German Chancellor Angela Merkel probably won’t get the Presidential Medal of Freedom she deserves. The award, the highest civilian honor issued by the United States that a foreigner is eligible to receive, recognizes those people who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors”.
The reason Chancellor Merkel won’t be getting the medal is that Donald Trump now controls who receives it.
The reason she deserves it is the fact that, according to an article in The New York Times, she only ran for a fourth term in office because she felt the need to act as a counterbalance to the election of President Trump.
The insight into Merkel’s motivation comes courtesy of a new book from former Obama deputy national security adviser, Benjamin Rhodes, whose new book “The World as It Is” recounts a conversation between the German leader and then-President Obama at the end of his term.
Merkel told Obama “that she felt more obliged to run for another term because of Mr. Trump’s election to defend the liberal international order,” according to the book. The weight of responsibility that Merkel felt was so strong that when she said goodbye to Obama for the final time during his presidency, she’s described it as having a single tear in her eye.
After Merkel left, Obama perceptively commented: “She’s all alone.” While Merkel had a particularly close relationship with Obama, her relationship with Trump could best be described as frosty exasperation.’
Facing an American leader willing and eager to abandon all past diplomatic negotiations and treaties, including the Paris climate accord that could determine the environmental future of the entire planet, the mutual defense obligations of the NATO treaty, and every free trade policy that has facilitated global commerce, Merkel often seems like the last bastion of a united Europe fighting for the policies that have enabled global prosperity despite the near destruction of the world economy in the wake of the economic debacle that the last Republican president presided over.
That last Republican administration under G. W. Bush also was responsible for the biggest and most expensive foreign policy blunder in U.S. history, a war in Iraq based on phony evidence of weapons of mass destruction that destabilized the entire Middle East and eventually led to the current Syrian refugee crisis that has enveloped the E.U. and led to the rise of right-wing ultra-nationalist political movements across the continent.
As the last of the overseas establishment political figures to survive into the Trump era, Merkel has a heavy burden to shoulder. Americans need to be grateful that she has not shied away from her new responsibilities as the leader of the free world, a role that Trump has neither the qualifications nor the desire to fulfill.
Let’s hope that when the Democrats retake the White House, that the next president will put Chancellor Merkel on the top of the list for that Medal of Freedom. By then she will have surely more than earned it.
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