Monday, September 10, 2012

Super Mario to the Rescue

by Roger Cohen

New York Times

September 6, 2012

Germany’s Mannschaft has always been a formidable soccer team. Its chief quality has been a tenacity and tempo capable of overcoming all odds. This is not to say that Germany has failed to produce great footballers — Gerd Müller, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Franz Beckenbauer come to mind. It is merely to say collective power has trumped individual prowess.

But against one team Germany always breaks down as if caught in a web. It pushes, it presses, it pounds — and it flounders. That team is Italy, whose 2-1 victory over the favored German side in this year’s European Championship extended a long run of major-tournament domination over Germany. Italian malleability and artistry are too much for German diktat.

All of this comes to mind as I watch Super Mario undo Germany with a series of feints that have left hardline Bundesbank bruisers looking as nimble and effective as beached whales. (With a battle cry of “You will not short me!” Super Mario has also gone mano-a-mano with the hedgies betting against the euro, but that is another story.)

Little by little, Mario Draghi, the Italian president of the European Central Bank, has taken an institution whose overriding mission was to keep inflation in check — the obsession that built the Deutsche Mark — and turned it into a lender of last resort prepared to throw everything into buying the distressed euro-zone sovereign debt of countries like Spain and Italy and so preserve the euro. “Whatever it takes,” Draghi says. He means it.


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