Hans-Olaf Henkel and Andre WÃ¤chter (AfD; Landesverband Bayern)
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The New York Times has provided us with an invaluable column about the interactions of the EU's rightist and ultra-rightest parties. It is invaluable because it is (unintentionally) so revealing about the EU's right and ultra-right parties and the NYT's inability to understand either the EU economic or political crises. The NYT article illustrates its points by presenting a tale entitled "A German Voice, Hans-Olaf Henkel, Calls for Euro's Abolition."
"Mr. Henkel wants to abolish the euro.
His country, he contends, would be better off returning to the deutsche mark, rather than letting hard-working, disciplined Germans continue spending their taxes propping up laggards in Greece, Italy and other euro zone countries that he says have squandered the common currency's birthright. And last month he won a seat in the European Parliament that will give him a platform to try to unwind the currency union."
I will return to the euro controversy at the end of my article, but for now we will follow how the NYT and the EU view Henkel.
"Mr. Henkel is a rarity in Germany, where there is almost no tradition of business leaders entering politics.- Advertisement -
He financed his own successful run for office, in the mode of many American politicians. Mr. Henkel contributed 1 million euros, or $1.36 million, to his party, the Alternative for Germany, which proved crucial to its winning 7 percent of the vote in parliamentary elections last month and seven seats in the European Parliament."
Americans, of course, have a long tradition of rich people using their wealth to fund runs for public office. Here is how Henkel became so wealthy:
"Mr. Henkel went on to become head of IBM's operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, but left in 1995. He then became the unpaid president of the Federation of German Industries.
After leaving the federation in 2000, Mr. Henkel emerged as something of a professional contrarian, appearing often on talk shows as an advocate of rolling back Germany's social welfare system.
Later, he was a board member of mainstream companies like Bayer, the German drug and chemical maker, and an adviser to Bank of America. He resigned from those posts before entering politics."
I return to his resignation from B of A below. The NYT and the EU's Right assume conclusively that Henkel's employment background means that he has an impeccable reputation. Indeed, I have to quote extensively from the NYT to demonstrate that this is the central theme of the article.
"With his blue-chip business resume and name recognition earned from years on the German television talk show circuit, Mr. Henkel symbolizes how the anti-euro movement is becoming more socially acceptable -- and more difficult for the centrist, pro-euro parties to ignore.- Advertisement -
At the same time, though, his particular variety of Brussels bashing is a reminder of how difficult it will be for the euro-skeptic parties to reconcile their eclectic platforms. Although many of the groups share a hostility toward the European Union, they also often foster distinct elements of nationalism and xenophobia, making it a challenge to find common cause on any issue of substance.
Mr. Henkel, a longtime member of the human rights group Amnesty International, strenuously denies that the Alternative for Germany party, known as the AfD in Germany, is a haven for the extreme right. He says such labels come from journalists who "would rather paint us into an anti-immigration corner or a rightist corner so they can ignore us."
He ruled out cooperating with far-right, anti-immigration groups like the Marine Le Pen's National Front in France or the U.K. Independence Party, led by Nigel Farage.