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To loosely paraphrase Helmut Kohl, politics is like making sausage. It doesn't matter what goes in, what matters is what comes out. And for the three opposition parties in Germany, who together have a majority to determine the new German Bundespresident in May, the process of grinding out a common candidate has been very messy indeed. That common candidate is the current head of the International Monetary Fund Horst Köhler.

The office of Bundespresident is for the most part ceremonial and non-political, but the election every 5 years of the president by a convention of the federal Bundestag and the state parliments is highly political. This year has been more political than usual, with the rivarly between CDU and CSU, and the current weakness of the FDP.

Germany has been lucky with its presidents. The first presidents I experienced, von Wiezsacker and Herzog, were eloquent spokesmen for Germany, its history, and its place in the world. Unfortunately, the SPD opted for an active poltician when it had its say in 1999. While Johannes Rau has been a good president, he has not lived up to his predecessors. He is unable to rise far enough above the poltical fray to exert moral authority, the only authority the office affords.

The first choice of the Union parties, Wolfgang Schäuble, is also an active poltician, and would have had the same weaknesses as Rau. Therefore I am pleased that the selection has gone to a non-politician. I know little about Köhler, except that he served under Kohl, and has been a capable IMF director. Knowledge of global finance can certainly be an asset for a Germany searching for the proper role in the global economy and political order. And now the politcians who chose him can return to their daily business, producing sausage. What matters is what comes out.

(Coincidentally, sausage-maker Kohl today presented the first volume of his memoirs.)

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