Tag Archive: Angela Merkel


“In the darkness, we found the light. Introducing a new era of electronic driving.” – Volkswagen’s new advertising campaign tagline

“Hello, darkness, my old friend; I’ve come to talk to you again …” – Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel’s, “The Sounds of Silence”

Is the best defense a good offense?

Is the most effective present-day defense utilizing a Baby Boomer anthem and harkening back to the 1960s with its brightly colored Volkswagen Beetles and (Hippie) Microvans?

After being rightfully bashed and bloodied starting in the autumn of 2015 for deploying defeat software to deceive anti-pollution testing of its vehicles (Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche), heads rightfully started to roll at Volkswagen AG corporate headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany.

On the line with “Dieselgate” was Volkswagen’s brand, but also the reputation of Germany’s legendary designers and engineers. Consider, there is probably no nation on earth that prides itself more than Germany for its commitment to the environment (note the recent electoral successes of die Grünen).

The Volkswagen cheating scandal was akin to catching a falling knife. Using another well-worn metaphor, the shocking story has legs and has been running unabated for nearly four years.

The scandal started in September, 2015 when the U.S. EPA charged Volkswagen with using illegal (air quality testing) manipulation devices. A related Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation was launched. Volkswagen’s chief executive officer Martin Winterkorn was fired.

A continuous chorus of charges, fines, lawsuits, increased governmental regulation, falling stock prices and recalls mounted against Volkswagen and its Audi and Porsche subsidiaries. Last year, German authorities indicted Winterkorn on aggravated fraud charges.

Almost DailyBrett noted that Volkswagen did not follow to the letter the four basic tenets of Crisis Communications: Tell The Truth, Tell It All, Tell It Fast and Move On. In many ways Volkswagen management was just hoping this mess would simply subside.

Volkswagen management, employees, shareholders and even Kanzlerin Merkel and the German government had to confront the metaphorical Scheisse-Sandwich … you don’t nibble.

Back To The Drawing Board

At some point, the world’s largest automobile designer/manufacturer would have to go back on offense.

In doing so, Volkswagen realized it could not assume a business-as-usual approach.

Ultimately, Volkswagen appreciated that it has to acknowledge its wrongdoing, beg for forgiveness, and somehow, someway commence the hard work of rebranding … essentially moving on.

Volkswagen of America hired New York’s Johannes Leonardo advertising agency, and secured the rights to “The Sounds of Silence.”

The question posed to VW management: Can a major ad buy (part of a reported $2 billion campaign) for its 1:45 second spot featuring a Baby Boomer/Yuppie anthem make everything right in the world for Volkswagen?

In and of itself, the answer is obviously: no.

Almost DailyBrett has always believed that Volkswagen is engaged in a marathon, not a sprint. Volkswagen’s story, which began in 1937, deserves another chapter.

Americans are credited for being an understanding people. They will not forget, but are they willing to forgive and give … even a corporate entity … another chance?

The Johannes Leonardo creative, which debuted with the NBA Finals and the NHL’s Stanley Cup last week, is edgy as it literally starts in the darkness with a news announcer directly referencing the Volkswagen scandal.

One suspects that securing VW’s management approval for an open acknowledgement of moral failure was easier said than done. As Chairman Mao found out, the long-march back starts with the first step.

In our world of advertising bombast and overkill, it’s the extremely clever advertisement that stops the viewer in his or her tracks and commands attention.

The dark Sounds of Silence images convey going back to the drawing board. The result is the coming resurrection of the VW microvan … a concept vehicle for now … with the message the company’s environmentally friendly electric vehicle does not contribute to climate change. Volkswagen envisions 22 EVs (electric vehicles) by 2028, and becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

Volkswagen has stumbled for nearly four torturous years. The questions are with its new ad campaign and beyond: Has the company finally learned its lesson, and are we as consumers willing to forgive, while certainly not forgetting?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEvNL6oEr0U

https://www.fastcompany.com/90359361/volkswagen-aims-for-feel-good-redemption-in-new-major-ad-campaign

https://www.caranddriver.com/features/a27784322/vw-hello-light-commercial-column/

https://www.cleanenergywire.org/factsheets/dieselgate-timeline-germanys-car-emissions-fraud-scandal

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/15/business/winterkorn-volkswagen-emissions-scandal.html

https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidkiley5/2019/06/06/vw-goes-back-to-the-future-in-new-ad-campaign-to-put-dieselgate-in-rear-view/#1026a00d3aa5

https://www.vw.com/

http://johannesleonardo.com/

“Poor old Germany. Too big for Europe, too small for the world.” – Henry Kissinger

“It is for the rising German generation … unanimously announcing their desire: not for a German Europe, but for a European Germany.” — Thomas Mann

Germany is not a chill place.

Don’t get Almost DailyBrett wrong, you certainly can have a great time in Germany (e.g., beer gardens in München, wine in castles along the Rhine).

Having said that: There is no que será, será; in Deutschland.

Since 1945, the Germans have transformed their once-devastated, occupied and divided land and through their legendary industriousness into the #4 GDP ($3.68 trillion) in the world, and the nation with the second largest trade surplus at $274 billion.

The question for today’s discussion: Why is today’s Germany cool, calm and collected compared to its once three Western occupying allies: United States, United Kingdom and, France?

Watching ARD’s Tagesschau night-after-night, your author is struck by the absence of angry talking Teutonic heads. Certainly, Germany has its share of weighty issues and political power pontificators, but there are no discussions of glorious defeat impeachment, broken down Brexit negotiations or roaming gilets jaunes (yellow vests) in the streets.

Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche promised to reform France. He quickly found out the reality of how difficult it is to change the nation that has turned defending the status quo into an art form.

Some have questioned whether the United States will ever have a woman president, three years after the stunning defeat of Hillary Clinton. Almost DailyBrett is confident the answer will eventually be “yes,’ just not Madam Secretary or any reasonable facsimile.

Theresa May serves as the U.K.’s second woman prime minister for another week, but she was eventually beaten down by as The Economist’s cover proclaimed, “The Mother of All Messes.”

Moving one time-zone to the east, one finds Kanzlerin Angela Merkel finishing her fourth term … no later than 2021 … as the first woman leader … and most likely not the last for das Vaterland.

Even though her decision to allow 1 million or more asylum seekers into Germany in 2015 was obviously too much, too fast and … let’s face it … a mistake, she will nonetheless go down in history as one of the country’s best chancellors.

Feminizing The Fatherland

Merkel has turned down the temperature in Germany. The nation even in the face of its horrific recent history (e.g., 1933-1945) has seemingly completed its Vergangenheitsbewältigung or dealing with the past.

Germany has finally become a normal country, and serves as the rock in the middle of the wobbly European Union. Britain may eventually leave the EU, but Almost DailyBrett expects the German-French leadership duopoly to endure.

Your author was amazed about the Tagesschau (Daily Show) news coverage of the resignation of the leader of the Social Democrats (SPD) Andrea Nahles in the wake of the party’s poor results in the European Commission and Bremen election.

BERLIN, GERMANY – DECEMBER 07: Malu Dreyer (L) and Manuela Schwesing (R), vice-chairwomen of the of the German Social Democrats (SPD), attend the federal party congress on December 7, 2017 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)

She was replaced for now by two women: Manuela Schwesig, Malu Dreyer and one hombre Thorsten Schäfer-Gümbel.

Germany’s other parties were quick to offer commentary and respect to Nahles, and their leaders were for the most part women: Merkel and Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Christian Democrats: Annalena Baerbock, The Greens; Linda Teuteberg, Free Democrats; Katja Kipping, The Left and Beatrix von Storch, Alternative for Germany.

Other than Baby Boomer Merkel, 64, these women for the most part are Gen Xers or Millennials. The baton is being passed to the next generations of German leadership.

Almost DailyBrett is treading cautiously in suggesting the obvious (and desperately needed) softening of Germany’s scorched earth image has been greatly assisted by the presence of calm, confident women (e.g., Merkel).

After the world’s worst disastrous explosion of testosterone fueled über-nationalism, Germany needed to turn down the temperature and start the seemingly impossible task of rebuilding its brand.

However history judges Angela Merkel, there is zero doubt that she has bolstered the country’s image by softening it.

Today’s headlines reported The Greens within one percentage point of Merkel’s Christian Democrats. At some point there will be a new chancellor.

Almost DailyBrett is betting that Deutschland’s next leader will be another strong Frau with Merkel’s competence and calmness.

https://www.investopedia.com/insights/worlds-top-economies/

http://www.worldsrichestcountries.com/trade-surplus-by-country.html

https://www.politico.eu/article/german-social-democrats-nominate-trio-for-interim-party-leadership-manuela-schwesig-malu-dreyer-thorsten-schaefer-guembel/

https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/1137200/angela-Merkel-news-latest-poll-popularity-results-cdu-spd-coalition-germany-politics

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2017/09/24/the-right-leader-for-the-fatherlandeurope-just-happens-to-be-a-woman/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/06/24/feminizing-the-fatherland/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2019/06/06/why-angela-merkel-wouldnt-feel-awkward-d-day-celebrations/?utm_term=.ad3708e74e7d

A simple little phrase is ultimately bringing down one of the longest standing and most influential global leaders in the first two decades of the 21st Century.

The final demise of German Chancellor Angela Merkel after 13 years in office, most likely next year, comes three years after she grabbed and clutched the new highest voltage Third Rail of Politics: Asylum Immigration.

In 2015, Merkel unilaterally decided to allow approximately 1.2 million asylum seekers (about the size of metropolitan Portland, Oregon) from the Middle East into a country of 82 million.

From a public relations standpoint, there was very little explanation and preparation by Merkel and her government to garner public support for such a drastic upsurge of immigrants into the 4th largest economy in the world.

„Wir schaffen das,” proclaimed Angela Merkel. Simply translated: “We can do it.”

Die Kanzerlin, who is affectionately known as “Mutti’ or Mother, was widely seen for so many years as being a steady source of deliberate and reasoned decisions. Merkel deserves praise for her vital role in the completion of Germany’s public relations miracle (Öffentlichkeitsarbeitswunder), rising from the globe’s #1 pariah at Zero Hour 1945 to the most admired country in the world.

She has been acknowledged as the most powerful woman on earth, and yet the Ph.D in quantum chemistry was a steady hand for Germany’s now enduring and successful democracy.

At one time, Merkel was universally viewed as one of modern Germany’s greatest chancellors, comparable to her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) predecessors Konrad Adenauer and Helmut Kohl.

Is the bloom off the rose?

Almost DailyBrett acknowledges that once she makes a major decision that Merkel is an influential leader.

When the ground shook Japan’s (e.g., 8.9 earthquake) Fukushima nuclear reactor in 2011, Merkel immediately announced that Germany would prudently exit nuclear power by 2022.

When the southern nations of the European Union were attempting to break the 2 percent budget deficit limitation rule (e.g., particularly Greece), Merkel imposed fiscal austerity, and by extension Germany’s will.

When a particular bully arrived on the scene and tried to push her around and intimidate with a large canine (e.g., Russia’s Vladimir Putin), she demonstrated her resolve.

No leader in the European leader has done more to get into the face of the former KGB chief, and yet her leadership always represented Germany as a reluctant hegemon.

Most of all because of Germany’s solid incorporation into the European Union and the passage of time, Germans now joyously wave their flag and are proud of their normal nation.

“Half-Dead Wreck”?

“I don’t want to be a half-dead wreck when I leave politics.” – Angela Merkel

In nations without term limits (e.g., Germany), leaders can overstay their welcome. More than a few in history failed to recognize the flashing lights about when it’s time to step down … usually at the 12-year-mark … from the bully pulpit (i.e., FDR, Margaret Thatcher, Helmut Kohl).

After inviting 1.2 million asylum seekers into Germany without any preamble, and worse women celebrating New Year’s Eve in Cologne being sexually assaulted and raped by asylum seekers, the tide was turning against Angela Merkel.

The optics — worse yet the reality — of the New Year’s Eve attacks became a metaphor for a decision that was too much, too fast with little societal preparation. Merkel’s chancellorship was coming to an end.

Even though her party was returned to power in 2017, the Christian Democrats (CDU) and her coalition partner, Social Democrats (SPD), repeatedly lost strength to the Greens on the left and the anti-immigrant/anti-EU Alternative for Germany on the right. This electoral trend intensified with breathtaking losses (i.e., Bavaria and Hesse) for the CDU and SPD during the course of this year.

Almost DailyBrett knows her legacy is somewhat tarnished. The question remains: Will history be good to her?

The Caravan Is Coming

Even though comparisons between two nations with two distinct cultures, located nine time zones apart, are difficult at best … one contentious issue ties both of them together: immigration.

In both countries, there are those who espouse completely open borders … come one, come all.

These souls advocate for the right of non-citizens to hold driver’s licenses, serve on public boards and commissions … and even vote.

Wasn’t the privilege of voting reserved for actual citizens?

And just as asylum seekers from Syria and other bad places became the catalyst for the political downfall of Angela Merkel, could an approaching caravan(s) of asylum seekers from Central America become the source of political peril here in America?

Before one touches the new third rail of politics … political asylum … America’s political class would be well advised to weigh what happened to Angela Merkel’s tenure as Germany’s chancellor, and most likely her legacy as well.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/29/opinion/in-merkel-europe-loses-a-leader.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/29/world/europe/angela-merkel-germany.html

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-46020745

https://www.politico.eu/article/angela-merkel-drops-the-we-can-do-it-slogan-catchphrase-migration-refugees/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2017/02/20/putins-pooch-und-merkels-dog-o-phobia/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2017/09/24/the-right-leader-for-the-fatherlandeurope-just-happens-to-be-a-woman/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2017/08/22/morning-in-germany/

 

“Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.” – Winston Churchill

Relationships matter, now more than ever.

Tact also counts more than ever, even for those not known for gentile diplomacy.

It’s way too easy to obsess about our digital world with instantaneous global communication in mere nanoseconds, which was unthinkable three decades ago.

These “destructive” technologies have forever changed the world (note Facebook and Google privacy concerns).

Even more destructive is the ability to plunge the world into an unthinkable thermonuclear exchange.

And let’s not forget trying to deflect attention from the ubiquitous, addictive smart phone.

Despite all these seismic shifts in the form of digital ones-and-zeroes, personal relationships are more than ever taking center-stage, particularly in the global political arena.

Think of it as “The Art of the Deal” on steroids.

Not So Warm and Fuzzy

What are the most important public relations of all?

The answers are personal public relations and reputation management.

Do Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin have the best personal PR, let alone Kim Jong Un?

This question seems almost silly, but the ability and willingness of these gents (and at least one Frau) to establish and maintain fragile bromances and romances in our scary digital world are absolutely vital for our survival.

Consider that Trump and Kim (dubbed by The Donald as “Rocket Man”) were bragging about the capability of their nuclear buttons a few months ago, yet they still may or may not meet in Singapore on June 12.

Despite the low expectations for lasting, meaningful success, the prospect of a Trump-Kim summit is far better than a potential nuclear war.

Arm-in-Arm gehen Francois Mitterrand (l) und Helmut Kohl (r)

When it comes to war and peace, bromances and romances matter. The longest sustained peace in Europe has been maintained by the establishment of The European Economic Community (EEC) in 1957, followed by the European Community (EU) in 1993.

If you are scoring at home there has been peace for the most part on the European continent for 73 years and counting. The relationship between the two most influential EU members – Germany and France – has survived and prospered by means of the relationships between Konrad Adenauer and Charles de Gaulle, and then Helmut Kohl and Francois Mitterrand, and now Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron.

As the lone woman in this equation (all due respect is afforded to the UK’s Theresa May), Merkel is rightfully regarded as the most powerful woman on earth – a title she did not seek and obviously does not cherish.

Nonetheless, Merkel has proven she is more than a match for some of the most self-absorbed men on this planet including: Trump, Putin, China’s Xi Jinping and to a lesser extent, Marcon.

Merkel’s relationship to Messrs. Trump and Putin are not warm and fuzzy, but she has been an effective foil. She rolled her eyes at Trump and reportedly insists on speaking German to Putin, while Putin speaks Russian to her – even though they are fluent in their respective languages.

Macron has obviously concluded that Trump is the leader of the world’s largest economy and power. Some have scoffed at the bromance between the two, and questioned what Macron has received in return (e.g., US pulled out the Paris accord and the Iran nuclear deal). Keep in mind that Macron has Trump’s ear, and may be Europe’s closest confidant to POTUS.

Trump’s bromance with China’s president Xi, including a visit to Mar-a-Lago in Florida, is a complicated relationship including strategizing about Kim Jong Un’s nagging North Korea and the question of tariffs and intellectual property (IP) protection. A solid, even though conflicted, relationship between the world’s two largest economic and military powers increases – not decreases – the prospect for world peace and maybe even, harmony.

President Donald Trump talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, with their wives, first lady Melania Trump and Chinese first lady Peng Liyuan as they pose for photographers before dinner at Mar-a-Lago, Thursday, April 6, 2017, in Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Time will tell whether Almost DailyBrett is correct on this point; hopefully that is the case.

You Can Take Putin Out of the KGB …

But you can’t take the KGB out of Putin.

Russia’s leader will play games, including inviting his black lab Koni to a 2007 summit with canine-phobic Merkel (see earlier Almost DailyBrett blog on this Machiavellian topic). How will Putin exploit perceived Trump weaknesses? How will Trump counter?

And yet these two leaders appear to enjoy each other’s company, at least in front of the cameras.

Will Trump develop the same kind of rapport with Kim Jong Un?

Kim has already kibitzed with Xi and most recently on both sides of the most heavily fortified and dangerous border with South Korea’s Moon Jae-in.  The overriding subject of their historic encounters: the prospect for a summit between Kim and The Donald, regardless of the potential for success.

In our increasingly dangerous world – in which the digital ones and zeroes work for us and hopefully not against us – Almost DailyBrett takes the humble view that talking is far better than fighting.

Bromances and Romances matter.

https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/33365-tact-is-the-ability-to-tell-someone-to-go-to

https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/common-market-founded

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2017/02/20/putins-pooch-und-merkels-dog-o-phobia/

Angela Merkel is not a feminist.

There is no need for her to talk about breaking through any glass ceilings. In her own characteristic quiet and unassuming way, Merkel smashed it 12 years ago, and just did it again for the third time.

For maybe the first time since the end of occupation in 1949 Germany is a quiet, normal and happy nation, an obvious contrast to the Brexit Brits or the Trump-era Americans.

Today she is the thrice re-elected Chancellor of the patriarchal Fatherland, who just happens to be a woman … a great woman.

The soft-spoken Merkel is the most powerful voice in Europe. Some refer to her as the leader of the free world, a designation she does not want and a role that is simply too big for Germany and its 82 million people. The Economist accurately portrays Merkel’s Germany as the “reluctant hegemon.”

Merkel is on track to becoming one of the longest serving and most likely one of the greatest Kanzlers in the history of the Federal Republic of Deutschland (Bundesrepublik). Her only historical rivals are the memories of Konrad Adenauer and Helmut Kohl.

Best of all, there is no need for Merkel to speak in the first-person singular: Ich, Mein, Mich. She prefers to talk about das Land, Deutschland.

Her campaign motto: “A Germany where we live well and gladly.” To Almost DailyBrett, this wordy mantra conjures pleasant memories of “Morning in America.”

Missing The Real Story … Again

Alas, despite Merkel’s historic accomplishments the media seems preoccupied with the initial third-place entrance of the anti-EU, anti-refugee Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) into the legislative Bundestag with about 13 percent of the vote.

With all due respect to the all-knowing and hyperventilating Fourth Estate, that’s not the story. Think of it this way: 87 percent of German voters opted for other parties, while re-electing Angela Merkel.

Maybe Merkel has unintentionally taught the world an answer to unfortunate/systemic misogyny and sexism:

Undoubtedly influenced by her Ph.D in quantum chemistry, Merkel scientifically examines the issue at hand, seeks input from a variety of sources, prepares soundly, and announces a reasoned decision. There is no place for high oratory about glass ceilings in a nation that no longer wants oratory and political symbolism/pageantry. Instead her secret is to get the job done and to do it well.

Indeed, good government is good politics.

Dealing with Germany’s past (Vergangenheitsbewältigung), the nation now more than ever seeks order (Ordnung).

Merkel does not rattle the collective cages of the Fatherland’s patriarchy. She has been pejoratively labeled “Mutti,” a German diminutive of “mother.” Merkel wears this soft-sounding invective as a badge, once proclaiming that Germany is in good hands (and care) with her leadership.

Despite being labeled as the leader of the Western world, the center-right chancellor wants to work within the framework of the European Union and NATO. Since the founding of the EU, Europe has enjoyed the longest period of sustained peace in the continent’s history.

In her victory speech — that didn’t sound like a victory speech – Merkel said that she will examine why some Germans voted for the AfD, and explore how her CDU/CSU party can appeal to these poor souls.

The immediate task is the formation of a coalition government, most likely a Jamaica coalition that mirrors the colors of the island nation’s flag: CDU/CSU (black); Free Democrats (yellow) and Die Grünen (naturally … green).

After the coalition building process is done, Merkel will go back to systemically addressing issues at home and throughout Europe in her time-tested consensus building approach. There will be no time to talk and muse about her place in history.

And when it comes time for an assessment about “What Happened” during her tenure, Merkel will gladly leave that task to others.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-41376577

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/24/world/europe/germany-election-merkel.html?mcubz=1

http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/bundestagswahl-im-sz-liveblog-bundestag-waechst-wohl-um-mindestens-sitze-1.3671253

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/16/sunday-review/angela-merkel-feminist-germany.html

https://www.economist.com/blogs/kaffeeklatsch/2017/09/next-bundestag

https://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21728641-assessing-leader-inscrutable-sphinxes-divas-and-queens-how-angela-merkel-changing

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2017/08/22/morning-in-germany/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angela_Merkel

Are the Germans finally – after all these years — happy?

If they are for the most part smiling about life, doesn’t that mean good news for the incumbent-chancellor-running-for-re-election, Angela Merkel?

Doesn’t good government translate into good politics?

And yet there’s so much for her to fear.

The Governor George Deukmejian Laws of Politics are two-fold: Always run as if you are running behind; and never take anything for granted.

Consider that two years ago, a national F-U movement led to Brexit, and the U.K.’s upcoming departure from the strictures of the EU.

Last year America’s fly-over states pointed their collective middle fingers into the sky, and elected Donald Trump as president.

How are Brexit and Donald Trump working out?

During the past three weeks, the author of Almost DailyBrett has been informally sounding out das Volk on trains, in Bier Gartens, in hotel lobbies (all very unscientific and anecdotal) about their views about the state of their country.

When asked if they are truly happy, they seem a little startled by the sophomoric question from a simple blog author. After devoting more than a few brain cells, they come back to the conclusion that Germany is successful (e.g., low unemployment rate of 3.9 percent).

If James Carville was correct in 1992 that “It’s the economy stupid,” then the prospects are good for Frau Merkel on September 24. As The Economist reported last month, Germany has the largest trade balance in the world at $300 billion.

The nation’s budget is not only balanced, it reflects a surplus. Inflation is low at a microscopic 0.4 percent. Personal savings are high. German engineering is legendary. Alles ist in Ordnung.

Has Germany’s Standard of Living Passed America’s?

When the author of Almost DailyBrett visited divided Germany for the first time 30 years ago, the question of German happiness would seem silly. In fact, one would not even imagine, posing that interrogative.

Sitting on the terrace of the Burg Hotel Auf Schönburg in Oberwesel on the Rhine River, one can easily imagine the DAX equivalent of the Dow Transports are easily going upwards to the right. Passenger and freight ships glide northwards on the Rhine or swim similar to salmon against the currents.

Trains emerge and disappear into tunnels. Passenger cars move along the two shores or just miles away race along the no-speed limit autobahns.

German cities including Berlin, Nürnberg and München are bustling with shoppers in the stores. Spaces in the sidewalk cafes are hard to find. The large beer gardens (e.g., München’s Viktualien Markt) are jammed from happy hour into the night.

The smaller tourist towns (i.e., Heidelberg, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Bacharach) are luring visitors seeking out castles, half-timbered houses, gardens and the white wine fruit of the vineyards.

Virtually everywhere are solar panels, modern windmills and soon electric cars from BMW and Tesla. Recycling is the rage, and clear demarcations lead to largely harmonious co-existence between walkers and bike riders.

Many have ruminated about Germany’s angst about Vergangenheitsbewältigung or dealing with the past, namely the Hitler era between 1933-1945. The Germans have addressed these horrific years by acknowledging responsibility, building monuments to the past (e.g., Holocaust Memorial in Berlin) or “Documentation Centers,” such as the one near the former Nazi parade grounds in Nürnberg or a Bunker Museum in Berlin.

Nothing has been forgotten. Everything has been acknowledged. History is all there in broad daylight. The Reichstag dome is transparent to signal a change in the national approach to governance.

Is It Truly Morning in Germany?

Ronald Reagan ran for re-election in 1984 under the banner, “Morning in America.”

The message was patriotism, good times, and a promising tomorrow. Reagan won 49 of 50 states that November.

Merkel is courageously embracing the German flag – the black, red and gold tricolor – as she presents her three-term administration for another four years next month. Germans proudly wave their democratic flag in Deutsche Fussballbund games. The message is love of land, not nationalism. Those unfortunate days for the latter are gone, and for good reason.

Will Angela Merkel win in September embracing the flag, and essentially saying it is indeed “Morning in Germany”? Her latest campaign ad reflects that strategy.

Almost DailyBrett was wrong about Brexit and the same about Trump. These undeniable points need to be acknowledged. And yet, there are no strident middle fingers to be seen in today’s Germany.

The collective mood points to the prospect of a smiling Angela Merkel on September 24. If so, Germany will continue to be in Mutti’s sure hands.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/germans-are-learning-to-love-germany-again-and-merkel-takes-note/2017/07/20/28951bbe-68a8-11e7-94ab-5b1f0ff459df_story.html?utm_term=.147da70955c9

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2017/07/12/the-new-german-problem/

http://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/ronald-reagan/videos/morning-in-america

https://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21724810-country-saves-too-much-and-spends-too-little-why-germanys-current-account-surplus-bad

https://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21724801-germany-admired-its-stability-derided-persistent-trade-surpluses-good-and-bad

 

 

It’s not whose army wins, it’s also whose story wins. And we have to think more about narratives and whose narrative is going to be the most effective.” – Harvard Kennedy School Political Science Professor Joseph Nye, 2010 TED Talk

The U.S. ranks No. 1 for Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at $18.56 trillion, and holds the top position in The National Brand Index.

When it comes to “hard power,” including its military and its economy, the U.S. has no rivals … at least for the immediate future.

Despite these clear hard-power advantages, the U.S. reportedly spent $670 million for “public diplomacy” in 2014, according to George Washington University professor of political science David Shambaugh.

In contrast, China spends $10 billion annually to project itself as a “soft power.”

China as a soft power? In essence, the answer is affirmative. China recognizes it needs more than the collective power of its 1.37 billion people, its second-ranking $11.39 trillion economy, and its growing military strength. China is trying to promote its distinct culture, its language and market its country as a place to invest and visit.

The aforementioned Professor Nye is widely credited with formulating the notion of “soft power” or projecting what you have in terms of culture, language, business, tourism etc. to those who may want the same.

Some contend as mentioned in the stately The Economist that a totalitarian state (e.g., China) may not effectively exhibit soft power as it may be interpreted as single-party propaganda. And yet China created The Confucius Institute in 2004 to entice the appreciation of its culture, to lure hundreds of thousands to study its difficult language and visit and invest in China.

Is the Politburo in Beijing trying to buy love?

From The Devastation of War, Occupation, Division and the Holocaust

The activities of the Goethe Institut improve Germany’s reputation abroad, enhance the quality of German-language teaching, contribute to the development of the German language, promote German artists worldwide, and attract talented youth and professionals to Germany.” – Tatiana Lanshina, “The Goethe Institute and Soft Power”

Germany experimented twice in “hard power” in the 20th Century … and lost big time, both times.

In 1951, Germany’s public relations (Öffentlichkeitsarbeit) were understandably at an all-time low … most likely the deepest nadir experienced by any country at any time. Interest in German Kultur, Sprache and Land was close to nil.

These facts did not stop Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and the German government from creating the Goethe Institut in 1951. The mission of this 350-Euro non-profit organization, drawing the majority of its funds from the German foreign ministry, was to use the forgiveness of time to eventually and systematically regain interest in Das Land in der Mitte (The country in the middle of Europe).

Fast forward to today, Germany is No. 2 in the National Brand Index trailing only the United States. The country’s transformation from an international pariah to revered is nothing less than a public relations miracle (Öffentlichkeitsarbeitswunder).

The author of Almost DailyBrett has a framed Goethe Institut Zertifikat B1 for German language study in his office at Central Washington University. Is the Goethe Institut solely responsible for Germany’s resurrection? Of course not.

There are many other determinants including the reunification, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Economic Miracle, the Marshall Plan, Made in Germany, four World Cup wins, German business success, Germany’s hegemony in the European Union, the popularity of Angela Merkel and many other factors.

Germany understands more than other nations that hard power is not the answer. China obviously appreciates this fact as well. Ditto France with its Alliance Francaise, Italy with its Societa Dante Alighieri, Great Britain with its British Council, Spain with its Instituto Cervantes and Portugal with its Instituto Camoes.

All of the above brings up the obviously question: Who and what projects “soft power” for the United States? One other question: Are we satisfied with the answers?

Donald Trump, Hollyweird, American Media?

Certainly, the U.S. is nowhere near the lousy image that Germany endured – and still suffers – as a result of the 12 years of Hitler and the Nazis. Nonetheless, the U.S. image at home and abroad is less than ideal regardless of the nation’s military and economic hard-power advantages and the country’s number one ranking in the National Brand Index.

Who sets the tone for the United States of America?

Try traveling abroad and see how many times you are asked about Donald Trump once it becomes known that you reside in the Land of Uncle Sam? Does the intemperate, nocturnal Tweeter-in-Chief send the best of image of the red, white and blue across the fruited plain and across the ponds?

How about Hollyweird and the denizens of the TMZ?

The entertainment industry can’t even deliver the right envelope for its biggest announcement of the year (e.g., Oscar for Best Picture) at its most celebrated venue (e.g., The 2017 Academy Awards). Do we really want to entrust our soft power to this motley crew?

When it comes to our elite media, the American public sold the stock and voted them out of office. According to Gallup, the Woodward & Bernstein media of 1976 enjoyed a 72 percent approval rating. Last year, the same polling firm recorded a 32 percent approval rating for the boys and girls of the Fourth Estate, a 55.5 percent decline in the last 40 years.

If the American public is turned off by our nattering nabobs of negativism, why would those beyond our borders respect their interpretations of American soft power?

Maybe the time has come for a non-profit, soft-power Mark Twain, Will Rogers or some other American literary giant institute to celebrate American culture (e.g., baseball, hot dogs and apple pie), our unique take on the English language, and the USA as a wonderful place for investment and tourism?

Or maybe we can instead just leave the task to Donald Trump, Hollyweird and the failing American elite media?

https://www.economist.com/news/china/21719508-can-money-buy-sort-thing-china-spending-billions-make-world-love-it

http://www.ted.com/talks/joseph_nye_on_global_power_shifts

http://www.demdigest.net/tag/soft-power/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confucius_Institute

https://www.goethe.de/en/index.html

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2017/02/25/enemy-of-the-american-people/

http://www.gallup.com/poll/195542/americans-trust-mass-media-sinks-new-low.aspx

 

 

“ … The old divide between left and right is growing less important than a new one between open and closed.” – The Economist, March 4, 2017

During the Cold War, the communism vs. capitalism divide was referred to as a contest of wills between “East and West.”

Even today, we use directions to describe the dangerous world of dark-and-foreboding North Korea and the bright lights of cosmopolitan-industrial powerhouse South Korea.

For more than 100 years, there were the Democrats from the left (e.g., Franklin Delano Roosevelt) and Republicans from the right (e.g. Ronald Reagan).

Reagan just turned over in his grave.

Reagan will be forever remembered for his controversial call, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this (Berlin) wall.” The eternally optimistic Republican president embraced neo-liberal open markets, globalization and free enterprise.

In contrast, Reagan’s “Republican” successor Donald J. Trump wants to build a wall. He implores American governments and businesses to his brand of populism, calling for them to “buy American” and “hire American.” There is open talk of “border adjustment taxes,” a taxing concept which would be an anathema to Reagan.

Against this backdrop, guess who is coming to visit The Donald this Tuesday? Frau “Open” (Offen) Angela Merkel, the chancellor of the nearly $300-billion world’s largest account surplus, export-powerhouse Germany.

Making the proceedings even more tender and sensitive is the fact that Americans buy 107 billion Euros worth of German goods each year, while Germans purchase 57 billion of American output per annum.

Translated: Americans consume German cars (e.g., BMW, Mercedes, Audi, VW) and down German beer, while Germans favor their own automotive companies and refuse to drink “dishwater” (e.g., Anheuser Busch products).

Using old thinking, one would conclude that moderate-conservative Christian Democrat Angela Merkel would be to the left of a right-wing Republican president. Instead, we need to recalibrate how we view our divided world with Merkel serving as the neo-liberal (open) and Trump as the isolationist (closed).

Global F.U. Votes?

“Trump’s election is going to be the biggest ‘fuck you’ ever recorded in human history — and it will feel good.” – Liberal film-maker Michael Moore.

International public relations pros, journalists, pundits and campaign managers need to change their ways of thinking. Left vs. right used to be so simple – oh so simple. Those thoughts are no longer operative as a populist “Human Molotov Cocktail” took over the Republican Party and the White House and dared the party (and Wall Street too) to follow in his protectionist footsteps.

No respectable elite on the Old-World side of the pond saw Brexit coming, until it did. The Midlands overwhelming sent an F-U message to London, Brussels and Berlin. Score a major win for the “closed” crowd.

Surely, the same would not occur in the United States or so we were told our Harvard-heads pundits and pollsters? They missed the F.U. vote with the “Blue Wall” falling in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Looking forward to the next month, France will be making a similar choice between “open” Emmanuel Marcon of the En Marche! Neo-liberal, pro-trade, pro-competition, pro-immigration and pro-EU stances and “closed” Marine LePen of the National Front, who not-so-secretly wants an exit referendum on the EU and the reintroduction of the French franc.

Will France be the third industrial economy F-U vote in a little less than one year?

Undoubtedly, this undeniable trend is on the radar screen of Angela Merkel. Will she enter the White House this week from a position of strength or weakness?

Keep in mind that Almost DailyBrett and many others originally thought she was a shoe-in to be elected for her fourth term as Kanzlerin this coming September. The same thinking applied to the inevitability of Hillary Clinton becoming the first Frau President of the United States.

Merkel’s decision and subsequent pull-back to welcome (e.g., Willkommenskultur) more than 1 million Syrian refugees to Deutschland appears to be a political loser. Her re-election after 12 years in office is anything but secure now as she trails Martin Schulz of the Social Democrat Party, and the (closed) Alternative für Deutschland is gaining strength.

Could France and Germany be the latest in a string of F.U. votes? Will that mean the end of the European Union as we know it? Is this trend the end of traditional left vs. right?

Welcome to a new way of political thinking.

http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21717814-why-french-presidential-election-will-have-consequences-far-beyond-its-borders-vote

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/merkel-prepares-for-difficult-visit-with-donald-trump-a-1138244.html

http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21716641-not-reasons-donald-trump-thinks-it-germanys-current-account-surplus-problem

http://www.salon.com/2016/10/26/michael-moore-people-will-vote-for-donald-trump-as-a-giant-fk-you-and-hell-win/

http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/766256/Angela-Merkel-Martin-Schulz-SDP-CDU-German-election-polls

The dog does not bother you, does she? She’s a friendly dog and I’m sure she will behave herself.” – Russian President Introducing “Koni,” the black lab, to German Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2007

“It (Koni) doesn’t eat journalists, after all?” – German Chancellor Angela Merkel

putinmerkelkoni

Even though the canine caper happened 10 years ago, Almost DailyBrett contends that Vladimir Putin’s Machiavellian ploy was clearly intended to intimidate and embarrass Kanzlerin Merkel. And considering the recent seismic shifts in global politics, the incident is more relevant than ever.

The most powerful woman on the planet has a well-documented case of cynophobia. She was attacked by a dog in 1995. She clearly does not relish any contact with man’s best friend, including Putin’s best canine.

During the January 21, 2007 summit with Merkel at his summer residence in Sochi, Putin’s eight-year-old Labrador retriever, Koni, made a cameo appearance during their negotiations. Even though she tried to appear cool, calm and collected, Merkel was clearly uncomfortable and unnerved by the sniffing dog.

When asked about the incident last year by the German periodical Bild, Putin insisted he did not know about Merkel’s fear of dogs.

“I wanted to do something nice for her (Merkel). When I found out that she doesn’t like dogs, of course I apologized.” – Russian President Vladimir Putin

“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.” – Kanzlerin Angela Merkel

putinmerkelkoni1

Putin Exploiting Donald Trump’s Weaknesses?

At some point, at some venue, at some pre-determined time, Donald Trump is going to meet Vladimir Putin. Will the Russian leader try to do something “nice” for the new American president?

Russia’s legendary xenophobia, coupled with its record of hacking and espionage, will certainly encourage Putin to seek out and fully exploit Trump’s personal weaknesses.

Who would have thought that a fear of dogs would be a weak point for the chancellor of the fourth largest economy of the world and the de-facto leader of the European Union? Putin obviously knew this fact, and used his Labrador to get inside of Merkel’s head.

If the tenets of military strategy are to capitalize on one’s advantages and exploit the weaknesses of an adversary, then it’s safe to assume that Putin is carefully studying Donald Trump.

trumpputinhorse

In many ways Trump and Putin are similar, but Almost DailyBrett takes issue with any discussion of a “Bromance.” Heck, they have not even met each other.

Having taken care of that silly reference, one can safely conclude they are both demagogic, alpha males with a craving for public attention and reverence. In particular, Trump is known for his thin-skin and is quick to take offense, particularly via Twitter. Will this failing be an opening for Putin to exploit?

At the same time, it is well known the Soviets took note of President Ronald Reagan publicly firing the members of the striking Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) in August, 1981. The president knew he was jeopardizing thousands of vacations and even worse risking the possibility of mid-air collisions in the skies. Putin was a key operative in the Soviet Union’s KGB at the time.

reaganpatco

Reagan was roundly criticized for exhibiting strength, and the same applies to Trump. Putin is becoming aware of Trump’s demonstrations of bravado, while at the same time finding out more about Trump’s weaknesses. Call it “opposition research” or “oppo.”

One “nice” thing that Trump does not need to worry about when he finally meets Putin, “Koni” will not be making a cameo appearance. Alas, Koni lived for 15-years, before finally buying the kennel in 2014.

The new president would be wise to remember what Harry S. Truman once said: “If you need a friend in Washington, D.C., get a dog.”

http://www.bild.de/politik/ausland/wladimir-putin/interview-mit-dem-russischen-praesidenten-russland-44091672.bild.html

http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/12/europe/putin-merkel-scared-dog/

http://edition.cnn.com/2013/09/20/world/europe/germany-merkel-profile/

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/vladimir-putin/12094074/Vladimir-Putin-denies-setting-his-dog-on-Angela-Merkel.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/vladimir-putin-says-he-didnt-intend-to-scare-dog-phobic-angela-merkel-when-he-brought-his-labrador-a6805801.html

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/germanys-angela-merkel-afraid-one-thing-its-not-david-cameron-1482159

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cynophobia

http://time.com/4139802/time-person-of-the-year-angela-merkel-surprising-facts/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Konni_(dog)

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/03/opinion/reagan-vs-patco-the-strike-that-busted-unions.html

 

 

 

 

 

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