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Angela Merkel, New Hope For Germany, U.S.?

Meet Angela Merkel. This 50-year-old very well may be the next Chancellor of Germany, as well as the best hope for a thawing in American-German relations. She would also be Germany's first female Chancellor. The Washington Times calls her, "a bland East German who is unloved by voters."


The Globe and Mail, meanwhile, compares her to another powerful female political figure of the 20th century:

Angela Merkel is poised to unseat a generation of German leadership this summer, as the country finds itself plunged into a national election that could very well turn this radical, market-oriented reformer, who has been likened to Margaret Thatcher in both her ideology and her personal comportment, into the next German chancellor.

Spiegel explains:

...when it comes to Bush, she has done everything she can to distance herself from Schroeder's antagonistic stance and present herself as a great friend of the United States. A new, and more amicable trans-Atlantic era between Germany and the US may be on the horizon.

"Trans-Atlantic relations would be very much more relaxed" under Merkel, says Peter Fischer-Bollin, a trans-Atlantic expert with the pro-CDU Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in Berlin. "On the one hand because of specific positions ... and on the other hand, the tone of discussions that are currently taking place would be much milder. The relationship of trust would improve.... I think perhaps that the people in the CDU are much more pro-trans-Atlantic than those in the current government."

Merkel has spent much of the last four years underlining that impression. While Schroeder spent much of 2002 and 2003 reiterating his categoric refusal to be drawn into Iraq, Merkel was busy making friends in Washington. In February 2003, she was even received by US Vice President Dick Cheney. While she was critical of America's unilateral approach -- criticism that became even more vocal within her party following the Abu Ghraib torture scandal -- she expressed cautious support for Bush's aggressive Iraq policies before and during the war by saying, "It is wrong to separate the issues of terrorism and Saddam Hussein. We need to see things from the perspective of the United States."

Regarding some specific foreign policy issues, here's how a Merkel-led Germany might approach them-


Chancellor Merkel would likely not throw Germany's skeptical attitude to Iraq overboard. The country is still very much against any German involvement in Iraq and it is highly unlikely that President Bush would embarrass her by asking for added German support.


Merkel's vocal skepticism of Schroeder's support for the lifting of the European Union arms embargo against China -- a spring 2005 proposal that Bush came out strongly against -- is also likely to endear her to the Bush administration. And, while Bush was clearly worried primarily about confronting European-made weapons in a potential conflict with China over Taiwan -- and secondarily about human rights abuses in China -- Merkel based her argument solidly on the foundation of US-Germany relations. Lifting the embargo, she said in April of this year, "would endanger trans-Atlantic defense cooperation."

Germany permanently on the United Nations Security Council:

Merkel... has expressed cautious support for the idea of a German UN Security Council seat -- although she has couched her endorsement in language that would allow her to quickly back away from the position should it engender too much international opposition. A likely backup position would be support for a combined European Union seat.

Turkey in the E.U.:

Merkel and the CDU have been vocal in their rejection of the idea of Turkish membership. In October of 2004, she even went so far as to call for a petition to be created opposing Turkey's EU ambitions and promoting a so-called "privileged partnership," which would increase economic cooperation between the EU and Turkey, but essentially leave Turkey on the outside looking in. Bush, on the other hand, has been a major cheerleader in Turkey's attempts to gain membership in the European club. He sees Turkey as a potential role model for other countries in the Middle East due to Turkey's embrace of secular democracy.

Bulgaria and Romania in the European Union:

Germany's Christian Democrats:

...would urge the European Union to suspend plans to admit Romania and Bulgaria if French voters reject the EU constitution in a referendum May 29.

Russia and Putin:

Having grown up in East Germany, Merkel is:

...more in line with Washington over Russia, being more willing to press Moscow on human rights and democracy than is Schroeder, who has cultivated a cozy personal relationship with President Vladimir Putin.

Mostly, though, the tone will change, and for the better. The counterproductive deep freeze, initiated by Schroeder, will thaw. Merkel, and her Christian Democratic Union (CDU), will breathe new life into the crucial geopolitical relationship between the United States and Germany.

The Economist explains that Merkel's agenda might get Germany's economy back on track:

...witness her long list of planned reforms, which are quite radical in the German context: simplifying tax, overhauling pensions, reducing job protection and curbing the trade unions.

Schroeder, in 2002, was also down in the polls, but he squeaked out a marginal victory by speaking strongly against the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Could he pull off the same kind of come-from-behind victory again?

Not likely. In this election, with the unemployment rate perpetually near 12%, and the lowest business confidence level in two years, it's truly the economy, stupid:

Germany's economy, Europe's largest, is projected by the European Commission to be the slowest-growing in the 25-nation European Union this year. Unemployment, which Schroeder vowed to reduce, has risen by 1 million people to 5 million since he took office in 1998. Gross domestic product has risen more than 1 percent in only one of the past four years.


Schroeder recently tried playing the anti-American card once again, to no avail:

Even recently, Schroeder's Social Democratic (SPD) party launched a strident discussion on capitalism in a last ditch attempt to gain votes for the now lost North-Rhine Westphalia elections. The phantom menace painted by Schroeder and his party was neo-liberal market policy and international capitalists. Many understood the attacks coming from SPD headquarters as sloppily disguised anti-Americanism -- a strategy that has served Schroeder well in the past.

So what are the odds of Schroeder engineering a miraculous comeback?

Not so hot:

The Christian Democrats now control 10 of Germany's 16 states and the latest poll data show them taking 46 percent of the electorate compared to 29 percent for Mr. Schroeder's party if elections were held today.

The German election is in September, so much could happen between now and then, but, barring an economic miracle, Schroeder has no chance. When Gerhard Schroeder's day of political reckoning comes, it will be good riddance to a superlative polluter of international relations.


Nice read from the WSJ.

Posted by Will Franklin · 26 May 2005 08:59 PM


Gerhard is toast! Everyone say bye bye! to Gerhard and Hello! to Angela... My husband says WILLisms.com is always in the know on the next up and coming political news...and up and coming politicans! Sooooo Bye bye! Gerhard and hello! Angela... We shall see if he is right!...

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at May 27, 2005 07:39 AM

Bye bye Gerhard! Hello Angela!

Posted by: Linda at May 28, 2005 07:10 AM

Auf Wiedersehen Gerhard!... Hi Angela!...

Posted by: Carly at May 28, 2005 02:48 PM

As usual WILLisms.com has found another wonderful photo! Gerhard looks pretty grouchy...You really could have a gallery of politicians.

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at May 29, 2005 08:37 PM

Hate to be the bearer of bad news, Will, but Schroeder knows what he's doing and he will be re-elected in the upcoming federal elections this autumn, much to my (and your)chagrin.

Schroeder's string of electoral defeats in the various federal states has produced a new generation of potential CDU leaders, but none of them has yet emerged as a compelling national figure. Hamburg, Nordrhein-Westfalen and other traditionally SPD states now have CDU leaders, but none of them has yet proven themselves to be "Kanzlerreif".

Don't make the mistake of interpreting local SPD electoral defeats as an endorsement of Ms. Merkel's more market-oriented approach to economics - quite the contrary. Schroeder has suffered these defeats precisely because of the extremely modest reforms he has tried to make in Germany's economy. Voters are punishing him for straying from the social-democratic playbook, not in reaction against it.

As for Ms. Merkel, she is no doubt a very competent party leader, but to date she has held no significant federal ministerial posts (Minister for Women and Youth & Minister of Environment don't count) nor does she enjoy a record as the successful head of government of one of Germany's federal states. Plausible candidates for chancellor have generally been able to claim one or both. German voters perceive her as "nicht kanzlerfähig" - not Chancellor material.

There will be significant struggle, both within the CDU and with the Bavarian CSU, over who will stand as candidate for Chancellor this fall. My money is on a repeat of the last election - Schroeder vs. Edmund Stoiber. Alas, Stoiber will once again bring with him all of the negative baggage of a Bavarian CSU leader.

In short, Schroeder looked at the election results in Nordrhein-Westfalen and went for quick elections precisely because the CSU has no current strong leader to challenge him. If he were to wait a year, he would risk one of the new federal state leaders among the CDU emerging as a national force. Better to claim a new mandate as soon as possible.

Schroeder is sneaky, duplicitous, and utterly lacking any moral or philosophical core, but stupid he is not.

Posted by: Thad at June 2, 2005 06:43 PM

Gerhard was worried about the elections so he decided to consult his magic mirror.

"Mirror mirror on the wall" he said "who is the fairest Chancellor of them all"

Angela Merkel's face looked back at him from the mirror

"Angela Merkel is not a chancellor yet, will I be the Chancellor again"

The mirror said to him
Take your trousers off and put me (the mirror) between your knees and ask that question again.

So Gerhard dropped his trousers and put the magic mirror between his knees and asked "Will I be the chancellor again"

The magic mirror shifted position between his knees and said "What do you see now"

"I see my arse" he said

"Get used to it" said the mirror

Posted by: Skokkie at July 2, 2005 12:07 PM