The Un-Thatcher


Cameron Abadi calls Angela Merkel, who just won a third term, “the Machiavelli of our day—better, and certainly shrewder, at power politics than any of her peers, including her colleagues in the White House and Kremlin”:

[I]t’s important to note that Merkel’s acquisition of this power is directly related to her low-key style. She hasn’t held press conferences ordering budget cuts in Greece, or pension reforms in France. She’s cut all of her deals in closed-door meetings of the European Council; the bailouts are presented as the consensus of all European leaders, so they can’t be traced back to Merkel individually. In some sense, Merkel has managed to push through her preferred policies, while sending out the leaders of the affected countries to take the fall for them. Angry protesters in Greece and Spain have tried to paint Merkel as a Nazi, but the Hitler moustache doesn’t quite stick; mostly they’ve directed their anger at their own governments. In some sense, Merkel has maximized her power by minimizing the appearance of it.

I’ve long been struck by Merkel’s refusal to be drawn into ideological fights, reluctance to clarify where ambiguity serves her better, and disinclination to bludgeon rather than to coax and trick. But her will should not be under-estimated either. Germany’s foolish or smart approach to the euro-crisis, depending on your point of view, has been resiliently conservative with a small-c. She has neither let the euro collapse nor surrendered to looser economic strictures. The pain has been deep and protracted; Germany’s ascendancy in Europe greater than at any time since the Second World War.

(Photo: Photos of German Chancellor and Christian Democratic Union (CDU) candidate Angela Merkel are seen on the front pages of German newspapers on September 23, 2013 in Berlin, a day after general elections. By Barbara Sax/AFP/Getty Images)