Democrazia Cristiana Tedesca

Michael Pollak mpollak at
Tue Jan 18 16:40:09 PST 2000

On Tue, 18 Jan 2000, Doug Henwood wrote:

> It's amazing to me to hear what makes for a political money scandal
> in Europe. What Kohl did is pretty much out in the open here in the
> U.S.A.

I think the soul of such scandals is never the money so much as the breaking of the law, no matter how trivial. Remember the Gore fund-raising scandals? The real scandal should have been the money, but it all turned on whether he was on White House property when he made the calls. Legalistic bullshit, that's what fires up the journalistic troops.

In Germany, there are three things making this bigger than the Gore scandals. One is that Kohl still, after months, refuses to say where he got the money from on the basis that "he made a promise" to the donors not to reveal their names, and he's a man of honor. It's impossible to imagine an American politician making such a stand. Real old world. Secondly, on the basis of that stand, he still wants to run the party -- he refuses to accept that he's done anything wrong. This is the same sort of thing that drove people apeshit about Clinton -- not that he did it, but that he refused to admit it was wrong. And the third thing is that his party is completely run by an old guard that have been his people for 25 years. Not one of them wants to say the Old man is wrong even when he's being outrageous. And the entire country suspects -- probably rightly -- that every one of them knew about it as well, which makes them all guilty with him.

You're right that the soul of this dispute is legalistic. I think that's the key: it's the fury of legalism scorned. The law itself grew out of an earlier funding scandal (the Flick Affair) just like our laws grew out of the Watergate scandal. I think in both cases, much of the fury is is driven not just by the revealed disdain that lawmakers have for the law, but over just how impotent such laws are revealed to be. I think what drives nice liberals crazy is that each breach reveals that campaign reform -- and hence their fundamental faith in the system, which is premised the idea that office holders are not for sale -- is impossible. And then they pass another set of regulations and forget about it.


__________________________________________________________________________ Michael Pollak................New York City..............mpollak at

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