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‘The graveyards are full of indispensable men,” said De Gaulle, or his predecessor Georges Clemenceau, or New York publisher Elbert Hubbard, or one of several other less famous people with a good turn of phrase, according to the scrupulously careful online Quote Investigator. Be that as it may, it’s looking increasingly likely that the (political) graveyard will soon be welcoming an “indispensable” woman, recently sanctified as such on the cover of The Economist, namely German chancellor Angela Merkel. Her Christian Democrat party fell to third place in Berlin’s local elections last week and may not stay long in the city’s governing coalition. Two thirds of German voters now want her gone. And the names of successors are being freely canvassed.
This decline and the associated rise of the right-wing Alternative for Germany party are being blamed on Merkel’s unqualified invitation to Syrian refugees to come to Germany last year. More than 1 million migrants have done so in the intervening twelve months — many of them neither Syrian nor refugees — and they have led to a large rise in violent and “hate” crimes, some committed by them, some by those protesting their arrival. These things are frightening not only the voters, but also nervous members of Merkel’s own parliamentary party devoted to their own careers before hers. For them, the writing is on the Berlin Wall.
Even those drafting her advance obituaries, however, seem to regard her tenure as chancellor as having been an overall success marked by prudence and achievement. She is generally still seen as “a safe pair of hands” — and indeed the best election poster for the CDU last time was a simple picture of a pair of hands. You can make that case — I’ll do so in a moment as a kind of exercise — but only on grounds that would alarm her admirers and threaten her reputation. By any respectable criterion, she is a klutz on a heroic scale.
Consider the following examples:
As a result of these and other blunders by the “indispensable” Merkel, Europe is facing a series of disabling crises.
So what was the argument above that shows Merkel to be a success, even if only in ways her admirers cannot openly endorse? Well, the Euro is a disaster for some countries (where it’s an over-valued currency) but a boon to others (where it’s under-valued). Germany is an export-oriented economy. It benefits from having an under-valued currency, which keeps its export prices low and its market share large. For Germany, the Euro is under-valued, its exchange rate held down by the presence of economies such as Greece and Spain. So Germany’s export industries can sell at artificially low prices not only to other Eurozone member-states but also to the rest of the world. It’s true that in the cases of Greece and Spain, Berlin and the EU have to keep sending fresh money down to Athens and Madrid in order to help their peoples to keep buying German goods. But no worries: That’s paid for by the taxpayers of all Eurozone governments. No government is needed to finance consumers in China, Africa, and North America to purchase German exports. In those cases the rising sale of German exports is financed by the falling market shares of non-Eurozone rival companies — and of course by the rising unemployment rates of Mediterranean Europe.
By any respectable criterion, she is a klutz on a heroic scale.
You can see why German industries and the CDU might not want to draw attention to that.
As the shades gather, are there any strong arguments for Merkel to remain? Well, a feminist writer in the Daily Telegraph suggests that she has shown that women can exercise power. Hmmmmm. Hadn’t that point already been proven by Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi, and Margaret Thatcher — not to mention Queen Elizabeth I, Catherine de Medici, and Cleopatra? And won’t the point lose its intended force if the results of Merkel’s exercising power continue to be relentlessly negative? Have I mentioned Putin and Ukraine yet?
As always when a leader stumbles, the cry is heard: But there’s no one to replace her! See de Gaulle, Clemenceau, and Elbert Hubbard above for a sufficient answer to that argument. Besides, there are, in fact, several names being mentioned as potential replacements, mostly the photogenic young thrusters who always strike journalists as just what the nation needs: on this occasion, Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, and Jens Spahn, cited by an Irish correspondent as “the ambitious 36-year-old deputy finance minister.”
All of them are doubtless terrific, but what about someone who’s shown some ability to grasp what’s gone wrong and how it might be put right? At last year’s “European Summit” on the Greek crisis, Wolfgang Schäuble, the German Finance Minister, proposed a rescue package for Greece that would grant generous loans not to keep Greece inside the poisoned Shirt of Nessus but to help the country to leave the Euro and survive the inevitable difficulties of the transition to a new independent currency that would allow it to compete again. It was seriously discussed but ultimately vetoed by Merkel and Hollande as the end of Europe or some such free-flowing nonsense. Schäuble also commented with deadly obliqueness on Merkel’s invitation to migrants: “Avalanches can easily be triggered if a careless skier disturbs even just a small bit of snow.” That tells us something.
And his other qualities?
Well, he’s the finance minister credited with Germany’s economic soundness, an experienced MP of some 44 years’ standing, and a political realist supportive of the EU but not in the grip of utopianism. Best of all, at the age of 74, he would take office older than Ronald Reagan, Konrad Adenauer, and either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Mrs. Merkel could then explain she was making way for an older man. I think that would be a graceful gesture, and Helmut Kohl for one would certainly enjoy it.
Original article here.