Wednesday, November 28, 2018

It’s Time for Angela Merkel to Leave

Jochen Bittner, The New York Times, Nov. 23, 2018

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The German chancellor has done an admirable job over her 13 years in office. But her stoic pragmatism is out of step with the times.

For over a year now, German conservatives have been coming to grips with the intellectual dead end into which Ms. Merkel led them, and the country. Seemingly stalwart during times of calm, Ms. Merkel has shown a depressing lack of talent to speak convincingly to her people at a time when Germans are increasingly at odds with each other. The refugee crisis, the rise of the far right, growing inequality — on the most pressing issues of the last five years, Ms. Merkel has been complacent.

Once a great manager of problems caused by others, Ms. Merkel has failed to show the same capacity for solving problems arising from her own decisions. Perhaps, years ago, she might have. But while the radical right-wing populist party Alternative for Germany grew stronger, even outflanking Ms. Merkel’s party in her home state of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, the chancellor’s erstwhile best quality — stoicism — has flipped into its unhealthy cousin: leadership fatigue.

If the chancellor had invested similar energy into the handling of the refugee crisis after 2015 as she had put into the handling of the euro crisis seven years before, Germany certainly would not have ended up as the polarized society it is today. When it came to addressing domestic issues, hers was a populism of silence.

The latest example of this public diplomacy [JB emphasis] laziness was the way Ms. Merkel dealt with the events this summer in the eastern city of Chemnitz. In late August, a 35-year-old local man was stabbed to death by an asylum seeker. The event sparked protests by right-wing extremists and rioting. A Jewish-owned restaurant was attacked, and police later arrested members of a suspected right-wing terrorist cell with possible links to the events.

Yet Ms. Merkel waited almost three months before she paid a visit to Chemnitz. When she finally decided to meet locals last week, one citizen summed up her comments by comparing them to way the last leader of communist East Germany, Erich Honecker, had spoken to the people: “Just blah blah.” ...

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