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    A Times Editorial

    Does he or doesn't he?


    © St. Petersburg Times
    published May 19, 2002

    Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown. And if you're the chancellor of Germany, you're uneasy about your hair, too.

    Lawyers for Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder are aggressively seeking sanctions against news organizations that spread rumors that Schroeder dyes his hair. The news agency that first published speculation about the 58-year-old chancellor's suspiciously dark hair retracted the article, but Schroeder and his lawyers didn't stop there. They won an injunction prohibiting the DDP news agency or any other publication from repeating such conjecture. Violators would be subject to a fine of 10,000 euros, or more than $9,000. Two lower courts have ruled in the chancellor's favor, but DDP is still appealing.

    Spokesmen for the chancellor say they felt it necessary to go to such lengths to ensure that the story about his hair doesn't spread. Naturally, they have succeeded only in making the purported dye job the most talked-about story in Germany.

    At this point, though, Germans are less concerned with Schroeder's hair color than with his judgment and ego. Doesn't he have more important things to worry about? Spiegel magazine dutifully avoided alleging that Schroeder dyes his hair, but it did suggest that he has "let himself be made into a burlesque."

    Our First Amendment gives Americans the freedom to talk about our politicians' hair without fear of retribution. We aren't naming names (so don't get hot under the color, Gov. Ridge and Sen. Daschle, and don't flip your lid, Sen. Biden), but our nation's capital is full of enough bad toupees, plugs and dye jobs to fill a grandstand with heads as dubious-looking as Schroeder's.

    Fortunately, most of our political leaders, unlike Germany's, are still being judged less by what's happening on top of their heads than by what's happening inside them.

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