Tuesday, December 2, 2008


The joy of my American friends at getting rid of Dubya and replacing him with Obama was a pleasure for me to see. Meanwhile, the nitwit of a president the Czechs are saddled with, Václav Klaus, has been at it again. This is a guy who first appeared on the political scene shortly after the 1989 ‘Velvet Revolution’ as a pushy economist with a lot to say about the direction the country should take in the post- Communist era.

His first major political gig was as the first Finance Minister out of the blocks in the Central and Eastern European region when it came to redistributing the wealth stolen by the communists after their takeover in 1948. He talked a good fight at the time but later a lot of people said he had made plenty of mistakes with his overconfident, can’t-tell-me-anything-I-don’t-already-know-better-than-you provincial attitude, and most people I’ve spoken to agree that this was the highest office he should ever have been permitted to occupy.

Sadly, that hasn’t been the case. He spent several years as Prime Minister in the late 1990s and early 2000s, a period during which he managed to develop a uniquely bad relationship with Václav Havel, the then President; they clearly loathed each other. Klaus is a man whose arrogance is summed up in the following joke:

Q: What’s the difference between Václav Klaus and God?

A: God doesn’t think he’s Václav Klaus.

Sadly for him, he always has been and remains a pygmy in the shadow of a giant in this relationship, and unless he’s even dumber than I think he is, he must be painfully aware of this, which is perhaps why he’s followed the increasingly deranged path he has done during the last few years.

He’s now in his second stint as president, a role he has filled with a glaring lack of stature, kudos, charisma, gravitas, or any other positive quality I would associate with the job. His particular niche is the increasingly untenable notion that global warming is a hoax. Earlier in the year, he described ecologists as being equivalent to fascists, and more recently, on a trip to Dublin in his presidential role, he described himself to journalists as ‘a European dissident’.

Let me tell you something, Vašek, you ox. Dissidents were brave men and women who protested against the totalitarian regime and were persecuted and not infrequently tortured and imprisoned for doing so. They lived in hope of a better future, with no great expectation that it would ever come. You, on the other hand, are the president of a democratic state, which provides you with extremely handsome financial and material rewards for the job you are supposed to do, which is to represent it with dignity on the international stage, and at the end of the day you are not shivering in a prison cell but tucked up as snug as a bug in a rug in Prague Castle. If I did my job as badly as you do yours I’d lose it in five seconds flat. Do the Czech people a favour. Keep your crazy opinions to yourself until you’re retired and a private citizen once more. For now, though, just shut your mouth.