Angela Merkel 'New Yorker' Profile Delves Into The Storied History Of Europe's Most Powerful Woman
Who's the most powerful woman in the world? You might just be looking at her — German chancellor Angela Merkel. One of just five female heads of state in the European Union, and undoubtedly the leader of the most thriving and potent economic power out of them all, Merkel has carved out a unique, durable legacy in German politics since taking over the Chancellorship in 2005. And on Monday, she got the appropriately first-class treatment: Angela Merkel's New Yorker profile covers Putin, power, and how she climbed her way to the top of German politics.
Make no mistake, you should give the profile a reading in full. It's a positively massive and fascinating piece by New Yorker staff writer George Packer, clocking in at over 14,000 words, so there's no degree of summary I could possibly provide that would be an adequate representation. But through some asides, anecdotes and especially telling comments, Packer does give some unique, digestible and oh-so intriguing insights into the German leader, and they're worth noting. Her impact on the world stage, and especially her status among female world leaders can't be overstated, after all — even Hillary Clinton, who'll likely soon be vying to become the world's most powerful woman, calls her Europe's greatest leader. So, what's it like to be Angela Merkel? Here are a few takeaways.
Vladimir Putin's Machismo is All He's Got
It should come as little surprise that as a woman in a career field as male-dominated as the halls of power on the world stage, you're going to come away with some insights about the prickliest men around you. To that end, Merkel's got some pretty strong feelings about Russian President Vladimir Putin, he of those elaborately staged, manly photo-ops. In 2007, while Merkel was in Sochi, the image-obsessed Putin decided to exploit her well-known aversion to dogs by bringing his enormous black Labrador into the room, complete with press in attendance. Looking back, Merkel thinks she knows why this is.
I understand why he has to do this — to prove he's a man. He's afraid of his own weakness. Russia has nothing, no successful politics or economy. All they have is this.
In other words: "Nice dog, bro. Nicer than your economy." That's quite a burn, as these things go, and given Putin's notoriously thin-skinned reputation, hopefully he heard it.
She Wanted to Ascend in German Politics, and She Did It
When Merkel was still an up and coming force within Germany, she apparently engaged in that oldest, most familiar of political dark arts — sticking it to a former comrade to get ahead. At least, that's how former German chancellor Helmut Kohl tells it, claiming that Merkel is motivated by "power," and implying he'd ultimately been brought down by allowing her into his cabinet in the 1990s. Suffice it to say, it's a tense relationship even to this day.
I brought my killer. I put the snake on my arm.
If that sounds dramatic, well, it's not entirely untrue — in 1998, Merkel threw Kohl under the proverbial bus in a newspaper op-ed, urging his party to cast the revered leader aside and brace for new challenges ahead.
The Party must learn to walk now and dare to engage in future battles with its political opponents without its old warhorse, as Kohl has often enjoyed calling himself. We who now have responsibility for the Party, and not so much Helmut Kohl, will decide how to approach the new era.
Of course, in politics as in life, you sometimes get back what you put into it. And in Kohl's case, what he reportedly put into Merkel's tenure as minister of youth and women was a heaping dose of condescension. According to Packer, Kohl used to introduce Merkel to foreign officials as "my girl." In fact, even the nature of her job was something of a gender-baed presumption — she wasn't a feminist political figure, and the early women and youth cabinet position wasn't interesting to her.
She'll Call Out Her Own Devotees
Of all the stories Packer culls about Merkel, this one is illuminating: she apparently doesn't care for being pandered to by her aides and officials. In fact, she went so far as to retell old camping stories from her youth, eliciting laughter from a hotel room full of cohorts, before revealing that she'd told the same stories before, tacitly calling out the bunch for trying to butter her up, and act as though she were funnier and more original than she actually was. This belies a valuable instinct for any major politician — namely, being able to tell the difference between laughter in earnest and laughter to try to cover something.
That's a breed of social intuition that isn't limited to cracking jokes with supporters, either — according to longtime associate Volker Schlöndorff, she doesn't take very long to figure out if somebody is worth listening to.
She is a master of listening. In a conversation, she speaks twenty per cent, you speak eighty per cent. She gives everybody the feeling ‘I want to hear what you have to say,’ but the truth is that her judgment is made within three minutes, and sometimes she thinks another eighteen minutes are wasted time. She is like a computer—‘Is this possible, what this man proposes?’ She’s able in a very quick time to realize if it’s fantasy.
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