Election evening in America was hardly over when Friedrich Merz let himself be carried away with a cheeky saying.
A “picture” journalist wanted to know from the candidate for the CDU chairmanship whether he would be able to cope with Donald Trump’s second term as German Chancellor. “I know what makes Americans tick,” said Merz. “We’d be fine.”
The sentence stood out diagonally from the cautious and skeptical reactions of the rest of German politics and even from the rest of the tone of the interview. But Merz guessed Trump at the time, and he was also clearly attracted by the opportunity to portray himself as someone who would deal with the American with “self-confidence” and “from a position of strength” on friendly terms.
His competitors were already criticizing the devil pose. “I think: Everyone should hold back on who they can get along with,” complained Armin Laschet – especially if the votes have not yet been counted.
Norbert Röttgen was “surprised” why the competitor had positioned himself so quickly “without need”, and scoffed: “I would not have assumed this statement from Friedrich Merz.”
The differences in the matter are not great
All three potential CDU bosses – and possibly the next chancellor – are not far apart on the matter and are in the middle of their party.
After his first victory, Trump met with encouragement from the right wing of the Union according to the motto that one could see what would happen if conservative positions were neglected. But for most of them that was tactically motivated as Angela Merkel’s disengagement. How much real admiration for the apparently strong wild man in the White House played along with one or the other – hard to say. The fact that Union politicians, on the other hand, with open contempt, found it harder and harder than Social Democrats, Greens or even leftists, had nothing to do with sympathy for Trump, but reflected the increasingly desperate attempt to somehow maintain friendship across the Atlantic.
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The Junge Union staged the tactical variant in 2018 when they invited Trump’s Berlin ambassador Richard Grenell to Kiel for Germany Day. Angela Merkel’s famous beer tent speech was already a year ago, in which, after meeting Trump, she announced that Europe could no longer rely on this USA.
However, the undiplomat was welcomed by the Union youth, led by Paul Ziemiak, with music by old rocker Bruce Springsteen – definitely not a Trump friend. Jens Spahn was also happy to show himself with Grenell, although it was somewhat unclear whether this should be more of a demonstration among conservatives or one among two openly gay conservatives.
“German Donald Trump” even thinks Laschet is wrong
Today’s three candidates followed the mainstream on Trump. Like many foreign politicians, Merz, then head of the “Atlantikbrücke” association, and Röttgen initially hoped that Trump’s evil election campaign could only have been a means to an end. Assuming Merz to be close to the bully in Washington would go far too far, even in view of sayings like the one about a gay chancellor: “… as long as it is within the framework of the law and as long as it does not affect children”. When the US magazine “Politico” recently outlined the Sauerlander because of such positions as the “German Donald Trump”, Laschet defended him.
But the devil sentence threatens to fall on his feet for the second time after the storm on the Capitol. Laschet contented himself with indirectly denouncing those responsible: “Those who sow populism and polarization with language reap hatred and violence.” Röttgen became clearer: “This violence is the fruit of the anti-democratic division and incitement of Trump against the institutions of democracy. ”
The gaudiest formulation came again from Merz. “Donald Trump is obviously not a Democrat,” he tweeted. It is clear that such things cannot be dealt with.