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Mutual Disappointment

Chancellor Merkel is traveling across America this week. She loves the United States, but she is still having trouble connecting with Barack Obama, writes Spiegel International (HT: David). The media loves to personalize politics. I think at the end of the day the problem is not the personal relationship between Obama and Merkel, but its structural. After long descriptions of the well-known differences in Obama's and Merkel's style of politics, Spiegel comes to the same conclusion in the end:

At the moment, the partners on both sides of the Atlantic are disappointed with each other. Whenever the Americans want something from the Germans, they are guaranteed to be turned down: on prisoners from Guantanamo, on sending significantly more soldiers to Afghanistan and on new economic stimulus programs.

Merkel, on the other hand, was repeatedly appalled last year at how inconsiderate the Americans were of German or European interests. Whenever she spoke to Obama about climate protection, he was only concerned with the consequences for the United States. When the Americans settled on a new strategy for Afghanistan, they didn't ask their allies first. Merkel also suspects that the United States is not interested in reining in the financial industry.

She is forced to look on as America becomes more and more enmeshed in a duel with China. Nothing is done that could impair Washington's position toward China, which is why the United States doesn't want to take on the burdens of a strict climate policy or a more tightly controlled financial market. German interests are of little importance, because Germany has little left to offer the Americans.

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David on :

I don't think observers in Germany fully appreciate what President Obama is up against in Congress - especially in the US Senate. The Republican leadership is openly committed to blocking every single initiative of the President, regardless of the merits. We saw how they tried to stop health care reform with fear-mongering and lies, and this obstructionism will only continue (Senator McCain promises) with climate protection and re-regulation of the financial system. On climate, don't forget that there are Senators like Jim Inhofe who are global warming deniers (Inhofe calls it a "Marxist Hoax"). Ignorance (willful or otherwise) is a huge problem for the President and for the country.

Joe Noory on :

Since Global Warming is not one of the issues at hand, how is it that The White Houses's actions are magically caused by their political opponents exactly? The issues are, as noted above strategy for Afghanistan, finance policy coordination, GWOT prisoners, and Yuan policy. How is the minority party in the US House and Senate managing that? By imputed emotions? Evil brain-waves? President Obama's international affairs are his and his advisors' alone. You can't keep blaming staw men. Perhaps you can take some comfort in the idea that the security of Canadian uranium won't keep people up at night, while Teheral keeps testing missiles and refining fissile material. Or for that matter, worrying about the nukes that DoS have comcluded that the opaque North Korean autocrats [url=http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/national/2010/04/11/26/0301000000AEN20100411000200315F.HTML]already have[/url].

David on :

"Since Global Warming is not one of the issues at hand" Try reading the article under discussion: "Merkel, on the other hand, was repeatedly appalled last year at how inconsiderate the Americans were of German or European interests. Whenever she spoke to Obama about climate protection, he was only concerned with the consequences for the United States."

Joe Noory on :

They ALWAYS mention climate change, whether it's in passing, relevant, or otherwise, it's one of those things like a "mom and apple pie" statement that has become profunctory in Europe. What they don't say when they are saying that they were disappointed in the US at COP15, is that the Europeans said that they would not cut emmissions unilaterally, and then some of the member states hinted that they might - but only after the significant attendeed - just about ALL the significant attendees - refused the European scheme. In large part, the article is insulting to Merkel: [i]She is traveling to a country whose stunningly beautiful aspects hold an almost childlike fascination for Merkel, but whose political realities represent a cause for concern. During her visit, she will encounter representatives of opposing camps in the country's deeply divided political landscape.[/i] As if she's "childlike", that there isn't a dog-whistle effect behind saying that someone loves America, and that by some magic, the US is the only nation on earth with political parties that oppose one another. Exqueeze me? Baking powder? Die Linke nearly outdid the SPD in support a year ago! Deeply divided? [i]Noooooo![/i] Only Americans can be deeply divided! As for your selective plucking on about conservatives and racism, need I ask which party consistently opposed enforcing laws against lynching for decades on end? The stain of racism is on the left, especially the union left who for decades were trying to protect "white mens' jobs" employing a form of populist hatred that the left are using today on the Tea Party movement in a bid to silence them. Throw selectively crafted partisan red-meat at yourself all you like, just beware of the intellectual corner it paints people into. It leads people inot inventing imaginary motives of those they write about, just like the writer you cite from SPON: [i]She would take a vacation there now if she could.[/i] Really? Whould she? How would he know? OH! I forgot! He doesn't have to! She's a conservative, so it's okay to just impute motives on them!

Kevin Sampson on :

This is the global warming that no less an authority than Prof. Phil Jones says stopped 15 years ago? Global warming is a phony issue, Dave, just like gun control, and the Democratic leadership knows it. Like gun control, they wheel it out every election cycle because they know itís guaranteed to spin up the empty-headed extreme of the party. And like gun control, they know damn well itís political suicide to attempt to do anything about it.

John in Michigan, US on :

Is this a forum to copy-and-paste the standard, left/Democrat talking points, or will David condescend to real discussion? David the Spiegel that you gave to Joerg who made it into a post has some interesting points, I don't know why you wouldn't want to discuss those points. There's no question, Congress sucks at the moment, in fact it has been a big problem for 5-10+ years. But it is, in my opinion, an institutional problem between two independent branches of government; as we saw when Democrats controlled all of Congress (House and Senate), even then, Congress still wouldn't do what the President (and the head of their Party) wanted! If Obama can't rely upon his own coalition, how is that the opposition's fault? It is somehow unfair or against the rules for Republicans to remind the Democratic Congress that they face re-election?

John in Michigan, US on :

In my response to David, I meant to include the immortal words of rapper and MTV pioneer Ed Lover, "[url=http://cmonsononline.com/]C'mon, son[/url]!" I encourage the Europeans to check out Mr. Lover's mad wisdomz.

Pat Patterson on :

I would have quoted from Kennedy who is given credit, though she denies ever having said it, of "Whatever!"

Pat Patterson on :

"Ignorance (willful or otherwise) is a huge problem for the President..." I don't think you should be so harsh on Pres Obama. Every policy of the president, even Iraq and Afghanistan, is blocked by the Republicans?

John in Michigan, US on :

The Spiegel article speaks to the difference between the US political style (regardless of party) and the European style -- [url=http://atlanticreview.org/archives/1339-That-Vision-Thing-Or-The-Best-of-Atlantic-Review.html#c20375]sports vs. art[/url]. European politics much less confrontational, much less populist, in fact the game there is to avoid confrontation at all costs, since confrontation creates losers who, the theory goes, might become alienated and then become a threat to the body politic. (In America, we are also concerned about threats to the body politic, but our Constitution makes it impossible to take such a, dare I say it, preemptive or even, preventative, approach, except during times of war.) I wonder if Obama feels like he has no choice but to be individualistic and confrontational? He might argue that, if he weren't forced to operate under US political rules, that he could be more collectivist or consensus-oriented. Certainly, his political philosophy has collectivist tendencies. But, I doubt it is a simple as that. Obama is a sportsman, a (Anglo-Saxon style?) lawyer (trained in a system in which one side must lose), a street fighter, and an American. He loves to win. If he were to find himself in a European-style, collective/consensus system, [i]he would need to rebel against it[/i]. Such a system would neutralize his strongest assets: personal charisma, personal passion, and populist idealism (left variety). The German system, in general, is very wary of these types of assets. Oddly, it seems to find reassurance in the suspicion that these Obama assets are "staged" or "calculated". If Obama's attributes were seen to be less staged or calculated, it would set of all kinds of alarm bells in Germany, for obvious reasons. It isn't just Germany, the still-emerging EU political culture also seems to favor calculated blandness (to the point of anonymity!) over calculated charisma -- exhibit A is [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herman_Van_Rompuy]Van Who?[/url]. Ah, the Europeans...who, perhaps understandably, fear the blandness of American commercial culture (McDo, etc.)...who, nevertheless, seem determined to be governed by nameless Grey Men in Grey Suits debating the curvature of bananas. No wonder the Chinese think they can eat our collective lunches. I think if either the US, or Europe, can find the solution to our respective, multi-generational entitlements bubbles, before the Chinese take over, then things will turn out OK.

Pat Patterson on :

I would agree as the American system tends to make such the possibility of that kind of turmoil tied to geography which then automatically limits the appeal that group may have to sympathiziers in the rest of the nation. The one time a sizeable resistance was during the Civil War and Americans by and large still have a horror at what a sectional and political resistance can accomplish. And as such these groups can have an immediate effect on local politics which can address and mute their opposition to the whole.

David on :

Re: The Civil War I've said all along that the Republican Party should adopt the Confederate flag as its emblem, and now it has embraced Sarah "Her Whiteness" Palin as the Republican standard bearer. Just last week the Republicans declared April Confederate History Month, honoring those seditionists and terrorists who fought bravely for their "freedom" (i.e. the freedom to own slaves).

Pat Patterson on :

David completely ignores that McConnell, Governor of Virginia, had his feet held to the fire by both Democrats and Republicans and added a paragraph explicitly condemning slavery. And it should be noted that it was the Democratic Party that pushed the states to secede and reinstituted a form of slavery, segregation, as soon as the Republicans in Washington withdrew the Union soliders during Reconstruction. http://www.governor.virginia.gov/OurCommonwealth/Proclamations/2010/ConfederateHistoryMonth.cfm And all those years when various forms of the Confederate flag where incorporated in the southern states flags it was done so at the behest of local Democratic politicians. It was only when black politicians became more powerful and the Republican party staged a comeback did that legacy disappear.

David on :

McConnell only added the message condemning slavery after the uproar from Democrats and African-Americans in Virginia. But Haley Barbour, the Republican governor of Mississippi said "it don't mean diddly".

John in Michigan, US on :

I have to agree with David on that narrow point. When certain (mostly Southern) politicians discuss the role of slavery in the civil war, there is a certain amount of coded speech that is happening. By coded speech I mean a dog whistle appeal to the [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lost_Cause]Lost Cause[/url] movement, [b]some[/b] of whom are neo-segratationists or white supremacists. All -- please let's not bore the Europeans here with yet another insider discussion of the causes of the Civil War. There's plenty of other sites for that. For balance, I will say that the left also sometimes makes coded appeals to some pretty bigoted, racist, violent, conspiracy obsessed groups. I don't understand why we can't condemn it whenever it happens, no matter if it is far-left or far-right.

Pamela on :

What a crock. I live in Virginia, I'm white and I complained. The Governor's office is not hard to contact. I told the nice young man they transferred my call to that it was an embarrassment and he told me he had been taking TONS of calls with similar sentiments. As he asked for neither my race/ethnicity nor my party affiliation, (he did ask for my zip code) I can only conclude that no one knows those particulars about the people who complained - and neither do you.

Joe Noory on :

Further, in news you will never see in the leftist steno pool we call the mainstream media, this example of Democrats' evenhandedness, wisdom, and assumed superiority: [i][url=http://www.politico.com/blogs/glennthrush/0410/Man_charged_in_threats_to_BrownWaite.html]Erik Lawrence Pidrman[/url] was charged today with leaving a message at Brown-Waite's Florida office last month saying, "Just wanna let you know I have 27 people that are going to make sure that this b**** does not live to see her next term."[/i] If you want to go to those lengths, to so narrowly trawl for venom, why not just admit that the Democrats should in turn adopt the [url=http://www.bluecollarphilosophy.com/2009/06/holocaust-museum-shooter-is-democrat-oh.html]hackenkreuz[/url] as their symbol in lieu of the fabled popular mule which at this stage, only represents the false image of a few of their Willie Nelson like supporters who own hobby farms to lend some false support to their assumtion that they have a monopoly on being of the [i]salt of the earth?[/i] I hope you were thoughful enough to wish [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/420_(cannabis_culture)]them[/url] a "happy 420 day" yesterday. Instead, you seem happy to fixate on who you'd like to think people are, rather than what they do. That has a familiar role in European history, given its' reliance on scapegoats and class warfare.

Marie Claude on :

Back to the article, Maybe Scharzenegger could aks Merkel to bail out California ! Let's see if she will say OK to that "far away Mediterranean club" ! doesn't seem that Merkel has a political progam, but only domestic agendas, ah yes she is a very good housekeeper, she doesn't waste the money that her hubby allotes her !

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