Tuesday, March 22, 2022

The Chancellor Angela Merkel

Now that she has stepped down, Angela's story can be told.  We are used to flamboyant politicians.  Angela speaks quietly, but you better listen.  She hasn't been overly concerned with hair styles and fashion.  

Important facts include that her father was a Lutheran pastor (with a bias towards socialism) and he moved from West Germany to East Germany where Angela was raised.   From her father's church she became accustomed to being with disabled people.  She conformed to many Communist , requirements, but maintained independent thinking.  She learned Russian so well she won prizes for it including a trip to Moscow.  One quote that kept her going was from Marie Cure;  "Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood."

Her education steered her to physics and she was good enough that her thesis was published in English.  As an adult living in East Berlin she first learned about the Holocaust.  Once in power one of her priorities was to protect Israel.  

When the Wall came down her interest switched from physics to politics and she was chosen by Helmut Kohl, the Chancellor recognizing her intelligence and needing a token East German and a woman.  When he ran into a minor scandal she turned on him, but soon after became leader of the party.  She was always very politically savvy and had established herself as trustworthy.  In 2005 she was elected chancellor which in Germany meant had to work with a coalition government.

Saw America as necessary for a peaceful world.  Enjoyed working with George W. Bush although did not support the Iraq invasion.  At first she distrusted Barrack Obama as she felt he was too flashy, but later realized he had substance.  An interesting commonality as they both read and enjoyed "Sapiens" by Yuval Noah Harari.  Check:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2015/12/sapiens-brief-history-of-humankind.html

One contrast with Obama was attitudes towards Vladimir Putin.  Obama was fed up with his lies, but Angela felt she could persuade Putin to make small concessions.  Putin gave asylum to Edward Snowden and as a result uncovered many secrets including that the White House had tapped Merkel's cell phone.  This soured their relationship for awhile, but eventually political realities won out.  

When Putin attacked Crimea and Donetsk, Obama tired of dealing with Putin allowed Merkel to tackle the issues.  She talked to him 38 times usually in Russian, but also German (Putin was fluent).  He wouldn't bend very much, developing cyber warfare and social media disinformation.  Merkel forced Putin out of the G8.  

Anticipating having to deal with Donald Trump, Merkel did a lot of research.  She read a 1990 Playboy interview, "The Art of the Deal" and even watched a season of "The Apprentice."  Trump when asked what he would do in the White House, said "I'd throw a tax on every Mercedes-Benz rolling into this country."  The two did not see eye to eye.  When Time magazine put a photo of Angela on the front cover declaring her "Person the Year," Trump had a fake version with himself as the Person of the Year blowing it up and put on display.  

With Obama gone she aligned herself with Emmanel Macron, the young progressive French leader who she found a bit flamboyant, but whose thinking was close to hers.  When the pandemic struck the two developed a European collective approach.  Merkel was pleased that one of the first vaccines was developed in Germany by two Turkish immigrants.

She believed it would be better for everyone if Europe could act collectively.  Very disappointed with Brexit as she felt the United Kingdom was critical for balancing the European Union.  A key factor in that decision was her policy for refugees.  At first she was against unlocking the immigration door, but a conversation with a 14 year old Palestinian girl converted her.  She felt letting in Syrians and other refugees was the moral thing to do, but also pointed out Germany was an aging and would need young immigrants to keep the economy moving forward.  Not without problems, but the refugees have assimilated well and set a good example for other nations.

Under Merkel the Germans phased out nuclear power and have worked on developing renewable energy. 

She outlasted Trump, but realized he left a legacy.    The January 6th insurrection was very troubling to her, but not as much as the big lie that so many accepted. 

Her style was to avoid confrontation and to talk not pontificate.  In 2020 the Pew Research Center declared Angela Merkel the most trusted leader in the world.  She was not want to get attention, just results.  Too bad more politicians have not adopted that style, but in reality it is the impressionable voters that are responsible.


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