Thursday, January 19, 2012

What makes Angie tick? (4 of 4): Angie's approach to political loyalty

Harry Truman once commented that if someone in politics in Washington wants a friend, they should get a dog. Because even among like-minded partisans, politics is a competitive business with constantly shifting alliances.

Angela Merkel would understand the sentiment. Though Truman's comment implies regret, and Angie doesn't show a lot of evidence of being burdened by regrets. Even in a profession known for flexible loyalties, Angie has a reputation of being particularly ruthless in swapping them out when it looks advantageous to her political career.

Perhaps the most dramatic incidence of this was in 1999, when Angela Merkel was the General Secretary of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the second-highest party organizational office behind the then Party Chairman Wolfgang Schäuble. Former Chancellor and CDU head Helmut Kohl, her most important mentor in politics, had gotten in trouble over the use of a Party slush fund, in which Schäuble was eventually implicated. She published a public letter distancing herself from Kohl without notifying Schäuble or Kohl that she was doing so. When Schäuble's role also became public, Angie was well positioned to take his place as Party Chair in 2000, a post she has retained very since. It is widely recognized as a prime example of Angie's willingness to stick a (metaphorical) shiv in even her closest allies and most important benefactors if she sees an advantage from it.

Süddeutsche Zeitung chief editor Kurt Kister reports on what appears to be more-or-less Angie's preferred version of her approach to political loyalty in Merkels Haltung zu Wulffs Affäre.Loyal, weil ihr nichts anderes übrigbleibt 12.01.2012:

Merkel ist gegenüber Mitarbeitern, Ministern und Parteifreunden loyal, wenn die ihre Jobs gut machen oder zumindest dies im Rahmen ihrer Möglichkeiten versuchen. Wer so handelt, kann sich auf Merkel verlassen. Professionalität ist der Kanzlerin wichtiger, als es ihr Parteiprogramme oder Linientreue sind.

Wenn Merkel jemanden für eine Position auswählt - und das hat sie im Falle Wulffs getan -, dann erwartet sie, dass der vorher befragte Kandidat die Aufgabe, die er sich und sie ihm zutraut, auch erfüllen kann. Christian Wulff hat sich erschreckend unprofessionell verhalten - von der Kreditverschleierungsgeschichte über den Anrufbeantworter bis zu folgenlosen Ankündigungen im Fernsehen. Er hat seit Mitte Dezember die Sache nicht besser, sondern schlimmer gemacht.

Ginge es nicht um den Bundespräsidenten, drohte Wulff von Seiten Merkels jetzt das Schicksal jener CDU-Männer, die nicht konnten, was sie sollten oder die Merkel im Weg waren. Weil aber Wulff der Präsident ist und selbst immer noch findet, dass er kann, was er soll, wird Merkel sich von ihm nicht weiter entfernen, als sie dies bereits getan hat.

[Merkel is loyal to co-workers, ministers and Party friends if they do their jobs well or at least attempt to do so within the limits of their possibilities. Whoever does that can count on Merkel. Professionalism is more important to the Chancellor than her Party program or loyalty to Party lines.

When Merkel selects someone for a position - and she did that in Wulff's case - then she expects that the candidate to also be able to carry out the duty that he and she agreed upon beforehand. Christian Wulff has conducted himself terribly unprofessionally - from the concealment of the credit story to the answering machine to the unfulfilled promises on television. {All aspects of the current scandal in which he is involved.} Since the middle of December he has not improved the situation but rather made it worse.

If he weren't the Federal President, Wulff would be threatened with the fate of those CDU men who couldn't do what they should or were in Merkel's way. But because Wulff is the President and still holds that he can do what he should, Merkel will not distance herself from him further than she already has.]
But as one of her closest allies, Wulff knows very well that Angie's loyalties can be very flexible.

Sources on Angie's life and career:
  • Gerd Langguth, Angela Merkel.Aufstieg zur Macht - Biographie(DTV; München) 2007 edition
  • Michael Lümann, Der Osten im Westen - oder: Wie viel DDR steckt in Angela Merkel, Matthias Platzeck und Wolfgang Thierse? Versuch einer Kollektivbiographie (ibidem-Verlag; Stuttgart) 2010
  • Angela Merkel, Mein Weg.Angela Merkel im Gespräch mit Hug Müller-Vogg (Hoffmann und Campe; Hamburg) 2004
  • Volker Resing, Angela Merkel.Die Protestantin - Ein Portrait (St. Benno-Verlag; Leipzig) 2009


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