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Obama heaps praise on Merkel in latest memoir

November 17, 2020

In his book, "A Promised Land," Obama calls Angela Merkel "reliable, honest, and intellectually precise." He said the chancellor was understandably skeptical of him at first, but the two grew to trust one another.

Obama und Merkel in Berlin (Reuters/H. Hanschke)
Image: Reuters/H. Hanschke

In a memoir released on Tuesday, former US President Barack Obama offered a slew of praise for German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

In his book, "A Promised Land," Obama wrote that Merkel initially viewed him with skepticism — positing that this may have been because of his strong speeches and "exaggerated rhetoric."

He did not, however, resent that skepticism. "For a German head of government, an aversion to possible demagogy was probably a healthy attitude," he said.

Read more:Obama meets 'my friend Angela' in Berlin 

Over the years, he found Merkel to be increasingly agreeable, he said, calling her "reliable, honest, intellectually precise and friendly in a natural way."

However, he criticized Germany's policy on Greece during the country's debt difficulties after the financial crash, when Merkel and then-Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU) had held fast to austerity and reducing public borrowing as the answer to almost all economic difficulties. 

"I noticed that they [Merkel and French former President Nicolas Sarkozy] rarely mentioned that German and French banks were some of Greece's biggest lenders, or that much of Greeks' accumulated debt had been racked up buying German and French exports — facts that might have made clear to voters why saving the Greeks from default amounted to saving their own banks and industries," Obama wrote.

Read moreMerkel receives Obama's final call to a foreign leader

Obama also criticized former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who he felt was "no real counterweight" to Merkel.

Unlike Merkel, Obama wrote, Sarkozy appeared too disorganized to construct a serious plan for economic reform, adding that Sarkozy's approach lacked "ideological consistency."

'Strategic acumen and unwavering patience'

He additionally outlines Merkel's career in brief for readers, saying that while growing up in the former East Germany, Merkel initially "kept her head down." Over the course of her rise to the top of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, however, Obama writes that Merkel demonstrated what went on to shape her career as a whole: "organizational skills," "strategic acumen" and "unwavering patience."

Read moreUS election: Merkel says Germany will stand 'side by side' with US on world issues

Prior to the book's release, Obama further praised Merkel in an interview with German broadcast group RTL. "I think very much of Angela Merkel. She has been an outstanding political leader, not only for Germany, but for Europe and the world," he said in the interview, conducted in Washington on Friday.

Obama also touched on President-elect Joe Biden's victory when talking to RTL: "This election has at least stopped the bleeding for now," he said, referring to the Trump presidency.

The first volume of Obama's memoir is 1,024 pages long, and is published in 25 languages. 

Read more:Merkel welcomes Obama under cloud of Trump 

lc/msh (dpa, AFP)