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Angela Merkel was no saint Devoid of principles, she was the opposite of a visionary

Auf Wiedersehen (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)


December 6, 2021   5 mins

After a send-off last week that featured military honours and a song by East German punk icon Nina Hagen, Angela Merkel will on Wednesday give way to her successor Olaf Scholz. Die Kanzlerin will be sorely missed by the entire Western liberal establishment, which has had a crush on her for the past 16 years. Her French biographer Marion Van Renterghem has already crooned in The Guardian that “Europe is losing its moral compass — how will it find its way without Merkel?’’ In his farewell video, Barack Obama practically bestowed sainthood upon her: “Your beloved German people, and the entire world, owe you a debt of gratitude for taking the high ground for so many years.”

What form did this ‘high ground’ take? According to the Harvard student who introduced her 2019 commencement speech at the Ivy League college with a litany of her good deeds: “She has passed Germany’s first minimum wage, closed Germany’s nuclear plants after the Fukushima nuclear explosion, promoted marriage equality, led progress in tackling climate change, and opened her country to over one million refugees from the wars of the Middle East.”

Merkel’s junior coalition partners the Social Democrats would no doubt roll their eyes if they heard that; the policies listed by the Harvard student were all theirs. Take the legalisation of same-sex marriage. Merkel, a conservative, actually opposed it for all of her career, but, sensing a shift in the Zeitgeist, let it pass through parliament in 2017.

But that was typical Merkel. She always let the public mood determine her policy choices: she was the first German chancellor to receive a weekly detailed briefing on opinion research from her press department. Perhaps that’s why she was synonymous with dithering, sitting on the fence and remaining quiet on key issues — so much so that a neologism was spawned: merkeln, the Langenscheidt dictionary’s 2015 word of the year. “To Merkel” is defined as “to do nothing, make no decisions, issue no statements”.

It was not her strong convictions that endeared her with German voters. It was her lack of them. She is the opposite of a visionary; once asked what she associated with Germany, she said “well-made windows”. Not Germany’s rich cultural heritage, not its landscapes, not its football squad, not even its robust Grundgesetz (a set of basic laws put in place after the war, essentially a constitution). Far more important are its
 well-sealed windows.

So, is she really the “liberal West’s last defender”, as the New York Times would have it? Much of the ‘moral compass’ talk is based on Merkel’s momentous decision to open the German border to more than a million refugees from Syria and elsewhere in 2015. No doubt it was an event of historic importance that changed Germany and Europe forever. But was it really on par with Willy Brandt’s epic 1970 genuflection in Warsaw, as some have suggested? Or, as some commentators said at the time, a monumental, healing gesture that showed the world that Germany had finally shaken off its Nazi baggage and become a force for good? Not quite.

Only two months before she opened the borders, Merkel had appeared at a townhall-style event called Living Well in Germany, in which she engaged with a group of teenagers from across the country. There, Reem Sahwil, a 14-year-old Palestinian refugee who spoke flawless German and had stellar marks in school, expressed her fear that her family would be deported, extinguishing her dream of attending university in Germany. Without a hint of empathy, Merkel told her that if everyone like her stayed, thousands of other refugees from the Middle East and Africa would flood into Germany, something the country couldn’t cope with. When Sahwil began to cry, Merkel said: “But you’ve done really well for yourself. Let me give you a stroke.” (Something she actually did.)

When, just two months later, tens of thousands of Syrians were passing through Hungary and Austria towards Germany, Merkel first considered taking a hardline approach and mobilising thousands of police officers to secure the southern frontier. Opinion polls, however, suggested most Germans favoured a compassionate, welcoming approach. So without consulting EU partners, she opened the borders. Within days, she was shooting selfies with young Syrian men.

In a matter of months, however, Merkel’s centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU) started to haemorrhage support. And the supposedly moral Merkel was soon replaced by her old pragmatic, shape-shifting political self. She tried to export the refugee problem to the outer borders of the EU and brokered a dodgy deal with the authoritarian Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to stem the tide of human beings fleeing across the Aegean. To placate the conservative wing of the CDU, she spoke at a December 2016 party conference of banning the burqa — to jubilant applause. She also started to take a harder line on the deportation of refugees and asylum seekers who had committed crimes, even to war-torn Afghanistan and Syria.

But for many it was too late. The massive influx of refugees was the boost the odious, far-right AfD had been waiting for. Largely thanks to Merkel’s shambolic immigration policy, the party is now a permanent fixture of German politics and commands a majority in two eastern states.

Merkel’s political contortions extend well beyond immigration, however. On climate policy, too, she has been immensely disappointing. Granted, she had a few successes on the diplomatic stage, such as persuading Russia’s Vladimir Putin to sign up to the Paris Agreement. But when it comes to actually reducing Germany’s climate footprint, her governments’ actions have been woefully half-hearted. Following a tiny slump during the pandemic, carbon dioxide emissions are up again, and it looks unlikely that Germany will hit its target of a 65% drop in emissions from 1990 levels.

Meanwhile, after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident, Merkel rushed to fast track Germany’s plan to drop nuclear power. Yet renewables haven’t picked up enough to fill in the gap in power production. Instead, Merkel has pushed for the Nord Stream pipeline (admittedly initiated by her predecessor Gerhard Schröder, who now even sits on the operator’s board) through the Baltic Sea, enabling Germany to pipe in Russian gas directly without paying fees to those pesky middlemen such as Ukraine and the Czech Republic. Did her moral compass slide off deck?

And then, as always in Germany, there is das Auto. Successive Merkel governments have been slavishly beholden to the car industry. How else are we to explain Dieselgate, where it took the US authorities — and not the corrupt or incompetent German regulators — to reveal that Volkswagen was installing software that enabled its cars to cheat during emissions testing. Sales of German cars fell briefly. But few heads rolled.

Instead, Merkel merkelled: she held ‘diesel summits’ at which the hitherto extremely profitable carmakers — the perpetrators — begged for and received mountains of cash in the form of subsidies and government-funded customer incentives to prop up demand for electric, petrol and — yep — diesel cars of the slightly cleaner variety.

But Dieselgate was, for the most part, unexceptional. The Merkel years were defined by scandals of incompetence and corruption, none of which, incredibly, stuck to the chancellor herself. She had a knack for outsourcing difficult decisions to commissions, for delegating hot button issues to her foot soldiers. It was always easy for the press to point a finger to one of her flailing ministers. She remained aloof from the mudslinging — while working on her ‘moral compass’ act with earnest speeches and high-profile international negotiations.

Yes, she was Germany’s first female leader, and the first chancellor from the East. But the fact that she was a protestant pastor’s daughter in a communist country — a tale of humble origins spun in every English-language profile — didn’t make her the deeply moral politician so many made her out to be. Rather, during the Trump years, when it felt that the world was being taken over by blustering male populists, her plodding, unflashy style made her stand out. Against that backdrop, her measured mediocrity was mistaken for a moral virtue.

That probably isn’t what Obama had in mind when he spoke of her saintly principles. But let’s not forget that even saints are only human.


Maurice Frank co-founded the English magazine Exberliner and now co-writes the newsletter 20 Percent Berlin. 

mauricetfrank

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Tony Taylor
Tony Taylor
2 years ago

Electrical power systems is my home ground, and while I concede that building new nuclear power stations is expensive (in up-front coin, but I’d probably build them anyway) I cannot understand the closing of perfectly sound working power stations; especially when the alternatives seem to be sub-optimal technologies like solar and wind with extension cords to neighbouring countries.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Taylor

I think she is terrible, the things she has done to Germany and Europe are inexcusable. When I read about her for some reason the prurient word Merkin appears – but she was not silly and pointless, she was Machiavellian and Destructive…She is like Biden if he was not an idiot, but was clever, cold, and calculating.

James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Well said. I tried to post something similar, but what is with the censorship? It was immediately flagged–too soon for anyone to have read it. Is the use of the word “invaders” now forbidden here?

James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

Is there a list of words that automatically trigger flagging and therefore delay? Evil? Vile? Odious? (Odious was used in the article!).
Can anyone help me crack this code?

stephen archer
stephen archer
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

probably, I used the word ”knee-jerk” in relation to reaction and the comment was flagged with the ”er” replaced by ”**”. Let’s see if this gets flagged too. Anyway,it’s safe to say there probably is a word list.

stephen archer
stephen archer
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

My response to you was flagged!

Last edited 2 years ago by stephen archer
James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago
Reply to  stephen archer

Thanks. Wow! What about free speech, free thought? Even here? Sometimes I have quoted back from the article and been flagged. What’s up with that?
If the article uses a curse word–the article–am I not allowed to quote it, w/o being flagged for hours or days?
Please, UnHerd, deal with this!

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

Send them an email. I have many times. They do respond.

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

It’s most likely a computer program. I’m going yo try Scunthorpe for fun.

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
2 years ago

It was blocked and I assume a moderator (human) then releases the non-offnding reply. No conspiracy here.

Justin Clark
Justin Clark
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

similarities with Blair, perhaps

Laura Cattell
Laura Cattell
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Her political compass is diametrically opposed to yours. The German people didn’t have a problem with it.

furma371
furma371
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Taylor

Just dont forget the extensive use of coal plants to secure electric power production. Closing down nuclear power plants in favour of CO2 boosters must have been only a political decision, not a decision determined by scientific common sense. Merkel acted like a conservative politician, coherently opportunistic.

Tony Taylor
Tony Taylor
2 years ago
Reply to  furma371

Countries and states love to boast how they have gone 100% renewable, but wilfully ignore the extension leads connected to neighbours which are connected to coal fired power stations and which supply over 50% of their power needs, and then write that off against the the miraculous accounting trick of carbon offsets. “Don’t point a finger at us; we planted a tree.”

Geoffrey Simon Hicking
Geoffrey Simon Hicking
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Taylor

One day Germany may be buying our micro-reactors. When the Brits, Japanese, French, Indians, and who knows else are building power plants and (hopefully) investing in hydrogen for our vehicles, we’ll have an unbeatable combination.

Compare with Germany’s reliance on glorified windmills.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago

My personal experience is that Germans are reluctant to buy non-German.

Nick Faulks
Nick Faulks
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Taylor

How can you be unconcerned about the danger of a tsunami overwhelming Munich?

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Taylor

I worked for the CEGB and I cannot understand closing coal power stations. They are the cheapest source of electricity and there is no human caused climate change caused by releasing CO2. It isn’t just Merkel, the entire western political class is insane, perhaps with the exception of Trump who did at least understand the importance of energy independence and cheap energy.

Michael Askew
Michael Askew
2 years ago

The response to a nuclear disaster on the geologically active Pacific rim was to close carbon-neutral nuclear power stations in geologically stable Germany, and to depend on Russia for gas supply. What could possibly go wrong?

James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago

Second worst German Chancellor ever! So glad Mutti “Wir Schaffen das!” Merkel will be tossed on the dustbin of history, though I fear Olaf is just as bad if not worse. I never understood how the German people seemed–for a time–to actually like her and look to her for leadership. She was and is vile, disgusting, and evil.
But it’s also nice to have balanced reporting:
“The massive influx of refugees was the boost the odious, far-right AfD had been waiting for. Largely thanks to Merkel’s shambolic immigration policy, the party is now a permanent fixture of German politics and commands a majority in two eastern states.”
How even-handed. Odious, far-right AfD? Is everyone who didn’t want a million invaders automatically odious? Automatically far right? And why is their position on immigration “far right?” Far from what? If you wish to preserve Germany’s culture and heritage, and if you don’t wish to have your picture taken with a Syrian, why is that odious? Why is that far right?
Hard left authors like this must be called out and the terms of the debate must be re-framed. Maurice Frank is like Goebbels–spreading propaganda. Although he appears not to be a huge fan of Merkel, it seems that this is for the wrong reasons, and his demonization of a very reasonable position–Nein to millions of invaders and the economic and social costs they bring is wrong and must be called out.

Paul Smithson
Paul Smithson
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

I did notice it myself. This obsession with calling anything that even remotely disagrees with ‘the given narrative’ far-right. This means that the term far-right now includes labour voters who are against the vaccine, liberal voters who have concerns about housing needs for local people, and moderate tories who are worried about how to handle daily channel crossings by people who may or may not be genuine asylum seekers. If we carry on at this rate everyone apart from Antifa members will be classed as far-right, which is ironic as Antifa seem to be the most fascist, anti-liberal, anti-freedom organisation around.

James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

Parents in the US who speak at school board meetings against racial hatred.
Sorry, mate, they’re terrorists, not far right…..

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

I thought that by using the word “odious” he was being very restrained.

Julie Blinde
Julie Blinde
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

To her credit, she didn’t use the kind of invective that you see in some comments here

James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago
Reply to  Julie Blinde

Invective has a place when politicians choose tyranny and attempt–and often succeed–in cowing people, taking away their rights, sending them to internment camps–see Freddie’s interview on Australia’s Corona measures. Actually, it’s wrong to call them “Corona measures,”–it is more accurate to describe them as a punitive system for those who cross the line–in the case of the camps–literally the line, as we saw in the video.
Ironically, the age of AIDS raised these very issues and my legal training in a hard left law school essentially generated universal resistance to the kind of measures the hard left loves today.
The use of “invective” is mild compared with the problem, and I will continue to use it. Even if you disagree, there should be something refreshing about some who says “I said it. I meant it. I stand behind it.”

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

Mocking condescension isn’t persuasive either.

Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

Merkel was the worst German Chancellor after WWII. Although when she first ran for Chancellor, nobody really knew what she was up to. She even announced, that she would try a flat tax system. No more expensive tax lawyers were needed, and everybody basically could figure out their tax return on a paper napkin. She immediately dropped this idea like a hot potato as the whole left leaning German MSM accused her of becoming an “extreme right wing” Thatcherite Libertarian
 Once she was elected, you just needed to read the German MSM newspapers and watch State TV, and you could figure out her future policies. .
Merkel also suddenly became the main bail-out supporter of Southern Europe in her government, overstepping every principle and red lines she had set herself. Instead of trying to reform the Euro, she pronounced “there is NO ALTERNATIVE”, which was the main reason for a few economic professors and Industrialists to establish a new political party, the “odious far right” AfD. The more Merkel moved to the left, the more the AfD went to the right, finally becoming a patriotic/ anti-migration/ anti-Green alternative to Merkel’s policies and not much different from the Brexit Party.
In her coalitions, she usually destroyed her coalition partner, including her Sister Party in the South, the CSU. The CSU wanted much tougher policies on migration, and there was a point when the UNION of CDU/CSU nearly split. But Merkel is the master of Machiavellian Power Politics, assuring the CSU, that she would find a solution on a “higher” level at the next meeting with the EU. In Germany the best way to crush decent is to declare somebody to be a bad European. Merkel’s coup de grace was making the leader of CSU her Home Secretary, who later became a close ally. In the last election CSU lost heavily in Bavaria.
It looks that Germany will now be treading in Merkel’s left/green foot steps, and this time the third party in the coalition, the FDP (Free Market Liberal), will either get crushed and disappear in the next election, or the government is going to fall apart in a short time. Whatever happens the centre of Europe will be in turmoil.

Last edited 2 years ago by Stephanie Surface
James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago

Thank you for this excellent post, providing details where I provided only generalities. Obviously the story gets worse the more specific you get.
Well done, you!

Mathilda Eklund
Mathilda Eklund
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

Only thing that’s “vile, disgusting, and evil” here is how you speak about women James.

James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago

I’m not speaking about women, I’m speaking about the former German Chancellor, the current NZ PM. I’ll also denigrate that great business leader Elizabeth Holmes (massive fraudster), and Ghislane Maxwell (serial predator of underage girls).
This has nothing to do with them being women. Grow up!

Last edited 2 years ago by James Joyce
Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago

I’m a woman and I understood perfectly James’ criticism was of an individual not a gender. Why didn’t you?

James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

Thank you for your rational post. You can agree or disagree with me–fair play–but to suggest that it is because of gender is just wrong. Not what I’m about, and thank you for recognising this.

Douglas McNeish
Douglas McNeish
2 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

Mathilda suffers from misandry cloaked as feminism.

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
2 years ago

Europhiles always seem to look to Merkel and Germany as the paragon of EU solidarity and good neighbourliness, yet in reality Germany under her leadership has always been quite the most selfish nation in the bloc.
Despite EU-enthusiasts always referencing Germany’s higher net contribution to the coffers than the UK’s, in fact German industry has benefitted most from EU spending by the improved links to its export market and to its supply chains. Thus all payments into the EU are to Germany’s direct advantage. The UK’s were not at all to their own advantage.
Switching to the Euro created and maintained a permanent and inequitable price advantage for German exports, leading to decades of massive trade surpluses – which in turn damaged other EZ economies. Not that this imbalance has ever made the Germans feel as though they should “level the playing field” by helping out the club med countries. Despite the fact that it is their economic successes that have impoverished their neighbours.
Europhiles who claim to be environmentalists point to Germany’s decision to phase out Nuclear power as a positive – seemingly ignoring that nuclear is the only viable carbon neutral power source. Mutti Merkel is hailed as the “Climate Chancellor” even whilst presiding over a country that is Europe’s biggest producer and user of coal – and “brown coal” at that, the worst polluting source. It comes as no surprise that Germany is by far the greatest polluter in the EU, … and let’s not forget “Dieselgate”.
And what of EU solidarity when it comes to their neighbour to the east – an increasingly belligerent Russia? Several EU member states (Germany most particularly) are compromised in their dealings by their dependence on Russian gas and oil with the rather obvious consequence that they can be held to ransom far more effectively by Mr Putin than the EU could ever affect the Kremlin through trade sanctions. The Nord Stream pipeline deals, which fly in the face of much opposition from eastern EU member states and the US, are only possible because Germany believes them to be in their own interest – and we should by now realise that EU solidarity counts for nothing when set against German interests.
The German Govt’s behaviour in the first weeks of supposed “vaccine nationalism” were the worst of all the EU member states. Openly briefing against AstraZeneca and the UK Govt. Claiming that EU solidarity was paramount and that they “rejected the logic of first-come first-serve,” whilst in reality, the Germans, true to form, had got their towel on the sun-lounger ahead of their fellow EU “Club” members by secretly purchasing 70 million Pfizer doses – thus once again proving EU solidarity is a myth, something that is much spoken of but always evaporates in the face of German self-interest.
The German government has been lobbying hard for the European Commission to freeze funding for any EU member state that did not adhere to bloc’s edicts regarding the rule of law. Yet their own courts managed to challenge ECJ paramountcy without attracting any of the opprobrium heaped on Poland and Hungary, never mind the threats of Brussels-led retaliation and punishment.
ï»żUnder Frau Merkel, Germany has constantly ignored their balance of payments position with the rest of the world – the EU mandates a 6% maximum. Germany has benefitted enormously from breaking this rule many times over – yet seemingly Brussels had little problem with it. Their external surplus has been a source of pride for Frau Merkel’s government, at the same time that weaker member states of the Eurozone were being forced to reduce deficits and become more competitive in relation to their Northern European neighbours. Once again Germany were allowed to flout all the rules whilst the financially weaker members of the “club” – Greece, Italy, Spain, Poland, Spain – were punished, or threatened with sanctions, for even coming close to breaking EU rules.
I can’t find the most up to date figures but in 2019 the German was facing 74 infringement proceedings for failing to convert EU rules into German law. “We’re no longer the model pupil – we’re bottom of the class,” noted Green Party politician Markus Tressel – it was only his request for information that brought it to light.
Of course, while Brussels was always unlikely to castigate Germany for breaking rules, they suffered no such reticence when insisting to UK Brexit negotiators that the EU is “a rules based club and those rules cannot even be up for negotiation let alone broken”.
There is a tendency among leftist admirers to extol the virtues of their preferred leaders for what they represent, rather than what they actually did, or how the world benefitted from their time in office. An objective review of Merkel’s time in office would make for pretty unflattering reading, as would Obama’s – yet both are held up as great statesmen of our time, having done remarkably little to earn such accolades.

Last edited 2 years ago by Paddy Taylor
Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

There is a tendency among leftist admirers to extol the virtues of their preferred leaders for what they represent, rather than what they actually did, or how the world benefitted from their time in office.
This is a very astute point, but I would take it a little further – it’s not a fault of the left alone, we can all be guilty of this

Ingrid Nozahic
Ingrid Nozahic
2 years ago

Yes it is a superb point

Douglas McNeish
Douglas McNeish
2 years ago

All can be guilty of this, but in the era of leftist identity politics, ticking boxes becomes paramount, with the inevitable result that form is valued over function.

stephen archer
stephen archer
2 years ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

For me, your first sentence sums it up. The EU solidarity is exemplified by the Franco German block in the driving seat, setting out the overall agenda while the rest just blindly obey and Brussels/Strasbourg just rubber stamps the details. That’s at least the impression I have. A proper functioning EU would see Germany put in its place by the majority of the other nations or would at least temper Germany’s/France’s grand plans. I know this will however never happen. Apart from uncontrolled immigration with the blatant misuse of the asylum system her biggest legacy to future European stability and crises is the insane energy policies and dependence on Russian gas. This could even start to play out in the next few weeks if Putin feels the inclination, and if Europe is successively or immediately plunged into turmoil then she will be second only to Adolf in her legacy to the continent.

Last edited 2 years ago by stephen archer
Karl Francis
Karl Francis
2 years ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Good last paragraph, so true.

Alexei A
Alexei A
2 years ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

With her recent recommendation for compulsory vaccination, Merkel also blatantly disregarded not only the Nuremberg Code but also the Council of Europe’s Resolution 2361 on Covid vaccines passed in January 2021 :
7.3.1 ensure that citizens are informed that the vaccination is not mandatory and that no one is under political, social or other pressure to be vaccinated if they do not wish to do so; and
7.3.2 ensure that no one is discriminated against for not having been vaccinated.
As such, I would suggest she has either learned nothing from her predecessors, or simply, as a WEF nominated Global Leader, is simply following instructions.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
2 years ago

As the article indirectly points out though, her awful decision making is not her own thinking
It is, rather, a reflection of the soft, wooly headed, feelz based group that now dominate western media and politics.

This is the group of 20-40 year old educated imbeciles that believes in
– “Minimum wage” because they are too stupid to realise socialist ideas always fail and minimum wages work agau st the really poor
– “closing nuclear plants” even when safe and far cleaner in terms of emissions than any other technology
– while simultaneously “tackling climate change”
– Believe in “marriage equality”, while ignoring the fact that every society created marriage not as a license to sleep together but to impose responsibility for children (and hence by definition primarily a heterosexual duty, not a right)
– “Opening thr country to over one million refugees from the wars of the Middle East”

Last edited 2 years ago by Samir Iker
Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
2 years ago

I stopped reading at the words “far-right”. That may sound shallow but really I am physically sick of journalists dragging out that bogeyman when they’re actually talking about positions and policies which would not have been considered other than common sensical even a decade ago. Warning to all Unherd and other writers — stop calling people “far-right”; it isn’t working.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago

They *still* sound commonsensical

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
2 years ago

yes–is it just laziness to use a ‘shorthand’ that is now meaningless. More poor journalism – a bit more work required to create better labels for rapidly shifting political positions etc

Rob Britton
Rob Britton
2 years ago

Never can a political leader, in a democracy, have reigned for so long and achieved so little that is positive.

JP Martin
JP Martin
2 years ago
Reply to  Rob Britton

Her main achievement was prolonging her tenure by preventing other talent from rising.

J Bryant
J Bryant
2 years ago

Perhaps that’s why she was synonymous with dithering, sitting on the fence and remaining quiet on key issues — so much so that a neologism was spawned: merkeln, the Langenscheidt dictionary’s 2015 word of the year. “To Merkel” is defined as “to do nothing, make no decisions, issue no statements”.
I recently saw a video on the New Culture Forum featuring Julie Burchill plugging her latest book about woke culture. She commented that now is a difficult time for ordinary people who just want to be left alone and get on with their lives.
I suspect Merkel was so popular because she was, in a way, the avatar of such ordinary people who hoped all the crises would resolve themselves if only we just ignore them and smile in a polite, non-committal way.
She presided over two decades of unprecedented change and upheaval in the world, from financial crises, refugee crises, and social turmoil. She dithered, she prevaricated, and like so many ordinary and polite people she let the extremists rant at each other, expressed mild dismay, and hoped it would all eventually work itself out. Then she acted when she really had to.
But now she’s gone. The new coalition government appears ready to implement some highly progressive policies, even permitting high numbers of refugees to enter the country. Polite denial is no longer the order of the day and Germans will have to live with the policies they voted for. Maybe that will be the undoing of those policies and the progressives who promote them.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
2 years ago

I’ll take a “blustering male populist” over the terrifying kakistocracy running the globe into civilizational destruction we’ve currently got.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago

Me too.

Paul Smithson
Paul Smithson
2 years ago

‘Kakistocracy’! What a brilliant word. Captures the zeitgeist of the 2020s perfectly.

Bruno Lucy
Bruno Lucy
2 years ago

« To Merkel” is defined as “to do nothing, make no decisions, issue no statements”. Â»
How could the world fall for her ??’ beyond comprehension. What irks me as a Frenchman is that she is credited for having solved the 2008 financial crisis when in truth she and SchaĂŒble her then finance minister, were just willing to ditch Greece from the EU. We can all be thankful to Nicolas Sarkozy, ( not exactly my friend but credit Cesar of what’s due to him, ) that this didn’t happen. Ask the Greeks what they think of Merkel

.some very graphic words might come in reply.
And where would we be today when the Greeks are holding the fort against migrants

same for Spain and Italy, all 3 countries then labelled as PIGS.
She has done exactly what Germans like best

.nothing
.zilch
.nada
..allowing them to wallow in their ongoing guilt feelings regarding the last war. I can remember, absolutely stunned, watching German news and seeing a young girl in her early 20 ÂŽs handing Gummie BĂ€rchen to stunned young Syrians

. or wherever they were from
.men saying « after what we Germans have done during the war
..etc Â»
I can also remember how some of those guys were behaving at Lindau’s station 

luckily, the woman at the newsstand would have none of it.
My family really suffered from the 2 wars, my mother and her sister spending 2 years in concentration camps for having emulated Sophie Scholl in France 

nevertheless

never in my family was a word of hatred against the Germans pronounced, my nannies were all Germans and I was sent to Germany to study. best time of my life and there is this feeling of coming home every time I go there.
To see these surreal scenes at Munich Central station was baffling. What was even more baffling was the wake up call in Cologne on New Year’s Eve where young Middle East men went on an abuse rampage against women. So

thank you Merkel.
it didn’t stop there

she wanted every European country to take its share of those refugees 

having consulted no one in the first place. We already had Calais, 12 millions North Africans immigrants on top of it, more than a handful. Thank you but no thank you.
To call her Mutti was really amazing

she indeed made the AFD’s bed with antisemitism, local and imported sky rocketing.
Good riddance Merkel



Last edited 2 years ago by Bruno Lucy
Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  Bruno Lucy

Well said. The fact that Cologne resulted in almost no real action was stupefying to me. As if German women were sacrificial lambs on the altar of diversity. It makes me sick.

James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago
Reply to  Bruno Lucy

There is something on YouTube called Badass Dutch girl speaks which addresses this very point and is well worth watching. HARESHARESHARE
https://youtu.be/V67r48_4Ol4

AC Harper
AC Harper
2 years ago

Saint Obama recognises Saint Merkel. A political ‘sainthood’ that signifies little. After all Trump (no saint he) followed Obama.
People do like top politicians that don’t interfere with their lives too much, but the world is in a difficult place and other countries can affect a comfortable Germany. The sainthood of Saint Merkel will only last so long.

Paul Smithson
Paul Smithson
2 years ago
Reply to  AC Harper

You can add to that Saint Tony, Saint Hillary and Saint Jacinda. There seems to be a common theme with the politicians who are put on pedestals.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

A messiah complex?

Paul Smithson
Paul Smithson
2 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

That is an excellent description Cheryl.

James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago
Reply to  AC Harper

I think there is a good comparison to be made with Obama. Like Merkel, he was so “other,” so weird in background, trying so hard to be normal. But he was never that. Barack Hussein Obama deserved not the Nobel Peace Prize 15 minutes into his term, but every acting award on the planet, as he convinced the American people–twice–that he was really American, really one of them, really a moderate. He is none of these things. Mutti invited at least a million “refugees,” mostly scammers in, and Obama legalized maybe 7 million illegal immigrants with his pen, when he repeatedly said he couldn’t do it–he was a president, not a king. Both seem not to believe in the rule of law.
Mutti, like Obama, is also massively different from her fellow citizens: her family fled the BRD for the DDR and she grew up there and seems to retain quite a fondness for it. Nina Hagen, anyone? Her strange accent. Her strange policies. She is simply vile and disgusting, though I fear Olaf and his crew may be worse, if that’s possible.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
2 years ago

the odious, far-right AfD … the party is now a permanent fixture of German politics and commands a majority in two eastern states.

Ugh! Dontcha just hate that democracy thing!

Zorro Tomorrow
Zorro Tomorrow
2 years ago

The Remainers won’t like this with their Audis. Islington won’t like this not sucking up to an ex DDR Frau and nobody else will need reminding that Obama’s blessing is the curse which is being seen in the USA today.

stephan.quentin
stephan.quentin
2 years ago

I am writing this from Germany. Fully agree.Except that geographically it is unlikely the Czech Republic would have been a transit country for the Nordstream pipeline. A quick look at the map will show this. You probably mean Poland and the Baltic Countries

Kiat Huang
Kiat Huang
2 years ago

Lots in there that was unknown to me. A refreshing perspective from the mainstream news versions of saintly Merkel, a reputation that will likely decline as the negative effects of her actions and the consequences of her indecision will emerge more strongly over time.

Even a highlight like persuading Putin to sign a non-binding accord is dubious: Putin makes actions that will favour Russia and I’m pretty sure he won’t consider himself persuaded by Merkel, despite their overlapping background.

I’ve not been a fan of Merkel. There are far better, admirable examples of female leadership.

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
2 years ago

Merkel is the eighth Chancellor to serve since Hitler. She’s just totally undermined the Nuremberg Code and the UN Declaration of Human Rights by denying her citizens the right to bodily autonomy, freedom of association, and freedom of thought by bullying, coercing, cajoling, and harassing her fellow citizens in to accepting an experimental pharmaceutical intervention for which its manufacturers have no liability and which has been approved for emergency use only. So sure, she is no saint. Some would say she’s an international criminal. For this, and this alone, history will not forgive her.

Lest we forget: Article 1 of the Nuremberg Code of 1947 states, in relation to medical experiments: “The person involved [participant in the experiment] should
 be able to exercise free power of choice, without the intervention of any element of force, fraud, deceit, duress, overreaching, or other ulterior form of constraint or coercion.”

How low must we sink before enough of us wake up and do something about this?

Laura Cattell
Laura Cattell
2 years ago

Sixteen years and eleven days in office – that’s a very long time for a politician to be in office who most people commenting here think was terrible. And she didn’t even lose an election. Plus her successor is more to the left than she was. The German people clearly have a different viewpoint.

Bruno Lucy
Bruno Lucy
2 years ago
Reply to  Laura Cattell

The German people are slightly neurotic

cuz to vote for a coalition that binds parties so far apart like SPD
..GrĂŒne
..and finally FDP who has finally decided to be part of a government and already criticises the Corona measure

is going to be fun to watch

especially with Karl Lauterbach just appointed Health minister “ There will be no lockdown down

but then again
..I cannot promise there won’t be any “ Last night on Anne Will show.
That s what I call a spiffing start :)))

hugh bennett
hugh bennett
2 years ago
Reply to  Laura Cattell

The German people are still hobbled by their guilt complex. No country in Europe has more neighbours than Germany. It shares its border with nine countries, eight of which are European Union, I think that is correct.
Germany, the German State is plagued by a battle between two demons the ghost of WW11 and the instinctive Teutonic desire for dominance and control as it looks around itself.
That is why we see unusual weaknesses in German policy like “planting tress” but accepted Russian gas. And keeping one leader in power for too long.
And yet – Germany is still and always will be the EU’s centre of gravity – its most influential country. Some say the EU is a Franco-German Axis as if they are equal partners, but France always has been the poodle on a short leash. In economic terms the EU and its forebears really was a Fourth Reich.
And another twist borne of Germanies identity and guilt struggles –
For too long the US has subsidised western Europe and thus stunted European development in areas like foreign policy/defence. So Germany poured its gains into keeping its citizens happy and passive.
If the European Union wants to be a player, not a plaything, on the international stage, it needs to step up on foreign policy. Maybe it hasn`t because the cracks will be exposed and the edifice start to shake because German self interest will become ever evident and over-powering.
And now because of all this dithering, guilt tripping, false love-ins and misguided aims, plus 12 months of totally idiotic home and foreign policy decisions by the internally combusting State that is the USA, things are coming to a head.
Across the eastern cold steppes comes a creaking mechanical sound of Russian tanks, god forbid.

Kerie Receveur
Kerie Receveur
2 years ago

She was always ghastly.

Bruno Lucy
Bruno Lucy
2 years ago

Sadly for Europe

right in the money

Justin Clark
Justin Clark
2 years ago

superb article, very insightful – thanks

Peter Shaw
Peter Shaw
2 years ago

I think she may have inadvertently tipped the scales in the Brexit referendum and for that one aspect of her influence, I’m grateful.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
2 years ago

Psychopaths have no emotions. They look to others to give them a guide as to what emotions they should imitate.

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
2 years ago

Obama was thinking of himself when he made that comment. I’m with Thomas Sowell – Obama knocked Carter off the worst president slot. Biden has now raised Obama off the bottom slot.

Julie Kemp
Julie Kemp
2 years ago

Strikes me as fairly ‘accurate’. It’s the West’s best for mediocrity not the ‘middle way’. No wonder we’ve sunk as a ‘civilisation’ despite the best efforts of Sir Francis Bacon/Viscount St Albans of Verulam/aka ‘Shakespeare’ and so many others like him, who like him, who loved him. However there they are; here they are; listen, digest and revel in the elevation of being a Real Human Being.

Last edited 2 years ago by Julie Kemp
Allister Wilson
Allister Wilson
2 years ago

Outstanding article and interesting comments. One might also add that her lack of vision led to Germany becoming an underdeveloped country in the digital age, in its infrastructure, in its educational system and even in its outdated part of the federal structure of the German states.

Michael Chambers
Michael Chambers
2 years ago

If we had leaders with half of the calibre of Merkel, we would be a very lucky country and much better positioned to deal with the huge array of deepening problems we have now.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago

Oh no! I thought, when I saw this article. I know just how the commenters will respond.
I have just read through a full 59 comments, and found only one person defending Merkel (Laura Cattell) in two short comments.
So I was dead right. Spot on! The usual Facebookey-Twittering pile-on: 57 comments dishing out hatred, loathing and contempt, unqualified condemnation and abuse of Dr Merkel‘s person. Squeals and complaints about invective being censored by Unherd. Criticism of others’ mocking condescension proffered by the undisputed mistress of mocking condescension in these comment spaces. Denial of anti-female prejudice by yet more ignorant men quite unconscious of the way their prejudice manifests. Cherry-picking of policies to single out some defects, then jumping from this selective criticism to outright denunciation of all Merkel policy, or worse, supposed lack of any policy.
I searched in vain for any comment offering original thinking pro or anti Chancellor Merkel’s time in office. Nothing here that I hadn’t heard many times before.
But everything insistently, furiously, consistently negative.
That says everything about the type of reader Unherd is attracting. Is this deliberate policy? Yes, I have concluded it is. By the selection of this article to publish on Dr Merkel’s departure from office, Unherd displays, not “giving a voice to the unheard”, but crude manipulation of clickbait to draw people in and increase circulation and profits.
Unherd could have done something unusual, and looked for, say, a positive article which explored a less well known aspect of Dr Merkel’s chancellorship. Or it could have chosen a piece particularly incisive and well written.
But it didn’t.

Kiat Huang
Kiat Huang
2 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

Why would an article offering a critical view of Merkel (or any other politician often praised by mainstream media) be so problematic for you?

I was in Belgium at the time Merkel made the very public welcome to all migrants (refugees or economic) attempting to get to Europe via the Balkans. It was a stupid, unilateral decision by Merkel when it should have been joint EU decision. She thought little of the lasting negative impact on fellow EU nations. It changed my previously neutral opinion about her

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  Kiat Huang

Why would an article offering a critical view of Merkel (or any other politician often praised by mainstream media) be so problematic for you?
One has to take account of context. I have had no objection in the past to thoughtful, well documented, objective criticisms of Chancellor Merkel’s performance. That’s how I was able to say here that I had read nothing in the 57 uniformly negative comments with which I had not previously been familiar.
But this is now, not the past: it is the occasion of Chancellor Merkel’s departure from office.
It is customary on such an occasion to give a reasoned, careful, balanced analysis of the politician’s achievements and failures. A valedictory speech, if you like. But this article does not do that. Rather, it offers an unoriginal, condensed selection of everything negative one could find to say about Dr Merkel. But we’ve heard it all before. So why do it?
The article thus breaks with convention: it is discourteous to the outgoing chancellor. It exhibits bad manners. It is best described as churlish. It is offensive to public good taste.
And in selecting it for publication on this occasion, Unherd‘s editorial department itself displays just those characteristics.
***
And re the specific instance you raise: Chancellor Merkel’s decision to accept refugees was indeed unilateral. But one could argue that the situation was urgent; it presented no time for the type of extended, drawn-out consultation the EU necessitates. Dr Merkel had to make an on-the-spot decision.
Her decision has to be seen in the light of the high-level demands of pan-European politics at the time. It was a balancer to the hate-filled racist growling of the UK dog-press underbelly. It demonstrated that a positive alternative was possible. And in so doing, it struck a major blow for peace and goodwill. In other words, it made a striking contribution towards co-inhabitIng a positive world future.
This decision of the Chancellor’s was not stupid, but far-sighted. It took great moral courage, a good heart in the right place, a clear-sighted practical public ethics, and a steely will.
And note: history has proved the German Chancellor right. By and large, and notwithstanding the subsequent New Year failed-Islamic group-grope of women by some ignorant incoming young men, the experiment has proved successful. The overwhelming majority of the migrants is now successfully integrated and making positive contributions to German and European society.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
2 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

So you don’t like ill-considered, self-unaware, invective-filled rants?

Norman Powers
Norman Powers
2 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

Denial of anti-female prejudice by yet more ignorant men quite unconscious of the way their prejudice manifests

I think this “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” mentality is pretty misandrist, personally. Let me guess – somehow you don’t find male criticism of Margaret Thatcher and her policies to be actually anti-female prejudice in disguise?
As for a positive article about Merkel, did you not read this one? The point it starts with is that if you read stuff outside of Unherd then it’s been overwhelmingly positive and flattering for years, yet, when you drill into the detail there’s actually very little substance behind the praise. The whole point of Unherd existing is to present such counter-narrative takes. If we want to read stuff about how wonderful Merkel was there are tons of people offering such commentary, like, for instance, former presidents of the USA.
But hey, as you’re here, why not offer your own less-well known examples of wonderful things Dr Merkel has done? After all, by definition what you’re asking for is hard to provide because it’s less well known.

Last edited 2 years ago by Norman Powers
Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  Norman Powers

I think this “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” mentality is pretty misandrist, personally. Let me guess – somehow you don’t find male criticism of Margaret Thatcher and her policies to be actually anti-female prejudice in disguise?
Correct. All criticism of Prime Minister Thatcher was more than justified, regardless of whether that criticism came from men or women. She was a grocer’s daughter with bad economic policies which destroyed half a nation. She had to be thrown out.
But much criticism of Chancellor Merkel has been unjustified and came from men and can be put down to misogyny. She is a pastor’s daughter with good morality who saved half a nation. She knew that knowing when it’s your time to go is a requirement of good statesmanship.
There is a genuine difference between these two cases.
My position cannot accurately be called misandrist, since I do not hate all men just because they are men. I actually love and admire a goodly proportion of men. But I hate those men who hate women just because they are women.
If you read the article with your feelings, you can feel the pulse-beat of callow male impatience behind much of the criticism—something like: “What is this stupid dithering nuff-nuff idiot of a woman doing trying to run a country? KĂŒche, Kinder und Kirche that’s where they belong! Why, she never does anything! Not like me, I’d know how to show them
” At this point, the male member starts to get really excited inside its jocks.

Norman Powers
Norman Powers
2 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

To sum up your beliefs: when a conservative woman is criticised for her politics, that’s right and proper. When a left wing woman is criticised for her politics that’s actually disguised misogyny and immoral. Well, full points for not trying to hide your blatant ideological inconsistency at least.
Obviously nobody is going to take your claims of misogyny seriously though – not for the first time we learn to ignore this word because it never actually means hatred of women. It’s always just a left wing talking point.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  Norman Powers

Er, I was not talking about a leftwing vs. a rightwing woman.
I was comparing two rightwing women: Thatcher and Merkel.
I was contrasting Thatcher’s brutal inhumane materialist economics (grocer’s daughter) with Merkel’s ethical conservative economics (pastor’s daughter).
My criticism came from a progressive spiritual point of view, not an ideological left/right political view.
Within that framework, I made a careful, considered point that a lot of the criticism of Merkel’s performance had come from callow, jejune young males whose gender, youth and inexperience of life had meant they failed to understand where Merkel was coming from (they misinterpreted her truly exceptional peacemaking capabilities as vacillation and dithering). I said this had to be seen as male sexism.
I think you need to consider my point about misogyny more carefully than simply writing it off as leftwing ranting.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  Norman Powers

The point it starts with is that if you read stuff outside of Unherd then it’s been overwhelmingly positive and flattering for years, yet, when you drill into the detail there’s actually very little substance behind the praise. The whole point of Unherd existing is to present such counter-narrative takes.
I have to disagree with you here. To be “unheard” is not at all the same thing as having a “counter-narrative take”.
That is precisely my gripe with Unherd‘s de facto interpretation of its stated policy. It seems to believe that its mission is essentially negative: to counter everything. So if most people love Merkel, it has to smash into her.
To be unheard, on the contrary, may be a result of trying to offer a deeper analysis in a publishing environment attuned to superficiality. Nothing “counter” in that. More a broadening and deepening of a prevailing narrative. Very positive.
Or one may be unheard if one is trying to present an approach to an issue that is so unusual no one has hitherto thought of it. It falls outside the prevailing worldview and so goes unheard. There is nothing “counter” in that either. Most real progress starts with something entirely new which is resisted initially.
Yet again, one may remain unheard if one is crazy, unbalanced, mentally ill, and has lost touch with reality. Views coming from such quarters should remain unheard on platforms hosting serious public discussion.
We are currently having great problems in attaining what is called “balance”, where what is actually false equivalence is mistaken for it. Misguided thinking has allowed off-the-planet lunatic ravings, as well as cold-blooded, deliberately evil lies, to be included in such public discussion, with disastrous effects. Any attempt to correct this counter-factual non-sense is met with wrong-headed accusations of censorship. Speaker’s corners, and preacher’s platforms, are there for that stuff. It has no place in parliaments or serious media purporting to reliably inform and educate.
To sum up: “counter-narrative takes” are based in bipolar thinking, which is no longer adequate to meet the challenges of our age. It is no accident that bipolar disease now runs rife in our society. Multi-narrative takes are required. Multi-level takes are needed. I think the buzz word is “nuanced”—nuanced takes are a must. And it does make a difference whether the positive is there in balance with the negative, if our society is not to be utterly destroyed.
To come back to your specific example: a very good case can be made that what the author of the article regards as lack of substance in Chancellor Merkel’s performance, is in fact a manifestation of an extraordinarily high level of capability which the author has been unable to comprehend. In a word, he has misunderstood exceptionally successful peacemaking as weakness and vacillation, and his unexamined sexism shows through.