Chancellor Merkel’s German-Harvard Axis Attacks President Trump’s America

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel uttered all the Pavlovian anti-Trump dog whistles. She talked about walls and climate change. She mentioned gun violence and multilateralism. She referred to free trade and globalism. And she condemned nationalism and isolationism. 

Checking off the liberal agenda, the only line she omitted was sharply rebuking “the deplorables.”

Taking yet another bow on the world stage in an interminable goodbye tour, she promises to step down as German chancellor in 2021. Speaking at Harvard University’s 368th Commencement, she hit all the left-leaning notes for her well-heeled crowd of global elites. Simultaneously addressing the mainstream media and foreign policy establishment, Merkel curried favor with the global progressives who have anointed her “the leader of the Free World” — or, as Time magazine preferred “Chancellor of the Free World” — in their petty efforts to snub President Donald J. Trump.

Just as she was warmly received by the those gathered at Harvard’s pompously branded Tercentenary Theatre, Merkel must have been thrilled by the fawning media reception. The Boston Globe headlined: “At Harvard, a not-so-veiled rebuke of Trump by Angela Merkel.” The New York Times proclaimed: “Merkel rebukes Trump’s world view in all but name.” Politico declared: “Merkel takes aim at Trump in ‘tear down walls’ speech.”

Now that’s the kind of free press that even a German chancellor can get behind.

Of course, Merkel was not always German leader. She grew up behind the Iron Curtain in Communist East Germany. Long before she entered democratic politics, she studied physics at the Karl Marx University in Leipzig.  As a scientist, she held a respected profession under the totalitarian dictatorship. Protecting her status, Merkel avoided being labeled a dissident. Yet, she apparently regarded the Berlin Wall as something of a personal affront. “The Berlin Wall,” she told the Harvard audience, “limited my opportunities. It quite literally stood in my way.”

When the wall fell thanks to the courage, dedication, and sacrifices of dissidents, Pope John Paul II, and President Ronald Reagan, “a door suddenly opened,” she emphasized, “for me, too. The moment came to walk through that door.”

Speaking to the gathering of secular liberals and internationalists, she managed to avoid mentioning either Reagan or John Paul, whose names surely would have elicited neither applause nor positive headlines. Merkel knew her audience.

She, nonetheless, pinched a line directly from Ronald Reagan, saying, “Tear down walls of ignorance and narrow-mindedness, for nothing has to stay as it is.” Reagan had more concrete and dangerous enemies in mind when he went to West Berlin and spoke his most famous words: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” No moment better encapsulated the entirety of the Cold War, at a time Merkel was employed as a dutiful East German research scientist.

Merkel unleashed many more target-audience applause lines. Sounding like a regurgitated leftover from George Orwell’s 1984, she said, “That requires us not to disguise lies as truth, and truth as lies.” Those words brought the assembled leftists to their feet. Her anti-Trump listeners were ecstatic, even while worshipping such notable truth-tellers as Bill and Hillary Clinton and former Harvard professor and ex-Native American Elizabeth Warren.

“Protectionism and trade conflicts,” the Chancellor lectured, “jeopardize free international trade, thus the very foundations of our prosperity.” If she is talking about German prosperity, then she is certainly correct. Germany routinely chalks up sizable trade surpluses with the United States and has recorded the world’s largest trade surplus for three consecutive years. A large chunk of those surpluses is extracted directly from America’s trade deficit. Perhaps the truth is:  Prosperity for Germany is not necessarily best for American workers.

“If we want to go it alone,” Merkel advised, “we could not achieve much. Our way of thinking and our actions have to be multilateral rather than unilateral, global rather than national, outward looking rather than isolationist.” 

This internationalism certainly benefited Germany in its post-World War II era, as it prospered behind the defense shield against Communist aggression generously paid for by American working taxpayers. Whether it has been equally good for citizens of the United States is less clear, nor has the highly touted trans-Atlantic relationship always been an unreserved good for all Americans. 

To the extent “burden sharing” exists, Americans shoulder the burden. According to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, the United States spends nearly 4% of its Gross National Product on international defense, while Germany spends only a bit over 1% of Gross National Product.  In a nutshell, American taxpaying families pay three to four times as much for international defense compared to Germans. Put another way, Americans are paying their tax dollars to subsidize a safe, prosperous, and well-educated Germany. This, despite the fact that Germans have longer lifespans than Americans, have historically lower unemployment, and have a less burdensome health care system. In effect, German citizens benefit domestically, at the expense of American working families.

Is it any wonder Chancellor Merkel does not want to “go it alone”?

The former East German scientist and successful politician in a united and free Germany received the anticipated rapt applause when promising to achieve “climate neutrality” by 2050. Dwelling on climate change, Merkel elicited frequent applause. She spoon-fed her left-wing audience everything short of a full-throated embrace of the Democrat Party’s Green New Deal.

On this and many other issues, Merkel sounded more like a typical liberal Democrat than the leader of the formerly conservative Christian Democratic Union. Since rising to German leader in 2005, Merkel has done her best to move that party from the center right to the center left, particularly on climate change and mass migration. In the United States, she likely would be a loyal establishment Democrat in the mold of Hillary Clinton who crowned Merkel “the most important leader in the Free World.”

Other liberals honored at Harvard during commencement week included Class Day speaker Al Gore, the former vice president who amplifies Merkel’s extreme climate angst. Also among honorees was Cecile Richards, past president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, who addressed the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health convocation. 

In Richards’s case, no dog whistles were necessary. Harvard Magazine headlined her speech: “The path of most resistance.” Decrying the pro-life legislation passed by Trump-Republican states in America’s heartland, she said, “the biggest hurdles you’re going to face … will have a lot less to do with our public health care system and a lot more to do with our political system. So it’s not enough anymore to be public health experts … For those who believe that we have the luxury of staying out of politics, we simply don’t. So welcome to the fight.”

That fight is not only against Trump, but also against pro-life legislation and the time-honored vision of America dismissed outright by Harvard elites and their abettors Gore, Richards, and Merkel. The attacks are obvious. They no longer require Merkel’s dog whistles. 


Joseph Tortelli is a freelance writer. Read other columns by Mr. Tortelli here.