Stormy weather blowing in on many Trump-Merkel fronts
This combination shows U.S. President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. (DON EMMERT/TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Despite impending fierce winter weather postponing German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Tuesday meeting in Washington with worlds-apart U.S. President Donald Trump, the subsequent joint press conference now slated for Friday could well derail in short order.
The American media remains largely obsessed with Trump’s recent bombshell tweet that former President Barack Obama ordered the tapping of the phones at his campaign headquarters.
Is Trump morphing into the presidential equivalent of Aesop’s The Boy Who Cried Wolf and, if so, can he ever be believed again?
After all, when you’re president of the U.S., words matter.
So this is precisely where the story is tracking.
Important questions for Merkel regarding NATO’s place in evolving history, her take on Brexit, and the migrant crisis coupled with the rise of populist political tides in Europe, will undoubtedly take second place to whether Trump has any proof to substantiate his allegations that Obama was a participant in a criminal act.
Thus far, there is appears to be none.
What was delivered, instead, were bizarre comments by one of Trump’s key advisors, Kellyanne Conway, that Obama could have monitored the campaign in other ways.
“What I can say is (that) there are many ways to surveil each other,” she told a New Jersey newspaper. “You can surveil someone through their phones, certainly through their television sets — any number of ways.”
Conway later dialed it back by saying she was talking about surveillance techniques in general and not, specifically, about Trump’s accusation regarding his predecessor.
So this is the atmosphere Angela Merkel is walking into on Friday, flanked by a group of German CEOs with operations in the U.S. who will be armed with numbers to fight Trump’s protectionist rhetoric by showing the American jobs their firms had created.
Back in January, for example, Trump had told Germany’s largest newspaper, Bild, that he would consider a massive 35% tariff on BMW imports unless the car manufacturer changed its ways.
Unlike Justin Trudeau and Angela Merkel, Trump does not belong to a mutual admiration society when it comes to Europe.
Trump has accused Merkel of “ruining Germany” by allowing in more than 1 million refugees since 2015, while Merkel has been publicly critical of Trump’s controversial U.S. immigration ban on seven — now six — Muslim-dominated countries.
Trump has repeatedly slammed the European Union, praised Great Britain for cutting its ties to it, and threatened to pull out of NATO unless the military alliance increases its financial support to at least 2% of each member’s GDP.
As was learned yesterday in a report by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, while Canada slightly bumped up its defence spending in 2016 from 0.98% of GDP to 1.02%, it remains near the bottom of the pile — coming in 20th out of NATO’s 28 nations, putting it in a three-way tie with Hungary and Slovenia.
Despite Stoltenberg’s insistence Monday the 2% bar must be reached, Trudeau all but dismissed it during a visit with Merkel last month, claiming “there are many ways of evaluating one’s contributions to NATO.”
In the meantime, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Monday there would be no defining comment on Trump’s wiretap allegations against Obama until the House intelligence committee, and the Department of Justice, finish their investigations.
If there is, indeed, a wolf to cry about, it’s still in the weeds.
Real or imagined.