‘You cannot fight the pandemic with lies’ — Angela Merkel knows how to insert a dagger
Merkel and Trump were destined to clash. A former scientist, she is cool, cautious, self-contained, fact-oriented and quiet despite her toughness. Trump is … none of those things. Late in 2016, the outgoing US President, who Merkel sometimes referred to as “Liebe (dear) Barack,” flew to Berlin on a mission — to convince her to run for another term
. Once Trump was in the Oval Office, Obama reasoned, Merkel would need to lead the liberal international order.
Ever since, she’s been walking on eggshells with a new President who flouts many of the values that Merkel — who grew up in Communist East Germany — always saw as epitomized by America. One confrontation, in Canada, was captured in an instantly iconic photograph. And CNN’s Carl Bernstein wrote recently that Trump has a habit of haranguing Merkel, even calling her “stupid” on the phone. She reportedly counters his rants with facts.
Merkel has not always lived up to her billing as the West’s moral bulwark. As the EU’s most powerful leader, she shares responsibility for the European project’s wobbles while members battled Covid-19 behind closed borders. And Germany’s complicated history and limited defense budgets — which infuriate Trump — mean it cannot fill the security vacuum left by the US. But Merkel, who does not plan to run for a fifth term next year, can read the polls. And though she might never say so, she’d love to outlast Trump.