Genscher's screed lacks Powell punch

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The Independent Online
Americans have been queuing up to have Colin Powell sign their copies of My American Journey, the memoir that is being bought as readily as the idea of the Gulf war general capturing the White House.

Watching from Bonn, Hans-Dietrich Genscher may be feeling pangs of jealousy. While Americans comb Mr Powell's book to learn more about their hero and his ideas as the 1996 presidential campaign gears up, Germans have been left frustrated by Mr Genscher's Erinnerungen (Memoirs). His long-awaited book, the critics say, is as vague and verbose as his speeches during his 18 years as foreign minister.

Mr Genscher offers no secrets of success, no revelations about friends or foes, and remains diplomatic to a fault - almost. Even he could not resist writing of his commiseration with his former British counterpart, Sir Geoffrey Howe, on how difficult it must have been to work for the Iron Lady.

``Much seems simpler and less problematic than it was,'' Mr Genscher writes of the challenges he and Germany faced from 1974 to 1992. ``Looking back, everything appears in a softer light.'' Not so for Mr Powell, who disclosed that his vivid description of US strategy against the Iraqi army - ``First we're going to cut it off, and then we're going to kill it'' - was not spontaneous. He and his aides had rehearsed the tough line the day before he uttered it.

One of the abiding mysteries of Jimmy Carter's presidency is that curious encounter he reported with a giant rabbit that tried to leap into his boat when he was fishing one day. Could it be that the genesis of that Georgian adventure lay with a small snoogle-fleejer?

Mr Carter has collaborated with his daughter, Amy, on a children's book, to be published in November, about a sea monster who befriends a boy. Called The Little Baby Snoogle-Fleejer, the story is based on one Mr Carter told his children when they were small. Amy, now a graduate student in art, did the illustrations, ``which startled me at first, but I have grown to love them'', Mr Carter said. Just like those giant rabbits and little sea monsters.

Australian MPs have not grown to love some of the pictures they have seen lately. Parliamentary officials have banned the taking of news photos from certain unflattering angles in the legislative chamber - chiefly rear views of bald spots. The Prime Minister, Paul Keating, denied the crackdown was imposed because he wants to protect his own scalp, and was upset with one newspaper's story, headlined ``PM's brush with a cover-up''.

``There are those uncharitable souls who ... suggest his aversion to from-the-back pictures relates to his growing bald patch,'' the Sydney Morning Herald reported. ``His body language supports that view; he compulsively smoothes his remaining hair over the bald spot, particularly when he's a bit nervous.'' Many recall, too, that the PM also used to refer to Alexander Downer, a curly-haired MP, as ``Shirley Temple''.

In an unscheduled appearance in parliament on Wednesday, Mr Keating said: ``I have been misrepresented ... I have had no brush with this issue at all.''

The National Party leader, Tim Fischer, has offered the sensitive Mr Keating a sympathetic suggestion: to cover his bald spot with the tribal headdress he was given last week in Papua New Guinea.