Tag Archives: Angela Merkel

This is a ‘disaster,’ Mr. President?

Take a good look at the graphic just below these few words. They tell me a fascinating story about the “disaster” Donald Trump says he inherited when he was sworn in as president of the United States.

It’s a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center. I get that some of Donald J. Trump’s “base” will dismiss the poll because of some phony “liberal bias” issue folks will say skew these numbers. In reality, Pew is a legitimate polling outfit and first-class think tank that offers analysis across the political spectrum.

Confidence among these five key allied nations of the United States has plummeted since Trump became president. The biggest decline in confidence comes from Germany, which registered an 86 percent approval rating during the Barack Obama years, but has fallen to just 11 percent during the Trump era. Might there be some German anger over the way Trump has treated Chancellor Angela Merkel?

It does seem a bit weird that Trump kept yapping about inheriting a “disaster” when took office. The polling here among these five key allied nations suggest something quite different. Make no mistake: It does matter what other nations think of this country and its leadership.

I’m led to conclude that Donald Trump brought the “disaster” with him into the White House.

German leader doesn’t share Trump ‘home run’ view

This is a hunch on my part, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel doesn’t believe, as Donald J. Trump does, that the U.S. president hit a “home run” on his first overseas trip as head of state.

Merkel, arguably Europe’s most popular and potent leader, said at the end of the G-7 summit in Sicily that Germany no longer can “depend” on the United States as a reliable ally; she said the same thing about Great Britain, which is in the midst of pulling out of the European Union.

“The times in which we could completely depend on others are on the way out,” she said at a campaign rally in Munich. “I’ve experienced that in the last few days.”

Is that how one would describe a “home run” in the U.S. president’s view?

The United States’ alliance with NATO has come under intense scrutiny. Donald Trump himself scolded NATO leaders publicly for not paying enough to defend themselves against external threats. The public dressing down didn’t go over well. But, hey, the president hit a home run!

The G-7, which comprises most of the world’s wealthiest nations, also is supposed to showcase U.S. solidarity with these important allies. Reports from the summit suggest, as Merkel has indicated, that European reliance on the United States is fading into oblivion.
So, we’re left with an “every country for itself” mind set, led by the man who wants to “put America first.”

Home run, Mr. President? Nope. You seem to have whiffed.

Rep. Schiff: We’re at the ‘bottom’ of wiretap story

Adam Schiff strikes me as a thoughtful young man.

He’s the ranking Democrat on the U.S. House Intelligence Committee. He and the Republican chairman, Deven Nunes, also of California, have become a sort of tag-team that seeks to get Donald Trump to produce proof of a dangerous allegation he has made about former President Obama.

Today, Schiff said on “Meet the Press” that Congress appears to have reached “the bottom” of the president’s assertion — that Obama ordered a wiretap of Trump’s offices in New York City.

There is no “bottom,” Schiff said. No proof. No evidence. No substantiation. The president, said the congressman, has now introduced a dangerous new standard for recklessness that could have profound impact on any business the United States seeks to conduct at home or abroad.

Indeed, how are our allies going to react to anything that comes from the president’s Twitter account? He’s already dragged the British intelligence network into this tawdry matter, asserting that the Brits had a hand in the alleged wiretap.

He stood with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and sought to lure her into the ongoing matter, suggesting that Obama had wiretapped Merkel and other European allies.

The president is not backing off. He’s offering not a hint of proof. Nor is he offering the scent of contrition.

What in the world is this man — the president of the United States — going to do next? Who else is he going to slander?

We might find out plenty this week when FBI Director James Comey walks onto Capitol Hill to testify about what he knows and whether there was any authorization given to do what Trump has accused the former president of doing.

I would think the FBI boss would know.

If not, well, Rep. Schiff is right. We’ve found the bottom of this story. And as the late Gertrude Stein once said of Oakland, Calif.: We’ve found “there is no there there.”

What’s wrong with a handshake, Mr. President?

There are awkward moments, and then there are events such as what we witnessed today at the White House.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel paid a visit to Donald J. Trump. The two of them posed for cameras. Someone yelled out about a handshake. The president didn’t offer his hand. The chancellor looked puzzled after she had asked for one from her colleague and host.

Hmmm.

Strange moment, indeed.

Hockey players shake hands after beating each other up during their matches; Little Leaguers shake hands after games, sometimes cheering “Two, four, six, eight, who do we appreciate … ?”

Gentlemen extend a hand to ladies. It can be interpreted, perhaps, as a game. Trump, though, doesn’t play games … apparently.

I heard about this moment and my thoughts flashed back immediately to something similar that occurred in 1990 right here in Texas.

Republican gubernatorial nominee Clayton Williams was running against Democratic nominee Ann Richards. The two of them were fighting each other viciously.

Then they appeared together at an event. I cannot remember its precise nature. Afterward, with candidates sharing a head table, Richards extended her hand to Williams — who promptly refused to take it; he called her a “liar.” He walked away.

Commentators said at the time Williams committed a cardinal sin among gentlemanly Texans by refusing to take a lady’s hand and it likely helped contribute to Richards defeating Williams in that year’s election for Texas governor.

The president of the United States need not worry about German voters should he decide to seek re-election in 2020.

But, geez, Mr. President. Show some manners.

Trump continues scorched-Earth rhetorical policy

We’ve been wondering around our house for, oh, the entire length of the election season and now as the new president gets ready to take office.

It is this: Is Donald J. Trump seeking to undermine his presidency the way he seemed to inflict damage on his candidacy?

You’ll recall the campaign. He offended Hispanics right off the bat; he denigrated Sen. John McCain’s record as a Vietnam War hero; he criticized a Gold Star couple; he mocked a disabled New York Times reporter; he admitted to Billy Bush that he’d groped women by grabbing them in their private parts.

None of that mattered. Trump won the election, despite his seemingly deliberate effort to torpedo himself.

Now he’s getting ready for the inauguration. What does he do?

He continues to disparage intelligence professionals who insist that Russian spooks launched a cyberwar to influence the election; he keeps tweeting idiotic messages in response to criticisms great and small; he declares war on the media; he declines to say he trusts German Chancellor Angela Merkel more than he trusts Russian President Vladimir Putin; he fires back at a legendary member of Congress, John Lewis, who questioned Trump’s legitimacy as president, saying Lewis is “all talk, no action”; he accuses CIA Director John Brennan of possibly leaking classified information about alleged Russian hacking.

Sheesh, man!

What’s this guy doing?

He’s got to work with the intelligence pros beginning the moment he takes his hand off the Bible on Friday, shakes the hand of Chief Justice John Roberts and becomes president. How in the world does he work with the dedicated intelligence staffers who will remain after John Brennan leaves to make way for Trump’s pick to be CIA director?

How is he going to work with African-Americans after labeling Lewis — Congress’ most venerated member and a champion of civil and voting rights marches — be an “all talk” kind of individual?

And how is this individual going to assure staunch and trusted allies, such as Chancellor Merkel, that he trusts her implicitly and really and truly doesn’t equate her trust level with that of the former head of the KGB in Moscow?

Let’s all get ready, dear reader, for the roughest ride imaginable.

Trump has them scratching their heads

Cassidy-Donald-Trump-Americas-Muslims-1200

WEITERSDORF, Germany — It turns out, based on some preliminary conversations with friends, that Germans and Americans are of like minds as it regards the U.S. presidential election.

Hillary Clinton has some baggage.

But it’s light as a feather compared to what Donald J. Trump is lugging around.

Our friends are having trouble understanding — just as many Americans are experiencing — how it is that Trump has managed to score the presidential nomination of a major American political party.

Trump, the Republican nominee, frightens our friend Martin — a journalist who works in Nuremberg. The same can be said of his wife, Alena, who’s also scared at the prospect of a Trump election to the presidency.

Martin asked my wife and me almost immediately upon our arrival to predict the outcome of the presidential election.

“Hillary is going to be elected,” I said, barely drawing a breath.

My friend isn’t so sure. He seems to believe Trump could get elected. I haven’t quite said so out loud, but my own view is that hell would have to freeze over and that the sun would have rise in the west for that to happen.

Martin also wonders whether there is a latent sexist strain among American voters who just do not want a woman to become head of state. “We have Angela Merkel as chancellor,” he said, adding that she’s “universally loathed here,” but said she’s “still the chancellor.” He wonders if Americans are ready to elect a woman.

I said that appears to be a still-largely unspoken element in the U.S. presidential campaign.

Alena echoes her husband’s view regarding Clinton and Trump. She has a bit more hands-on political experience, as she works for a member of the German parliament, helping him write laws and answering constituents’ needs in his office.

I’m going to be visiting during the next few days here with locals, presuming they’re willing to talk to me.

I’ll report to you what I hear from this part of the world about what’s happening back home. Rest assured, as near as I can tell, that Germans seem to be watching with great interest in what’s about to happen in the New World.

Moreover, as Martin said, late-night comics in Germany are having as much fun as our guys are having back home. He mentioned how one of them joked how a President Trump would blast Denmark off the map if the Danes said the wrong thing.

I know, that’s not really a funny thing to consider. Then again …

Good call on Person of Year, Time magazine

angela-merkel

OK, so Time didn’t pick Donald Trump as its Person of the Year after all.

Instead, the venerable magazine went with someone who’s actually accomplished something, been a force for positive change and has earned her spurs leading a continent that’s going through some monumental change.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel gets the nod as Person of the Year.

I am fascinated by Time’s description of her upbringing.

She grew up in East Germany, which used to call itself the “German Democratic Republic.” As Time notes, the communist-run dictatorship was neither “democratic” or a “republic.” It was run by tyrants. Thus, young Angela developed an early craving for freedom and liberty.

She and the rest of her country got it when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 and the communist dictatorship fell apart.

Merkel’s ascent to power was dramatic. Once there, she became Europe’s most powerful leader, which is saying something, given that the continent is populated by several powerful heads of government — such as the British prime minister and the president of France.

Check out this passage from Time’s article on the selection: “At a moment when much of the world is once more engaged in a furious debate about the balance between safety and freedom, the Chancellor is asking a great deal of the German people, and by their example, the rest of us as well. To be welcoming. To be unafraid. To believe that great civilizations build bridges, not walls, and that wars are won both on and off the battlefield. By viewing the refugees as victims to be rescued rather than invaders to be repelled, the woman raised behind the Iron Curtain gambled on freedom. The pastor’s daughter wielded mercy like a weapon.”

The reference here is to the refugee crisis exploding in the Middle East. Merkel has “wielded mercy like a weapon.”

Let’s pay attention on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

 

Lighten up on the formality thing

Michael Strain needs to relax a little, maybe meet some folks and get on a first-name basis with them.

Strain is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and has written an essay for the Washington Post in which he express disgust that President Obama referred to German Chancellor Angela Merkel several times by her first name. It occurred during a joint press conference.

Strain was aghast at what he calls “false intimacy.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/02/18/please-address-me-as-mister-i-insist/?tid=sm_fb

Holy mackerel, Mike! Get a grip.

I’ll call him Mike, even though I don’t know the fellow. What’s he going to do in the remote chance he reads this? Will he come unglued the way he did over Barack’s faux familiarity with Angela?

I doubt it.

These kinds of exchanges don’t bother me. As a friend of mine, Dan, noted on a Facebook post, it might not have bothered Mike when President Bush rubbed Chancellor Merkel’s shoulders during a G-8 Summit some years back. For that matter, I recall only a few snarky comments about the moment that was video recorded for the world to see. Then it passed. Nothing else was said. No harm, no foul, right?

I have noted before, though, that the president does have a habit of referring to fellow members of the U.S. government by their first names while they refer to him publicly as “Mr. President.” I recall a meeting held at the White House with congressional leaders and Sen. John McCain was protesting a policy initiative coming from the White House. He referred to Obama as Mr. President, and the president referred directly to his 2008 campaign foe simply as “John.”

The exchange seemed oddly disproportionate and it bordered on disrespectful.

But such an exchange between heads of government? Hey, no problem.

Besides, has anyone bothered to ask the chancellor if she objects? Believe me, if she did, she’d say so and the president would refer to her differently.

So, lighten up, Mike.

 

Michelle's just the latest to flout Saudi tradition

Laura Bush did it. So did Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Same with Angela Merkel.

What did a former U.S. first lady, two former secretaries of state and the chancellor of Germany do? They appeared in public in Saudi Arabia — without covering their hair, as prescribed by Muslim tradition in the Sunni nation.

http://thinkprogress.org/world/2015/01/28/3616556/saudi-arabia-michelle-obama/

The current first lady, Michelle Obama, thus is the just the latest woman to flout the custom demanded of Saudi women.

It’s interesting at a couple of levels that the media would make any kind of mention of Mrs. Obama’s decision to go scarf-less in public.

No. 1, she is hardly the first foreign dignitary to be photographed doing this.

No. 2, and perhaps more importantly, is that she was virtually ignored while she stood in a greeting line alongside her husband — Barack H. Obama, president of the United States of America.

The dignitaries walked along the greeting line, shook hands with Mr. Obama but didn’t shake Mrs. Obama’s hand. What’s up with that?

Actually, I know. Saudis disrespect women whenever and wherever possible. That, too, is part of their custom. Women aren’t able to drive motor vehicles legally, for example. It should come as no surprise, then, that the potentates or whoever those gentlemen were greeting the president would ignore his wife.

To whatever extent she intended, Michelle Obama did a nice job of standing tall and proud for women in the country that played host to her briefly — and, in fact, for oppressed women all around the world. So did those who preceded her.

Well done, ladies.

 

Where were POTUS and VPOTUS?

The right-wing media are going to have a serious field day with this potential error of omission.

Still, the question persists: Why weren’t the president and/or vice president of the United States among those attending the “unity rally” in Paris today?

The rally held in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre was meant to demonstrate western resolve in the fight against terrorist madness. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was there, along with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu … among many others who joined the throng of hundreds of thousands of French citizens.

The U.S. ambassador to France was there. OK. That’s good, too.

It might be that critics will have a point that if a rally was important to draw heads of state and government from around the world, it would have added amazingly poignant symbolism to have the leaders of the Free World at the front of the pack of dignitaries.

Secretary of State John Kerry happened to be in India attending an important meeting there with our Indian allies. I’ll give him a pass.

President Obama and Vice President Biden? They well might have been able to adjust their schedules to attend this rally to demonstrate against a murderous rampage that has shaken the world.