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WSJ: "In Berlin, Obama's Becoming Just Another Bush"

Chancellor Merkel uses her opposition to Obama's financial policies to campaign for reelections, writes Malte Lehming from the German Tagesspiegel.

According to Lehming, Angela Merkel is following Gerhard Schroeder's anti-Iraq war strategy, but implements it in a more sophisticated way:

Is the financial crisis for Angela Merkel what the Iraq war was for Gerhard Schröder -- namely, a reason to seriously strain Germany's relationship with the U.S.? One need not answer with an unconditional "yes" to be very concerned. (...)

There's no question, Mrs. Merkel has good substantive arguments on her side. Mr. Schröder had some as well when he opposed George W. Bush before and during the Iraq war. Nevertheless, Americans and the German opposition -- namely, Mrs. Merkel's Christian Democratic Union -- accused Mr. Schröder of dishonesty. After all, his antiwar views were also motivated by electoral strategy and were not entirely free of general anti-Americanism.

But come to think of it, isn't Mrs. Merkel, too, campaigning this year? Her defiant self-assuredness in dealing with Washington may be as popular in Germany as Mr. Schröder's antiwar stance was. The difference between the two chancellors is that Mrs. Merkel's way of formulating her position is not aggressive, but subversive. When she defends her financial policies, she likes to remark with a wink that we shouldn't forget where the crisis began. Everyone knows which country she means.

I find the author's argument fascinating, but exaggerated or just wrong, since I have not noticed that "wink." Exaggeration is always a good method, if you would like to get attention and a land an op-ed in a foreign paper. The Wall Street Journal published his op-ed.


Moreover, a recent survey indicates that Germans look to Obama rather than Merkel in this financial crisis:

80 percent believe that the US president has an important role in finding a solution to the economic and financial crisis, compared to 58 percent looking to Angela Merkel and 55 percent to the EU. According to a survey contracted by German news program “Tagesthemen” and WELT, nearly half (48 percent) of the Germans who responded expected nothing to come of the G20 summit in London.

It seems that people are convinced that the U.S.A. is on the right track with Obama. 82 percent are already looking forward to the U.S. president’s next visit to Germany. This high degree of trust could also reflect the widespread approval of Obama’s stimulus program thus far. According to the survey, Germans are actually predominantly supportive as far as credit-based stimulus packages go. 66 percent believe such packages are important in boosting economies worldwide, while an even higher proportion (79 percent) are in favour of programs that also serve environmental and climate protection. The calls of Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy for tightened regulation of the financial market are also favoured by the majority of Germans. 90 percent of those surveyed want to see the control of the international finance markets become a reality.

What do you think of the Wall Street Journal op-ed and Chancellor Merkel's policies and statements?

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David on :

I don't know what Lehming was smoking, but he is completely wrong about Obama's reception in Europe. Virtually every German media report I've read stressed the warm personal relations between President Obama and Chancellor Merkel. One columnist even wrote that it was the first time he's seen her smile in public. And the crowds in Prague were big and enthusiastic. Obama remains very popular in Europe and at home. It would not be good politics for Merkel to distance herself too much from him, especially since her opponent - Frank Steinmeier - is a huge Obama supporter. As for the stimulus - let's see if her reticence remains popular as more Germans fall into unemployment. Again, her opponents on the left are calling for much more aggressive actions.

Zyme on :

He has already managed to upset the CSU and alienate a good deal of the CDU by his statements that Turkey should become a member of the EU. Meddling in interior affairs is nowhere taken lightly.

David on :

"He has already managed to upset the CSU" Given the virulent xenophobia of the CSU, I'd say that's a good thing.

Zyme on :

You can bet on the fact that not only the parties are upset. In this rare case, they actually represent the stance of their respective electorates. Xenophobia or not, he meddled in European affairs.

David on :

Sorry, Zyme, but I can't find too many commentaries in the German press accusing President Obama of "meddling". BTW, the SPD supports Obama on admitting Turkey, and even some in the CDU are open to the idea: "Der CDU-Außenpolitiker Rupert Polenz stellte sich jedoch gegen diese offizielle Linie seiner Partei. Er sagte der „Frankfurter Rundschau“: „Die Türkei verdient eine faire Chance, auch EU-Vollmitglied zu werden.“ Allerdings müssten beide Seiten dafür noch einige Voraussetzungen erfüllen."

Zyme on :

"Sorry, Zyme, but I can't find too many commentaries in the German press accusing President Obama of "meddling". BTW, the SPD supports Obama on admitting Turkey, and even some in the CDU are open to the idea" This is not about whether a party supports or opposes the idea - It is about what the American president thinks who he is! Did you hear voices among Europe's numerous statesmen that like to see Mexico as part of the United States of AMERICA? As regards the meddling - Take a look at "Obama Bashing in Bavaria and Paris": http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,617868,00.html There Posselt from the CSU sharply critizises Obama's "meddling in the internal affairs of Europe". So you think because the CSU is xenophobic its voices are to be neglected? You might be quite wrong in this point, as this is a position almost uniquely shared among conservative voters in the entire country. Should you have ever been to Bavaria, you then surely know what kind of "warm feelings" the people have towards foreigners. The CSU pays close attention to its electorate and represents it very well in this regard, don't you agree? In its election campaign the CDU will find this out very soon as well - or have you forgotten Merkel's position in this matter: All that is in store is a "privileged partnership" for Turkey :D

David on :

Not so sure about the CSU, Zyme. The latest [url=http://www.wahlrecht.de/umfragen/landtage/bayern.htm]polls[/url] show that the party has lost at least 5 percentage points from a year ago. Part of this has to do with Merkel's recent public criticism of Pope Benedict XVI. Beneficiary seems to be the Liberals (FDP).

Don S on :

I have thought of her as 'Madame Nein' for two years now. When earnestly assured that Bush was the sole cause of the rift, I always doubted that was so, and my judgement has been vindicated. Let's be honest. By all outward appearances the US need only take a policy stance (no matter what it is), in order to learn at great length from 90% of German opinion-makers how completely misguided and totally opposite the US government is. I guess it's cheaper and easier than paying for/doing original analysis..... No?

John in Michigan, USA on :

"I have not noticed that 'wink.'" I haven't followed Merkel's statements closely enough to have an opinion on her winking or not...but think back to the beginning of this crisis (or at least, the beginning of the time when people became aware of the crisis). Recall that [url=http://atlanticreview.org/archives/1179-Financial-Crisis-Trans-Atlantic-Sniping.html]Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück described the financial market crisis as "above all an American problem."[/url] See in particular [url=http://atlanticreview.org/archives/1179-Financial-Crisis-Trans-Atlantic-Sniping.html#c16660]comment #10 2008-09-29 15:26 by one Don S[/url]. Also, review the post "[url=http://atlanticreview.org/archives/1175-Social-Welfare-in-Europe-and-North-America.html]Social Welfare in Europe and North America[/url]" As we discussed on those posts, Europe, particularly Germany, had a wake-up call when it realized that in some ways, [i]it was even more leveraged than the US system[/i]! I think the German consensus is still resisting this revelation, and has again resorted to default, irrational anti-Americanism (they were seduced) to explain why Europe made many of the same financial mistakes as America did. I don't know if Merkel is doing the winking, but winking is certainly being done.

John in Michigan, USA on :

Oops... "I think the German consensus" should have been "I think the European consensus" although I suppose Germany is the largest influence on this consensus.

Don S on :

I don't think this particular blind spot is anti-Americanism more than a few percent, John. I think the blind spot is that they are looking at the wrong abstraction. For all the reflexive rhetoric about thinking of themselves as 'Europe' the evidence seems to be that Germans and French are thinking of the problem (or lack thereof) as existing in Germany or France. They look around their own country and think that things perhaps are not so bad because the social safety net is working. The question they aren't asking is how well the safety net is working in the less-prosperous countries, in the new members. Eastern Europe, Ireland, and to a lesser degree the mediterranean members of the EU. The US is no better in a way - I don't think people in the US is really seeing the problems in Mexico and Argentina. But people in the US ARE aware of the pain within the US itself, and the US economy is less dependent upon foreign exports than the German and French economies are. Germany seems to be further along in bailing out their own banks than the US is, the problem again is they seem blinkered by the national borders. Again I would argue that the problems of the Austrian, Swiss, and perhaps even Irish banks are in a very real sense also German problems - because they impact Germany's external markets. I think Germany will discover themselves sitting on acres of BMW's and Mercedes, and only then realize that it's not Germany which needs the stimulus; it's Poland et al.

David on :

Lehming writes: "German finance companies that became entangled in dodgy speculations are seen as weak victims who were seduced, while the clever American seducers who caused the real-estate bubble must now be punished." This is completely false. As I've written, Deutsche Bank has been a key "perpetrator" ("Taeter") in the debacle in terms of aggressively underwriting, packaging and selling the toxic securities (CDOs). As trustee, DB is foreclosing on tens of thousands of American homes. In Ohio, Florida, and California, DB is initiating more foreclosures than any other bank.

John in Michigan, USA on :

"This is completely false." I agree. Do you see evidence that mainstream European (or American) press is paying attention to the criticisms you make? Have your points been incorporated sufficiently into the European (or American) consensus? As a side note, some of those foreclosures are justified, since they represent real estate speculators, landlords, or people who are whining about becoming "second-homeless". Banks routinely foreclose on landlord-owned units without hurting the actual renters one bit. But of course there are real victims as well. So far I've seen no-one on the left nor right who has come up with a good method for telling the difference between a homeowner who is a legitimate victim, and a homeowner or other entity (landlord, developer, etc.) that was acting mostly out of greed.

Marie Claude on :

umm, did someone notice what the black prince Soro said : "Germany, which has been the most reserved about being the deep pocket of the rest of Europe, has recognized that it too has a responsibility toward the new member states." http://www.cnbc.com/id/30069223 http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=anhtw4iBA8c8&refer=home

Pat Patterson on :

The first link to YL's anti-CNN site is infected. Watch out!

Marie Claude on :

Nitendo is making some gödelian propaganda theorems, though their demonstration is too long to be effective, he hasn't yet learnt how to advertise with concise slogans, but with red booklets

Pat Patterson on :

Tsk, still stealing other people's work. http://www.examiner.com/x-1000-DC-Independent-Conservative-Examiner~y2009m3d10-Why-you-shouldnt-care-about-Tibet

ADMIN on :

[b]Dear all Thanks for all your comments! The only acceptable language on this blog is English. Please also use your real names! You are taken much more serious, if you write under your real name. We tolerate some pseudonyms (pen names), but you would need to stick with the name you choose rather than changing it all the time. You may not use the "name" field to insert a political message as some of you did. We will delete such comments next time. Thank you![/b]

Zyme on :

"The only acceptable language on this blog is English." How about French and German?

Marie Claude on :

yes, we are Europeans sacrebleu ! umm I heard that Obama apologised for the Americans speaking only english

Pat Patterson on :

The rumour was that Pres Obama was going to apologize for the Black Death but kept ordering his staff to call it the White Death.

Don S on :

You are a European, Marie? I thought you were French! You really must get out of the habit of speaking French and use English instead. Same comment for the Germans.... ;)

Marie Claude on :

hope you don't confound me with the second life Nitendo character But one never knows, hey, you only speak english :lol:

John in Michigan, USA on :

Comment? There is an island in Second Life called Nintendo. What is the connection?

Marie Claude on :

it's an usurpateur of the Middle Empire

Joe Noory on :

From the [url=http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2003/10/09/percentage_of_non_english_speaking_americans_surges/]Boston Globe[/url]: "WASHINGTON -- Nearly one in five Americans speaks a language other than English at home, the Census Bureau says, an increase of nearly 50 percent during the past decade. Most speak Spanish, followed by Chinese, with Russian rising fast. Some 47 million Americans 5 and older used a language other than English in 2000, the bureau said. That translates into the nearly one in five, compared with roughly one in seven 10 years ago." From a cocked-up AP piece that says the 16% above is [url=http://nhumanities.blogspot.com/2005/09/half-of-europeans-bilingual.html]actually 9%[/url]: "According to an Associated Press article, a recent European Union poll shows that 50% of the citizens in Europe can speak a second language. The country with the highest percentage of citizens who are able to "master a conversation in a second language" is Luxembourg, at 99%. Hungary came in at the bottom of the scale, with 29%." So, since there is no rational reason for anyone to apologize for not being European, and a EUvian cannot travel more than 500 km without being in the territory of another language, I don't see any reason anyone would find people gloating over other cultures' inability to be THEM. Frankly, it isn't the Americans who should be embarassed about that.

Marie Claude on :

I admire your sense of the details, but not your sense of humor

Joerg Wolf on :

Quoting short -- and I mean: short -- paragraphs in German or French once in a while is tolerated, as long as you explain in English what it means. But what I prefer is that we just link to German and French texts.

Don S on :

I think everyone is missing the obvious about the financial crisis; it is not about trans-Atlantic relations. It is much more serious and fundamental than that, and whether the feelings of Americans are hurt, or conversely those of Europeans similarly hurt - matters relatively little. Nor does the failure of most of Europe again to raise their game in Afghanistan matter as much as is being made out - in the short term. That is, it matters a great deal going forward - but it's also old news. I doubt many in the US (apart from those like David) expected any other response - I certainly didn't! What matters is the financial crisis; the fact that much of Europe is sliding into deep crisis. Greece is hovering on the edge of bankruptcy, Ireland, Portugal, Italy are in fiscal shambles, Eastern Europe more of the same but with the added twist that their currencies are cratering against the harder currencies, and as a result of all this the German economy is shrinking at an OECD-forecast rate of 5.3% this year, the worst rich-country figure this side of Japan. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/anatole_kaletsky/article6062204.ece What is worse is that the core Eurozone countries appear to be just waking up to these facts and begun to discuss remedies. Much of German public opinion seem to believe that Obama and the US will somehow magically pull Europe out of it's slump. That won't happen; the US has problems closer to home and it's not strong either. Protectionist sentiment is growing in Congress. Obama has a growing political problem at home; He came to Europe with a number of reasonable requests - but is coming home with empty hands. The US is sending 17,000 troops to Afghanistan, how many is Europe sending? Very few, and those which are going aren't staying for long. A reasonable request the Europe recognize the depth of the crisis and take stronger measures to refloat itself was met with either denunciation or a simple nein. Apparently it's the US' jonb to refloat Eastern Europe, not that of Europe. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/5121615/President-Barack-Obama-is-going-home-with-non-nein-and-no-ringing-in-his-ears.html The results are likely that Obama is on the road to becoming Jimmy Carter I, and Congress taking the bit between it's teeth - expect more 'buy American' legislation. Europe will be 'shocked - shocked!' when that happens.

John in Michigan, USA on :

Don, In general I share your concerns. Danger is looming, although in my judgement it isn't looming quite as close as you feel it is. I can't prove my point, its mostly instinct. But that's the problem with the fear of collapse: the information that is required to prove collapse is imminent, is either not clear, or not available, until after the collapse. The greatest danger I see is a trade war among the G7 or G20. I refuse to speak of the G8 because Russia doesn't qualify. On a side note, "He came to Europe with a number of reasonable requests - but is coming home with empty hands. I have to ask: Do I detect a certain frustration that Obama hasn't made much of a difference to how Europe responds to the US? [url=http://www.thefreedictionary.com/methinks]Methinks[/url] you and the other [url=http://blogs.forbes.com/digitalrules/2009/02/silence-of-the-valley-obamacons.html]Obamacons[/url] sipped too deeply of the [url=http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=drink+the+kool-aid]kool-aid[/url]. (links added for new visitors to this site who may have no idea what that last sentence means)

Don S on :

A 'growing frustration'? No, John. I voted for Obama because I thought he was the best candidate on offer last year. He was without doubt the best of the Democrats (HRC and 'Big Hair' Edwards were not much competition). The GOP is a clapped-out mess at present, not unlike the condition they were in after Nixon in 1976. They need time out of office to work out what they can offer. I never thought that Obama would make everything better with Europe because I never blamed Europe's disaffection and unwillingness to lift a finger on Bush. It wasn't going to change no matter which candidate was elected. The fundamentals haven't changed - it's 'nein' all the time, and smile a lot and hope Obama is too stupid or naive to notice.

Anonymous on :

Don't worry, all this is cinema, Americans like Europeans will be cooked at the same corporation : we'll be all brothers of the transatlantic EU union by 2015 http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=REPORT&reference=A6-2009-0114&language=FR

Marie Claude on :

Anonymouse xxxl is me why is it that anony*** is a spam

Joe Noory on :

MC - what do you base your idea that the US will want to surrender it's national sovereignty to Brussels, outside of Europeans with irrational fantasies of 'ruling the earth' for no rational reason? Or is this just part of the strange 'there will be no conflict if there's one world dictator' trope that emboldened Hitler and Stalin to justify their actions? Is there really a need to submit to having less control over our lives, just on the off-chance that intelligent, non-threatening, and communicative aliens come to visit the earth, and we need one of those 'El Lider del Mundo' types you find in Science Fiction to take them to if they say "take mo to your leader"?

Marie Claude on :

my dear Joe I agree, we shouldn't surrender our national souvereignity, but it appears that the rulers are those who have the financial power, and economical agreements have been/will be progressively set until no western nation can decide for itself what is good for her. I am afraid that Bush, Barroso, Merkel signed the last agreement, that will lead to a complete cooperation, on the 30 of april 2007 in Washington. So the "internationalist" Elites managed to concept their self earnings, and regulations

Joe Noory on :

That's only possible with the dirigiste style of government running businesses' affairs so forcefully in the manner of the present White House's ideas, and those traditional to France and old labour in the UK. Part of this casting you're putting on it is that you permit yourself to believe there is an unidntified "global elite", the stuff of emotional, conspiratorial crazies. Who is that secret club? Government? Industry? Banks?

Marie Claude on :

Joe open your eyes ! who have you in office just right now ? is he qualified for the job ? who put him ahead ? who's make UK Royal bank into bankrupting a few decades ago ? Besides I am not alone to see that some enlightened National Review said it too

John in Michigan, USA on :

Umm... "UK Royal bank" = [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bank_of_England]Bank of England[/url]? Or [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Bank_of_Scotland_Group]Royal Bank of Scotland[/url]? Or [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Rock]Northern Rock[/url]? Is the answer George Soros?? Please give us more clues.

Marie Claude on :

bank of England http://www.americanthinker.com/2008/02/george_soros_and_the_alchemy_o.html http://www.questionsquestions.net/docs04/engdahl-soros.html

John in Michigan, USA on :

MC, I thought you were making a joke about conspiracy theories whey you suggested a US/EU union by 2015. But you think this might actually happen? And if it does happen you are against it, correct? Just checking.

Marie Claude on :

no, I discovered that through different official sources Of course I am not for it, but it's a bit late for us. This project was already in Roosvelt Tablets with our foe Jean Monnet and is Obama not undertaking this dirigism style government....?

Joe Noory on :

That cartel still has to get past the 48% of the population who didn't vote for them, as well as those in their own party that don't agree with the increasing control the government is trying to take over the economy. As with the Maersk Alabama, Americans frequently assert themselves despite the advise government gives them.

Marie Claude on :

Joe, what the 48% can do ? just wait and see http://www.marianne2.fr/Comment-la-Chine-a-deja-gagne-le-G20_a177744.html umm, some big Cies have that dream that Mexico becomes the 51st state of the US, and it ain't any french's among them! http://www.tabd.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=15&Itemid=44 http://www.marianne2.fr/L-Europe-de-la-servitude-volontaire_a177994.html

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