As a political rival once remarked, if Kohl had been the Titanic, the iceberg would have sunk. His 300-pound frame towered over German politics through the administrations of three American presidents. He led his country through the most dramatic changes since World War Two.
After the fall of the Berlin wall, Kohl pushed through the reunification of the two halves of Germany, and then pushed to move the capital of Germany back to Berlin. However these milestones came at a great expense to the German taxpayer. The cost to Germany was high unemployment and a stagnant economy. The cost to Kohl was ultimately his job.
Today's winner, Social Democrat Gerhard Shroeder, will have to form a coalition to govern. Germany will have a new face, but probably not new policies. Although he was once a hot headed Socialist, Shroeder these days is a friend of big business and agrees with almost all of Kohl's policies.
Shroeder also ran a much slicker campaign, sticking to platitudes and avoiding specifics. Kohl ran like a politician with his eye on history. And tonight, he is history.