On Olaf Scholz – Katrin Bennhold in NYT:
‘“He’s like a soccer player who studied videos of another player and changed his game,” said Robin Alexander, a long-term political observer of both Ms. Merkel and Mr. Scholz. “From temperament and political style all the way down to facial expression Scholz now channels Merkel. If Scholz was a woman he would wear pantsuits.”’
‘But he has also been something of a political chameleon, a pragmatic politician who straddles left and right so easily it is sometimes hard to know where he stands.’
‘Then, as secretary-general of his party under the last center-left administration of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, he defended painful labor market reforms with a machine-like efficiency that earned him the nickname “Scholzo-mat.”
When he was first elected into Parliament he sat with the left wing of his party. Today he is considered to be to the right of much of its base — not unlike President Biden in the United States, with whom he is sometimes compared.
But like with Biden, some see some leftist reflexes.
Mr. Scholz lost his party’s leadership contest to a pair of leftists two years ago, but surprised and impressed some of his fiercest critics in his own party when he pulled out a “bazooka” of hundreds of billions of euros in state aid to help struggling workers and businesses during the pandemic.’
‘Even political opponents speak admiringly of his political instinct, his stamina and quiet self belief. Three years ago, when his party’s approval ratings were hovering near record lows, he told The New York Times that the Social Democrats would win the next election.
Like Ms. Merkel, he has a reputation for being a safe pair of hands and a decent person with a bipartisan aura.
“Merkel is beyond party-politics, she is the voice of reason,” said Mr. Alexander, who wrote a best-selling book on the end of the Merkel era. “Being the center of politics as a person, that’s what Merkel did so masterfully and that’s what Scholz is aiming for.” That political flexibility may now make him the perfect leader to tackle what may be his abiding challenge as chancellor — keeping the peace in an unusual and untested three-way coalition with two ideologically divergent parties: the progressive Greens, who want to spend 50 billion euros, or about $56 billion, on a green transition, and the pro-market Free Democrats, who will control the finance ministry and with it the purse strings.’
‘He has a seeming center-left ally in President Biden. Not since the second term of former President Bill Clinton have both the White House and the German chancellery been in the hands of center-left leaders.
But no one in Berlin is relying too much on Washington.’
‘One of Mr. Scholz’ advisers put it more bluntly: “Biden is America First, just more polite.” As a result, Mr. Scholz will focus his energy on strengthening the European Union, his advisers say. His first foreign visit will be to President Emmanuel Macron in France, who faces his own difficult election campaign next year. Supporting Mr. Macron, who is taking over the European Union’s rotating presidency in January, is one goal.’
‘But as Beijing has become more confrontational and German industry more outspoken about its dependency on the Chinese market, Germany’s China policy is ripe for evolving from the mercantilist soft touch of the Merkel era, analysts say.’
Read the article here.
Biden is Amerika First just more polite is undoubtedly true, from a European perspective, but politeness should not be underestimated, especially not in politics.
I don’t see Germany getting tougher on China. For wat reason? Same goes for Putin.
Scholz has no choice but to follow up on Merkel’s strategy, holding the EU together without alienating his base in Germany, which means that very often German foreign policy will be dictated by the following state elections in Germany, which are fairly important for the government. Losing state elections can threaten your majority and your popularity. At least German and EU foreign policy should not undermine the popularity of, in this case, the SPD.
And also Merkel was a chameleon. In order to survive in politics, you need to be a chameleon.