Wolfgang Thierse is the ex-DDR Communist functionary who is now Vice President of Germany's Bundestag. His trademark is his bushy red beard, hallmark of the revolutionary firebrand, even if, as his government colleague Glos once observed, Ein roter Bart macht noch keinen Barbarossa (A red beard alone doesn't make you Barbarossa).
In his Vice President of the Bundestag role he's meant to be impartial, rather as the Speaker of the House of Commons, in the UK, is meant to be impartial. But being VP of the BT isn't as important as being Speaker.
Thierse once said he wouldn't allow the demands of the job reduce him to a "political eunuch." He has now demonstrated this in a most repulsive way.
His socialist colleague, the scourge of capitalist locusts Franz Müntefering, yesterday left the German government to look after his ailing wife. Responding to this, Thierse remarked, "Leaving your wife sitting in the dark in Ludwigshafen, as Helmut Kohl did, is not ideal." The dig was aimed at the ex-Chancellor and his wife of 41 years, Hannelore. She suffered an allergy to light and committed suicide in 2001.
It is perhaps the final installment of a long-running animosity between the two men. Back in 2002, Kohl was quoted as saying of Thierse, Das ist der schlimmste Präsident seit Hermann Göring (He's the worst president since Hermann Goering - Thierse was parliamentary president at the time).
Now everyone is calling for Thierse to resign. But the thick skin and indifference to human suffering which doubtlessly stood him in such good stead during his successful DDR career will probably prompt him to cling on to power as long as he can.