President Trump’s Twitter attacks on Germany are actually working to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s advantage. Constanze Stelzenmüller pens a letter from Merkel to Trump. This piece originally appeared in the Financial Times.
Dear President Trump,
It was great—if rather unexpected—to hear about Germany from you on Twitter! It seems only yesterday that we met at the G-7 summit in Canada. That was the one where you said you wanted Russia back in despite the fact that Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea illegally and is still conducting a proxy war in Ukraine and interfering in western politics everywhere—and even, if your CIA and your FBI are to be believed, in your elections. I must say that, since you got elected, Donald, summits are so much less boring.
But the reason I’m writing, Donald—and, yes, I’m writing because the awesomeness that is the @realDonaldTrump Twitter feed is impossible for a mere German chancellor to emulate—is that I want personally to express my heartfelt gratitude to you for your tweet on Monday morning.
It was most considerate of you. It’s been a bit of a tough stretch here in Berlin, what with first having to wrestle down an uprising from my Bavarian sister party, the CSU, led by that tedious man Horst Seehofer, over asylum policy (unfortunately he’s also my interior minister), then meeting with my latest Italian counterpart, Giuseppe Conte, who foolishly wants me to dismantle the EU’s asylum rules. And only yesterday I was discussing EU reform with that lovely (if a little impetuous) young Emmanuel Macron from Paris. So, busy times.
I’ll be honest with you, Donald: for the past 10 days or so, I thought my political career was over. When the CSU attacked me, it was clear this had nothing to do with refugees, and everything to do with—how do you say in America?—regime change. An “axis of the willing from Berlin to Vienna to Rome” (in the words of the prime minister of Austria, Sebastian Kurz) was arrayed against me.
I ended up having to use my Richtlinienkompetenz (that’s German for pulling rank and putting my foot down) to tell the CSU what to do with themselves. If you understand what I mean.
But unlike you, I just can’t find the words that will tear tens of thousands of people away from whatever it is that they are doing, to stare at their mobile phone screens and start jabbering to themselves in a high-pitched voice. I believe I’m not incompetent at my job, but this is just not a gift I have.
So when you tweeted about how Germans are turning against yours truly, and that migration is “rocking the already tenuous Berlin coalition” and “crime in Germany is way up” that really, really got people’s attention. Then the fact-checkers got to work. Crime, of course, isn’t up, but at a 25-year low. Crimes by non-Germans are down by even more (2.7 percent) than crimes committed by Germans (2.2 percent). And those illegal border crossings you’re so concerned about? They dropped 79.9 percent.
When I say this kind of stuff, making sure all the numbers are correct down to the last decimal point, people’s eyes glaze over. When you tweet about it, it’s all over Twitter and Facestagram. Although I do wonder, Donald, where you get your ideas. Is it those airbrushed people at Fox & Friends? Your tough new Hungarian friend, prime minister Viktor Orban? Or Steve Bannon, who has been slinking about Europe recently? I did warn you about that man.
As for Germans turning against me, I hate to brag, but I’m still Germany’s most popular politician. (At 50 percent, I think that puts me five percentage points ahead of you, Donald.) Meanwhile, the CSU’s attempts to imitate the populist rhetoric of the rightwing Alternative for Germany haven’t done anything for their ratings—despite the fact they are facing the loss of their absolute majority in the Bavarian elections in October, poor dears.
In sum: You Made Angela Great Again!
Yours most gratefully,
(Angela Merkel, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany)