The putative reason for the cold shoulder is that Schroeder's Justice Minister Herta Daubler-Gmelin, compared Bush to Hitler, arguing that his fixation with Iraq was merely a ploy to divert from domestic political concerns. Bush complained that Schroeder had created the environment that allowed her to make such a remark. When the Chancellor wrote to apologize, the White House wasn't impressed.
Daubler-Gmelin is gone now, but the ill will still lingers. Why? Surely George Bush knows that in a presidential campaign you can say a thing or two that you regret later. And if merely creating an environment for bad behavior were the standard by which we punished our allies, then wouldn't Saudi Arabian leaders receive a little more grief for creating the environment that encouraged 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers?
PHOTOS & GRAPHICS
Who will step in to fill the void?
Tools of the Hunt
On Assignment: The War
Perry: Street Fighting in Karbala
Robinson: Chaos at a Bridge
Ware: Last Stand for Saddam
When the Cheering Stops
Jubilation and chaos greet the fall of Saddam's regime, leaving Iraqis and Americans puzzling over how to rebuild the nation
The Search for the Smoking Gun
Counting the Casualties
CNN.com: War in Iraq
Going back on your word is not something that George Bush takes lightly. He practices a stomach-level brand of politics, often relying on gut instinct rather than the more cerebral niceties of statecraft. "He gets mad and he just stays mad," says one senior Administration official. But Schroder's campaign tactics were more than just a personal affront. "He took it as representative of a value system that he loathes: when the going gets tough you jump out of the foxhole. This just not a foxhole buddy thing to do."
Washington thinks the German stance is further evidence of the "Eurowimp" syndrome, the Administration's widely held view that the Europeans (apart from Tony Blair, of course) are unreliable allies in the fight against terrorism. By keeping the heat on Schroeder there are rumors that Bush may not meet with him at NATO meetings in Prague in November the U.S. hopes to keep the German leader and other Europeans from doing anything unpredictable. "They want Schroder in a box protectively," says the Administration official.
When will they let him off the hook? Some in the administration say that's already beginning. Country to country interaction continues on a wide range of other issues and as one top-level person put it, "diplomacy will start to take over." But that doesn't mean that the Germans might not be forced to offer one last act of atonement in the future. Initially, "it wasn't about getting something from the Germans," says a senior administration official about the dust-up. "But do we have a card we can now play? Yes."