It all started off with the offer of a handshake.
During the morning of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to the White House Friday, a standard Oval Office photo-op turned into a bit of a perceived snub when, amid loud shutters and calls by photographers for a customary handshake between the two, Merkel asked:
“Do you want to have a handshake?”
Trump’s response? No response.
Either President Donald Trump didn’t hear the chancellor … or she was being ignored.Image Credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
The two said their chat included various topics during their one-on-one meeting, but Reuters reported that Trump specifically pressed Merkel on Germany’s NATO responsibility.
The day followed with a roundtable on vocational training with American and German business leaders — part of a a repeated business meeting trend during visits by foreign leaders to the Trump White House. Considering the laundry list of topics to discuss with the largest nation in the European Union bloc, it seemed to be an easy transitional topic of discussion for the two leaders.
Both leaders later attempted to sow the seeds of unity during a joint press conference. President Trump relayed in prepared remarks that “the close friendship between America and Germany is built on our shared values.”
“It’s much, much better to talk to one another and not about one another, and I think our conversation proved this,” Merkel later added.
Merkel and Trump also reiterated their support for NATO, with Chancellor Merkel saying that Germany will work to uphold their financial responsibility.
The global economy, immigration, and terrorism were all topics on the docket, though not specifically addressed. But when journalist Mark Halperin asked Merkel about President Trump’s communication style, she said:
“People have different abilities, have different traits of character, have different origins, have found their way into politics along different pathways, which, well that is diversity, which is good. Sometimes it is difficult to find compromises. That’s what we’ve been elected for.”
Notably, a German reporter also asked President Trump about whether he regrets any of his tweets (“very seldom,” he said) and about recent wiretapping claims.
Referring to the Obama-era admission that the United States listened in on Chancellor Merkel’s cellphone, Trump said:
“I guess by this past administration, at least we have something in common, perhaps.”
His response had Merkel furrowing her brow.
Soon after, a belated handshake during their departure came during the joint press conference.Image Credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
Both world leaders face drastically different roads ahead this year.
Merkel and Trump will likely cross paths again at least twice in 2017, at the G20 Summit in July and at the NATO summit in May.
But Merkel will confront what she has called “the hardest election campaign I have ever fought,” based, among many issues, over Germans’ scrutiny for the country’s recent intake of migrants. And with populist movements shaking up the political system, Merkel’s 11-year tenure could be a problem.
Still, if the recent defeat of populist Trump backer and Dutch prime minister candidate Geert Wilders is indicative of what some have labeled a global “Trump effect” (namely, that other countries have observed the Trump White House’s impact and choose not to endorse similar views), then Merkel might be in luck.
Trump has four years ahead, and appears to just be getting started.