Morning Briefing

Killing Schulz Softly

In an annual summertime interview with German broadcaster ARD, Chancellor Angela Merkel defended the decision to hold the recent G20 summit in Hamburg. Merkel came to the aid of the city’s Social Democratic mayor, arguing that the summit was “planned collectively.” She also bravely said, “I take as much responsibility as Olaf Scholz.”

The chancellor’s public display of accountability is doubly sophisticated: Aside from showing her moral stature, it also makes the Social Democratic Party’s attempt to force her into a political duel ahead of September’s federal elections look utterly ridiculous. Merkel’s solidarity with Scholz is actually a masterful move of moral jiu-jitsu against SPD chancellor candidate Martin Schulz. When Schulz tries to snap at Merkel’s ankles, the chancellor smothers him with a nurturing embrace. With Schulz then snapping for air, Merkel hugs tighter. In other words, she’s killing him softly.

Which is perhaps why Schulz’s “Future plan for a modern Germany” seems so contrived. The chancellor candidate wants to establish a federal investment commitment, expand digital infrastructure and increase education spending. None of this sounds bad, but it also doesn’t sound new. Schulz is offering a platform of predictability, which, contrary to his own perception, poses no challenge to the incumbent. He is merely echoing Merkel – albeit with a superficially Social Democratic red tinge.

Back in 1984, Germany’s largest metalworkers’ union, IG Metall, went on strike for seven weeks, paralyzing plants nationwide. Now, more than three decades later, the industry is on the cusp of its next major labor dispute. Union head Jörg Hofmann is fighting for a 28-hour work-week, preferably with no loss of pay.

His adversary, Rainer Dulger, president of the metalworkers’ employers’ association Gesamtmetall, offered his perspective in a Handelsblatt interview: “This change would not only cause lasting damage to our economic vitality; it would also create massive abandonment of collective labor agreements – not to mention offshoring production.” Both union and management have until October to discuss the facts – at which point the bargaining demands become official. Perhaps Hofmann should attempt to soften the populist tendencies of his colleagues on the management board – not encourage them. After all, you don’t butcher the cow you want to milk.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues to intensify his merciless rhetoric. Following last year’s coup attempt, Turkey’s president told a rally of supporters: “We will rip the heads off of these traitors.” He also demanded the reinstatement of the death penalty, regardless of “what Hans and George say,” referring to Germany and the US. While his words haven’t destroyed the bridge between Europe and Turkey, they have closed it down indefinitely. Erdogan certainly won’t be crossing it anymore in his lifetime.

Across the pond, former FBI head James Comey announced a tell-all book, as Donald Trump’s approval ratings continue to sink. Publically, the president, Donald Jr., Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner all continue to pledge their mutual loyalty. The group always pretends to know only as much about the dubious Russian contacts as the press reports. Is the Trump family allegiance strong enough to withstand indictments? Only time will tell. Get out the popcorn.

Picture of the Day

French President Emmanuel Macron pays his respects after laying a wreath during yesterday’s ceremony commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Vel d’Hiv roundup in Paris. On July 16 and 17, 1942, French police arrested more than 13,000 French Jews, who were then sent to German concentration camps. Source: Kamil Zihnioglu/AP Pool/dpa
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