The opening line in Der Spiegel says it all: "Doubts are growing inside Angela Merkel's Chancellery that the incoming American president will mature and become a statesman. The chancellor is preparing for frosty trans-Atlantic relations while at the same time trying to pull Europe together."
Think about that. Angela Merkel doubts that a 70-year old man "will mature and become a statesman." Hmm. If he's not mature at 70 it sounds like a safe bet that he won't become mature later on.
The hour-long video didn't exactly put the German chancellor in a cheerful mood. The footage was from Donald Trump's recent appearance in Pennsylvania during his so-called Thank You Tour and Angela Merkel, as she told the national executive committee of her center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), watched the rally in its entirety. She recommended that her fellow party members do the same. "It is interesting to see the thought environment he inhabits," she said.
During his speech, Trump celebrated a landslide victory that was anything but; he blasted the press ("the world's most dishonest people") and in no way left the impression that he has matured into a statesman following his election win. But one passage really stood out in Merkel's memory and she quoted it verbatim: "There is no such thing as a global anthem, a global currency, a global flag. We salute one flag, and that is the American flag."
She said that "Germany and America are connected by values of democracy, freedom and respect for law." She then offered close cooperation with the next president on the "basis of these values." It was the language of a parole officer trying to get her charge back on the right track. Merkel didn't just say this publicly -- she also repeated it during an hour-long telephone conversation with Trump on Nov. 11. The future president remained friendly, but was apparently thoroughly unimpressed.
Trump also has a penchant for dismissing the warnings of his advisers and allies. This creates the additional problem that efforts to coax or even pressure the new president may have the opposite of the intended effect. "To Trump, what matters is not if his decisions are coherent, but how they are perceived," says one diplomat who represented the German government in Washington.
Small wonder that, in many circles, it's no longer the American president but the German chancellor who is considered the new leader of the free world.