Gerhard Schröder, in memoir, goes on the offensiv

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The kindest thing one can say about Gerhard Schröder's return to private life last year is that it was not as unseemly as that of his predecessor as German chancellor, Helmut Kohl.

Kohl admitted to taking illegal cash payments, which shredded his reputation. Schröder, 62, took a job as chairman of a Russian-German pipeline venture and was roundly condemned by critics who said he had championed the pipeline while in office and was improperly cashing inon his friendship with Vladimir Putin, the Russian president.

Now Schröder is back in the news, and on the offensive, with a memoir in which he defends Putin, the pipeline deal and many other things he did in his seven years as chancellor.

The book, "Decisions: My Life in Politics," has been a best seller here since it was published in October and was lavishly excerpted in Der Spiegel, suggesting that Germans have a soft spot for, or at least a residual fascination with, their canny former leader.

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