Unapologetic, Unequivocal The Real Merkel Finally Stands up

German Chancellor Angela Merkel this week defended her embrace of refugees with an uncharacteristic outburst of compassion that is likely to go down in history. In doing so, she finally revealed a bit of her true political thinking.

A Commentary by

Charity means one thing to Angela Merkel, another to CSU leader Horst Seehofer.

Charity means one thing to Angela Merkel, another to CSU leader Horst Seehofer.

In the course of her political career, journalists and indeed her own party colleagues have variously described Angela Merkel as a tactician, a strategist and a pragmatist. But she's mainly been seen as an equivocator, someone who plays her cards close to her chest.

But for all her hedging, Merkel's 10 years in the Chancellery have regularly been punctuated with short, sharp shocks of clarity, when her political grounding and mindset bubble to the surface. As a qualified physicist, she undoubtedly always took an interest in climate protection. She also stayed true to herself during the Greek crisis in the role of the Swabian housewife who steadfastly avoids overspending. It was a role that matched the frugality and modesty she favors in her private life.

The next crisis is now underway, and she has reacted indignantly to the criticism that Germany is allowing in too many refugees. "If we now have to start apologizing for showing a friendly face in response to emergency situations, then that's not my country," she said on Tuesday. Although delivered in her usual sober way, it was an unexpectedly heartfelt comment that will be remembered for a long time to come.


It wasn't a political tactician speaking this time, but a compassionate pastor's daughter from the eastern state of Brandenburg -- a politician who remains acutely aware of the Christian element in her party's agenda. In this respect she provides a welcome contrast to Horst Seehofer, leader of the Christian Democrats' Bavarian sister party, the CSU. In his book, charity more or less stops at the garden fence.

But Angela Merkel has not necessarily turned her back on realpolitik completely. As the refugee crisis unfolds, she too will inevitably make compromises and alter direction. Among these compromises are the newly instated border controls. Germany cannot take in all the world's refugees, as Merkel well knows.

But she has now made it obvious that she won't be deviating from her basic course. She is sending a message against knee-jerk xenophobia. That the conservatism of Bavaria's lederhosen brigade and some of her own party colleagues has always remained a foreign concept to Angela Merkel has never been more apparent than it is now. Ten years in office have clearly changed Merkel. She now has the strength and independence to state her opinion more stridently, even if it earns her the opprobrium of her allies.

Ultimately, it demonstrates that she has truly arrived in the autumn of her leadership. From Helmut Schmidt to Helmut Kohl and Gerhard Schröder, many a chancellor has begun to speak more uninhibitedly towards the end of their time in office, swimming against the tide of their party's mainstream opinion and in the process putting distance between themselves and their own people.

At the end of the day, it's a primal human instinct. Who wants to spend their life watching what they say?

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turnipseed 09/16/2015
1. The real Angela Merkel
Yes we can make a saint out of Merkel; some have made a saviour out of Obama. But both may do more harm than good: Obama by having taken the Middle East broken by George Bush and having made it even worse; Merkel by making every second German more determined than ever to fight to maintain Germanness, in the past a crime but in the present situation a perfectly moral and acceptable position.
svetistephen 09/16/2015
2. Chancellor Merkel's
Chancellor Merkel's defense of her policy on Germany's absorption of hundreds of thousands of "migrants," mostly originally from Syria, is undoubtedly based on good intentions. But the road to hell is also based on good intentions. In the last analysis, her motivations are far less significant than the consequences of her open borders' policy for Germany, and the consequences will be grim, at best. European societies have not shown themselves especially good at assimilating Muslims, nor are most Muslims interested in being Westernized. In old-fashioned language, Muslims -- with some exceptions -- are the unmeltable minority. They have not shown much inclination to adopt Western values, even a strong segment of the second generation that has felt the pull of Jihadism very powerfully. And why are the Muslims so interested in Germany? They quickly moved past poorer regions of Europe despite the fact that they would have been quite safe there -- in Greece, the Balkans, even Hungary. They want Germany because of its generous welfare benefits. The cost of these benefits to a gigantic wave of impoverished non-German speaking migrants will be colossal, so colossal as to threaten the sustainability of Germany's social safety net. There is another issue Germans should consider. By letting in hundreds of thousands of Muslim Arabs from the Mideast, Germany is adding enormously to what is already a huge problem in Europe: the resurrection of the most intense and vile Jew-hatred. Study after study shows that large-scale Muslim immigration is the main cause of the ascent of anti-Semitism, and the hatred felt by Muslims towards Jews rekindles the latent anti-Semitism in the general population. I do not doubt the good intentions of the Parson's daughter, but I very much doubt she has thought through all of its consequences for others. And to be honest, even Germany is beginning to shut the doors that stood wide open for many critical days. Beneath Germany's great longing to "atone" for its past there is a healthy expression of rational self-interest.
jack.maxwell.77398 09/16/2015
3. Why not use ships?
Why don't the Germans just send a few hundred ships to the Syrian coast, pick them up and bring them around to Germany's northern coast? While it would take away the joy of lecturing their fellow Europeans about their moral inferiority, at least it would speed up making Germany a Muslim nation faster, cheaper and without all the border trouble.
txuria1 09/16/2015
4. migrants
Was it not Merkel who said a few years ago that multiculturelism was a failure..I wonder what changed her mind?..Perhaps, she is more concerned with her legacy than doing the right thing for Germany..
ewulf 09/16/2015
5. The Real Merkel
The refugee crisis is a test for Germany leadership in the EU. For a long Time (2010-2015) Chancellor Merkel has been considered too focused on tough austerity policies , aparently lacking any other consideration aside from economics one. Besides, Germany has also been critisized because it is not doing enough to support weaker european economies. So in this situation of the refugees, principles are not on the opposite side with compassion.-
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