I have often remarked on the influence and importance of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Heaven knows why she was named Time Magazine Person of the Year for 2015 but her long rule over Germany has certainly not been a great success.
Keep in mind, Merkel comes from the conservative side of German politics. She is not a liberal or a progressive. If Merkel was the role model for girl power, for the exercise of political authority by a woman, perhaps her example was more harmful to the Hillary Clinton candidacy than either Vladimir Putin or Wikileaks.
Holman Jenkins declared on Wednesday that Merkel governs by “ill-considered policy spasms,” a nice phrase that describes a leader who governs with her gut, without allowing the light of reason to enter her deliberations. Thus, she has made serious mistakes and these mistakes have had serious consequences.
Counting down Angela’s greatest hits, Jenkins opens with her gut reaction to the Fukushima earthquake. Merkel unthinkingly shut down Germany’s nuclear power plants, ignoring the fact that the evacuation from Fukushima caused far more deaths than did the radiation from the leak:
After the Japanese tsunami and earthquake, she precipitously ordered the closure of Germany’s 17 nuclear plants. Never mind that not a single death, among the 18,000 in the Japanese earthquake and its aftermath, was caused by radiation exposure—though 1,600 deaths are estimated to have resulted indirectly from the unnecessary evacuation of 300,000 Fukushima prefecture residents.
And then there was Merkel’s embrace of renewable clean energy… in particular wind and solar power. How did that one work out? Glad you asked.
With her Energiewende, she ordained Germany’s forced march toward renewable power, which recently collided with stable high-pressure systems that left Germany cloudy and windless for three weeks. Now Germans learn, at catastrophic expense, they must maintain duplicate power systems, one running on coal. Germany’s CO 2 emissions are higher than when Mrs. Merkel started.
If only they could have sacrificed Iphigenia and made the winds rise....
One understands that the environmentalist push toward clean energy is more about virtue signaling than about dealing with the nation’s energy needs. And it certainly ignores the fact that renewable energy is many times more expensive than supposedly dirty energy sources.
Since the best laid plans, especially those that ignore reality in favor of some gauzy ideal, oft produce unintended consequences, Merkel’s environmental policy has caused wind and solar energy companies to seek out government subsidies for their extremely expensive energy. And of course, the increasing cost of electricity has been borne by consumers, not be well-connected businesses.
Her energy vision, whatever it might have been, is now consumed by the demand of wind farms and solar installers for subsidies, and the clamor of politically-connected businesses for exemptions from the resulting high electricity prices.
We note, with some amusement, that Merkel's policy spasm has led to more carbon dioxide emissions. It was another win for the environment.
No list of Angela’s greatest hits would be complete without mentioning-- yet again-- her horrific decision to open Germany’s arms to over a million Muslim refugees. We all understand that, given the nature of the European Union, a resident of Germany can travel freely throughout the EU. Thus, Merkel’s policy seemed indirectly to contribute to Great Britain’s Brexit and to the Trump election:
She threw open the European Union’s gates to Middle Eastern and African migrants, a decision now seen as a direct spur to Brexit, the rise of anti-EU parties across the Continent, even the election of the anti-NATO, anti-EU administration of Donald Trump in the U.S.
Jenkins sees the calamity of the Merkel administration as a cautionary tale for our current president. I trust that he still holds to a previous view, namely, that it is far too early to judge the success or failure of the Trump presidency.
But, he suggests that governing by “policy spasms,” aka, going with your gut, is a bad basis for leadership. Among other reasons, if your policies are unintelligible and incoherent—as are the rumblings of your gut—you will sow more chaos than order. World leaders will not know when the antacid will kick in.
Jenkins concludes his column:
Mr. Trump has ideas but they are ankle-deep. His transactional presidency may disrupt for the purpose of disrupting, but not clear yet is whether it’s really leading anywhere. Ronald Reagan created a lasting legacy. In his parting address to his staff, he linked his vision of lower marginal tax rates and reduced regulation to the eternal fight against those seeking to drag us a “mile or two more down what Friedrich Hayek called the road to serfdom.”
We didn’t start with Mrs. Merkel by accident. For all his faults, Mr. Trump’s election is at least the biggest sign yet that Western electorates have figured out something has gone wrong with the Western economic model, even if they are divided over exactly what the trouble is.
So, something is clearly wrong. The reaction to Trump shows it on a daily basis. And yet, Trump himself has been less than sure-footed in his leadership style. He has produced more uncertainty than confidence.
Obviously, he is learning on the job. Obviously, the Democrats and the media are not in a mood to cut him any slack. Obviously, he has been in the White House for all of two weeks.
So, Jenkins suggests that it’s a bit early to ring the alarm bells, but not too soon to offer some friendly advice. It’s time for the Donald to get a grip, lest his presidency end up looking like Merkel, Part Deux.
To be fair, Trump’s unhinged and increasingly violent opponents are doing him a large favor. They are discrediting their cause and pushing people toward him. This cuts him some slack. And yet, if you have no experience governing, it’s best to rely on people who do. And not, as I have often recommended in many different contexts, to go with your gut.
Celebrities become famous for saying whatever crosses their minds. Presidents, political, business and military leaders, must learn messaging discipline. Sooner, rather than later.