Friday, February 10, 2012

Scraping the bottom of the barrel

The scandal surrounding the German President has reached the point at which things are beginning to look just slightly ridiculous.

The scandal that started the whole thing, the one about the loan, was somewhat concerning, but not the end of the world until other scandals surfaced onto the tabloids’ front pages: the extravagant parties, the exotic holidays paid for by “friends” in industry, the free flights, and so on. Not exactly corruption on a grand scale, but a potential conflict of interests and against the rules.

Just lately, though, the bottom of the barrel has been well and truly scraped. Every last indescretion, irregularity and mistake is being fished out, scrutinized, polished and presented to the public. It was probably when they got to the car that Wulff on slightly cheaper terms than most people would have done that the journalists should probably have taken the moment to pause and reflect on whether the public interest was really being served here.

Obviously, they didn’t, because we now have what may possibly go down in history as Nokiagate. Which can be summed up as follows: Friend lends President (long, long before he becomes President) mobile phone. President (long, long before he becomes President) pays for phone charges.

This is being reported by the press in a sort of smug schadenfreude, even by the otherwise perfectly respectable weekly publication Der Spiegel. That publication at least admitts that there was no question of any impropriety, but nevertheless maintains that the case “raises questions”. And proceeds to list all the questions it raises — all one of them: Why did he borrow a phone from a businessman? It then cites Wulff’s lawyer as saying it was a “purely private matter”, and that’s where the cutting-edge investigative journalism comes to an end. Instead of exploring the question further and explaining why anyone should even care, the article simply reiterates all the scandals that have come to light so far (as if keen to keep a running total, lest we momentarily forget the score). Finally, there is that damning statement to the effect that Wulff hasn’t returned the Spiegel’s calls, but does have the grace to suggest that the fact that he isn’t in the country right now may have some bearing on that.

You have to wonder what they’re going to come up with next. At this rate, it will be the news that he once accidentally put a plastic wrapper in the paper recycling bin.

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