Germany: Merkel’s bewildering meeting with Trump
German Chancellor Angela Merkel shone in her meeting with President Trump last week, said Franz Josef Wagner in Bild (Germany). Not that the White House visit can be called a success—during the photo op following their summit, the two clearly had no rapport. “Never have I seen two people more alien or estranged.” They didn’t appear to interact at all. Trump was simply rude, refusing eye contact and staring into his lap like a sulky child. When a reporter called for a handshake, Merkel asked quietly, “Do you want to have a handshake?” Trump ignored her. Merkel sat back stoically, a tiny, sardonic smile on her face. “The whole world praised the chancellor for her statesmanlike manner.” She was “ironic and cool,” yet without sneering. Score one for Merkel.
Trump was unprepared for forthright questioning from German reporters, said Felix Haas in Stern (Germany). Kristina Dunz of Deutsche Presse-Agentur asked the president why he labeled media reports “fake news” when he himself routinely “asserted things that cannot be proven.” A flustered Trump sarcastically called Dunz a “nice, friendly reporter.” The U.S. and German press praised Dunz for her toughness, but she said she was simply asking the questions that her U.S. colleagues couldn’t. In Germany, the reporters choose among themselves who will ask questions, while in the U.S., the president decides—and Trump favors friendly media. Merkel also seemed to upset Trump, said Matthew Norman in Independent.co.uk. It was more than just his obvious “deep-rooted phobia of mature women.” His body language with Merkel was that of humiliation, suggesting that, on some level, he “appreciates how desperately out of his depth in such company he is.” She is a scientist with a Ph.D., pragmatic and self-contained—the opposite of the incurious and uncontrolled Trump.
Merkel seemed “gloomily fascinated” by his ignorance and willful duplicity, said Julian Reichelt in Bild. Trump used their press conference to repeat the false allegation that he had been wiretapped by President Obama, and joked to the chancellor—whose phones were tapped by the U.S.’s National Security Agency under the previous administration—that “at least we have something in common.” She looked stunned at the comment. Almost everything else Trump said was “somewhere between false, untrue, and a lie.” He claimed that German trade negotiators were doing a better job than their American opposites. In fact, negotiators from the European Union, not Germany, are now discussing a trade pact with America. Then he accused Germany of owing “vast sums” to the U.S. for NATO, when in fact there are no NATO dues. Each member nation has pledged to spend at least 2 percent of its gross domestic product on national defense by 2024, and Germany, while it spends only 1.2 percent today, is on track to hit that target. Merkel is now grimly aware how “the most powerful man in the world has declared war on the concept of facts.”