately in Germany's interest. "I expected praise for taking it," he said. "But that was an exorbitant hope."

Schröder also insisted he had no more political ambitions in Germany. "I want to ease everyone's mind of that fear," he told SPIEGEL. "For me there will be no return to politics."



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