How did Old Fritz know? A great general also needs fortune. Of course, this is no less true for female generals in these times. And for stateswomen, not to say stateswomen. That’s actually what it was called. Regardless, Angela Merkel is Germany’s first stateswoman with the rank of ex-Chancellor, and she’s lucky because she can shape the image of the task beyond herself.
Which she does. Unlike her predecessors, who were controlled by testosterone, Merkel took a break, a whole six months, withdrew, withdrew. Thought, heard books. Well, Macbeth, that’s a thing in every sense of the word; considering the lady is trying to wash her hands clean… But let’s not overdo the analogy, as that would be inappropriate here. At least Merkel can claim to have always given and tried her best.
Her best today is linked to her nature, which makes her the quasi-ideal former chancellor. Ironic, even self-deprecating at times, unpretentious in many respects (just maybe not intellectually), and always more politically non-partisan than your CDU was good for. How did Merkel say now, on her first major personal appearance, and that in a theater too? She wishes the CDU all the best. This would be even better if there was an “Ironica” typeface. Well then. This is reminiscent of her sentence – as long-term chairman – that the CDU is the party she is close to. Today we can say: was close.
From this, in turn, derives the opportunity to give advice across party lines, to be active in the background, and to let others who are willing participate in the experiences. Don’t tell anyone Merkel doesn’t have plenty of them. You can learn a lot from 16 years with all the ups and downs. Even Olaf Scholz.
Sure, the ex-Chancellor will get a lot of money in retirement, many employees, the offices, the trips, everything will be paid for, and the common opinion is that she should do something about it. But firstly, Merkel knows that herself, secondly, it’s a good thing that she doesn’t have to work for Gazprom or whoever. If you want to stay independent, stay that way.
And to the address of the budget committee in the Bundestag: It’s best to stay that way. Because that’s when we as a society benefit most from our Elder Statespeople.
Former British Prime Minister Gladstone wrote in the 19th century: “The politician thinks of the next election, the statesman of the next generation.” Well, that was referring to men only, again. But Merkel can make it happen. Anyone who wants to learn from her can learn; by the way, very good also from their mistakes. Politics according to mood, leadership from behind – that is by no means always the means of the time. If the former operational chief of the republic wanted to work through that, self-critically, for herself, for all of us in her country, it could help future generations all the more.
One thing statesmen should refrain from banging on about incumbent governments. The other is know-it-all from the off. That evokes more contradiction than it inevitably leads to insight – unless by Helmut Schmidt. Instead: Deriving topics from the pool of knowledge, raising big questions and answering them personally without expecting followers, convincing with words and thoughts – the Republic cannot get enough of that. Especially in these wild, confused times.
A council of wise men, so to speak, which every chancellor is well advised to accept, even if it runs hard along the lines of the role of the federal president. The difference is obvious: no gravitas, no pathos, no seduction by an official position. Advice and advice for the sake of a good cause. Merkel can, Merkel will be asked. The president would then find fulfillment in his office as the state’s integration agency. We could be lucky there.