Morning Briefing

Germany’s Rainbow Revolution

Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag, made history today by legalizing same-sex marriage, with a vote of 393 to 226. The Social Democrats, Greens and Left Party, who together hold a slight majority over Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, have long sought to make it law. Today, they succeeded, along with 73 approving CDU lawmakers. Merkel, who voted no, has nevertheless paved the way for possible coalitions after the fall federal elections with the SPD or the Free Democrats. But what the notoriously inscrutable chancellor didn’t do was choose to stand on the right side of history – at least publically.

In June of 2014, Islamic State militants seized the Iraqi city of Mosul and declared their caliphate from the Grand Mosque of al-Nuri. Since then, Iraqi troops – with tactical support from the US – have taken back large parts of the ancient city. Yesterday, they managed to regain control of the famous medieval mosque. While Islamic State hasn’t been defeated, it has been diminished. The militants can continue terrorizing the Middle East but not dominating the region. This is what hope looks like in war.

There’s less hope for Donald Trump, who undoubtedly has the worst manners of any president in US history. Yesterday, he took to Twitter to insult “Morning Joe” TV moderator Mika Brzezinski – she is the daughter of the recently deceased Zbigniew Brzezinski, a renowned former advisor to Jimmy Carter. “Low I.Q. Crazy Mika,” was just the beginning of his vulgar tirade. He also called Brzezinski’s current partner and co-moderator Joe Scarborough “Psycho Joe.” The co-hosts have been critical of the president since he took office. Clearly, Trump should not be in the White House but rather on the couch of a psychiatrist.

Paradoxically, the president is a kind of gift for opposition politicians the world over. This is especially true in Germany, where Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, Social Democratic party leader and chancellor candidate Martin Schulz and, most recently, Merkel have taken shots at the 45th US president. All three are chomping at the bit to confront the president in person at G20 summit next week in Hamburg. The notoriously thin-skinned Trump should be prepared to be in the line of fire.

In an interview with our sister publication WirtschaftsWoche, Merkel laid out her geopolitical strategy for a world that she admits “has become significantly more turbulent.” She emphasized that her special brand of moderate leadership should not be mistaken as resignation toward political problems. Her occasional meetings with Pope Francis, she noted, were inspirational for learning how to deal with difficult conversation partners. Her advice: “We need to establish commonality without covering up our differences: bend, bend but don’t break.”

Germany’s central bank, the Bundesbank, which is known domestically as the holy protector of a long-standing policy of economic stability (or whatever is left of it), will celebrate its 60th anniversary this year. Economist Jörg Krämer at Commerzbank would like to see more German influence in Europe and a redistribution of votes within the European Central Bank to reflect the amount of capital invested. For the Bundesbank, this would mean a 25 percent consolidation of votes within the ECB’s executive committee.

American Adam Posen, a former external member of the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee and current head of the Washington-based Peterson Institute, sees things pretty differently. “From my perspective,” he told Handelsblatt, “the German central bank should first and foremost be decreasing its role in the European context. The same goes for their sense of self-importance.” Ouch.

There was a time when Germans feared the release of the newest numbers of by the Federal Employment Agency. Those days are long gone. As the agency announced today, the number of unemployed sank in June by 25,000 down to 2,473 million, the lowest level since 1991. That’s 142,000 less unemployed than in June 2016. Expect a veritable avalanche of positive reports. Indeed, the majority of jobs in Germany appear stabile; skilled workers are a hot commodity. Which is partially why the income gap has not increased in recent years. Germany’s economic problems have rarely looked so adorably manageable.

Picture of the Day

Merkel_NoGay
Chancellor Angela Merkel casts her "No" vote against legalizing same-sex marriage in German parliament. The bill still passed. Source: dpa/Michael Kappeler
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