What do you need to become chancellor? If you take the 15 years under Angela Merkel as a yardstick, then it occasionally helps to hover over things and to remain approximate. Your potential successor, Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU), is still in the process of empathizing with this role. In the Bundestag, he sells the bumpy vaccination start in Germany in statesmanlike manner as a European success – but with far-reaching commitments he likes to leave a back door open.
It was the same with the latest edition of “Maischberger: die Woche”. The moderator wants to know whether the promise of vaccinations will still apply to everyone in the summer. Yes, says Spahn, but only “as of today” because the approval for the vaccines from Astra-Zeneca and Johnson & Johnson is still pending. “As of today” was also the formulation on Deutschlandfunk, with which Spahn half-heartedly ruled out his candidacy for chancellor. Traumatized Eintracht Frankfurt fans will be reminded of Coach Niko Kovac’s “Stand now” before he switched to FC Bayern.
But there is one thing that Spahn is clear about. “I gave my word in the Bundestag: In this pandemic there will be no compulsory vaccination.” He is a great fan of debates, but doubts that “acceptance will grow if we resort to such a means.” against the demand of CSU boss Markus Söder, who can show similar popularity ratings as Spahn and could become his fiercest competitor for the Union’s candidacy for chancellor in the next few months.
Risks and side effects disappear in the small print
And Armin Laschet, Friedrich Merz and Norbert Röttgen? Nobody trusts the three candidates for the CDU party chairmanship as a chancellor, not even Maischberger’s guests. “None of the three really convince me,” says cabaret artist Urban Priol, whereby Merz is “a lot of fun from a cabaret point of view”, “preferably with Christian Lindner”. With Röttgen as CDU leader, Priol would probably not have had this fun, as the former Federal Environment Minister has expressed clear reservations about a coalition with the FDP. The deputy “Welt” editor-in-chief Robin Alexander considers this approach to be a “huge mistake”, even if Röttgen gets “applause from left-wing cabaret” for it.
But away from party political skirmishes and towards the big questions. Did the EU and Germany not order enough vaccine? Did you order from the wrong manufacturers? Why are the UK, Israel and Bahrain vaccinating faster than Germany? And who is responsible for the chaos? Melanie Amann, head of the “Spiegel” capital office, takes Spahn to duty. As Minister of Health, he was politically responsible: “If something goes wrong at Deutsche Bahn, I also complain to the conductor.”
She compares Spahn with “changing drug advertising”, you have to read the small print first for risks and side effects. He understands full-bodied promises, but remains vague about the details, such as the question of how the two billion for the EU should be distributed among the member states. Amann receives support from his journalist colleague Alexander, who is outraged by Spahn’s appearance in the Bundestag: The health minister had “built a huge cardboard comrade there and, annoyingly, got through to parliament.”
Spahn had a long day: a night conference with the Chancellor, an early telephone interview with Deutschlandfunk, at noon the government declaration in the Bundestag. After extra time and a penalty shoot-out in the DFB Cup, it is midnight until Spahn sits with Maischberger and has to grapple with well-known allegations. Germany has secured enough vaccine, including the first approved by Biontech, he assures. The early start of vaccination in Great Britain and Bahrain was only possible due to an emergency approval. The EU deliberately decided against this step, also to ensure confidence in the vaccine.
But if you could not have saved lives with an earlier vaccination, Maischberger asks. Spahn does not agree to that, because “the death toll that we are complaining about today has to do with the situation 14 days ago.” Vaccination is “the way out” of the pandemic, but one would not have the restrictions even with more vaccine can do without. “Israel and Great Britain are in full lockdown, even though they vaccinated more than we did.”
Spahn: “I’ve gotten used to one thing: excluding things.”
Spahn does not dare to make a prognosis regarding the question of what these gloomy prospects mean for the corona rules in Germany, but it does not need them either. In view of the high number of infections and deaths and the incalculable risk of an even more contagious virus mutation, it should be clear to everyone that tightening rather than easing is pending. Right from the start, people were in the mood for “that winter will be hard. And winter lasts until March. ”On the question of company closures, Spahn initially said succinctly“ We are discussing with employers and unions ”and then, in response to Maischberger’s repeated inquiries, tellingly:“ I have given up one thing: excluding things. ”
Apropos exclude and “as of today”: Maischberger still wants to know what it would mean for his own career plans if he didn’t get vaccinated by the summer. “We are in a pandemic of the century”, that is his focus and he is “not about me”. The dispute over the direction of the CDU is “still there under the pandemic” and he has a good memory of how people treated each other before the pandemic. For the future of the party, Spahn believes it is essential “that we not only appoint the chancellor, but also that a chancellorship grows out of it.” If that is not stated in a statesmanlike way.