The Economist obituary about ex-chancellor Helmut Schmidt, who died November 10 at the age of 96, used these adjectives that often apply to type #8, the Asserter: imperious, rude, impatient, and brave. And Jonathan Kandell in the New York Times called Schmidt extremely self-possessed, a pugnacious debater, unwilling to admit mistakes, and too confident. Schmidt was prone to insulting his foes; when people disagreed with him, he accused them of being stupid and attacked legislators who opposed him. He smoked anywhere he wanted to and people who were offended by this usually felt too intimidated to ask him to stop.
Schmidt, a Social Democrat, faulted President Carter for being too weak. According to The Economist, “His foreign minister, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, recalled that ‘Schmidt was of the opinion that the world would be fairer if he was president of the United States and Carter the German chancellor.’ The Israeli leader Menachem Begin called him ‘unprincipled, avaricious, heartless and lacking in human feeling’ after Schmidt said Germans living in a divided nation should feel sympathy for Palestinian self-determination… Flexibility and charm were not Mr Schmidt’s strong points.”
Kandell wrote, “He was handsome, witty and supremely self-possessed. In public, he was a magnetic speaker and a pugnacious debater. (He was known as ‘Schmidt the Lip’ early in his career.) Cultured and erudite, he was also an accomplished classical pianist and author. As recently as 2013, in a poll by Stern magazine, he was ranked as Germany’s most significant chancellor… He was unwilling to admit mistakes and had a seeming disregard for diplomacy, with foes and allies alike.”
Schmidt won an Iron Cross for bravery in World War II. He was thrown out of the Hitler Youth for disloyalty (in addition, he was not an Aryan). His grandfather was Jewish; he and his father falsified documents to hide this from the Nazis and from his wife when he got married.
Schmidt was intelligent, clever, eloquent, and had no social pretensions. He was an accomplished writer and a critic of art and music, as well as a near-professional-quality pianist. He frowned on those who worried about climate change, believing over-population was a much greater problem.
The authors of the obituaries also mentioned that flexibility and charm were not Schmidt’s strong points.
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