The Bush Estate is located directly on the Atlantic Ocean, near Kennebunkport, just a two-hour drive from Boston, Massachusetts. As our camera crew prepares the bright living room with screen screens off, George W. Bush suddenly appears, an hour before the scheduled interview time. He wears shorts and a bright green T-shirt splattered with paint, a pure cigarette heel is tucked in the corner of his mouth and he has an iPad in his hand. “I am just happy to be here [this] for my dear Angela, ”he declares.
He speaks in a captivating and heartfelt way, first about German Chancellor Angela Merkel and then about her works of art. Bush shows us his paintings on the iPad, talking about how working the easel structures his day and how his brush has become a means of political expression for him since he left the White House.
When he goes to change his clothes for our TV interview, I find myself thinking, “There’s no ice to break here.”
“I’m not afraid to lead”
George W. Bush generally stays away from the political realm. These days, when the 43rd president of the United States does interviews, it’s usually just a matter of debating his art. But this time he makes an exception for our documentary about Angela Merkel. He welcomes us to his home and will surely give us much of his time.
“Merkel brought class and dignity to a very important position; [she] He made very tough decisions and he did it with the best for Germany, and he did it based on the principles, “Bush tells me.” She is a compassionate leader, a woman who is not afraid to lead. “
Merkel: a rock of stability in a changing world
For George W. Bush – as for many Americans – Angela Merkel personifies the “American dream.” A woman who he grew up under a repressive communist regime, reached the first levels of the free world. And not just anywhere, but in Germany, the country that, from an American perspective, was liberated twice from the dictatorship by the United States: first as all Germany of the Nazi regime and then as Germany of the East from the clutches of the Kremlin.
Especially during the four years of the administration of former President Donald Trump, Merkel was considered among the leftists in America as the leader of the free world. Until then, this position had only ever belonged to the commander-in-chief of the United States. And as the European Union and European countries were shaken by political turmoil, Merkel was seen as a rock of stability, a reliable constant in a constantly changing world where problems seem to be growing and the possible increasingly complicated solutions.
“Merkel has survived in a pretty harsh environment for more than eight years. That’s pretty amazing when you think about it,” Bush says, alluding to the impression that American citizens seemed to have enough after eight. years in office. “And it reflects the confidence of German voters.”
When the newly elected chancellor shook hands with George W. Bush in 2006, relations between Germany and the United States were frozen. Shortly before the end of his term, Gerhard Schröder, Merkel’s predecessor, had strongly criticized Bush for entering the war with Iraq. Many suspected that this was purely a Schröder election campaign tactic.
George W. Bush explains that the fact that the U.S.-Germany relationship improved rapidly had, among other things, a lot to do with the fact that he and Merkel got along exceptionally well from the start.
Differences of opinion on Russia
Like current U.S. President Joe Biden, Bush is also critical of the construction of Nord Stream 2, a gas pipeline from Russia to Germany across the Baltic Sea. Bush says the pipeline would increase Germany’s dependence on Russia, but would also complicate Ukraine’s situation. However, Bush says he understands how Angela Merkel is pursuing a different Russian policy with President Vladimir Putin than the United States. Each country must find its own way, he remarks.
When I ask her about Angela Merkel’s immigration policy, she tells me she respected her decisions. “My first reaction was, ‘There’s a woman with a big heart.’ And I’m sure she was motivated by human compassion. And, you know, it was clearly a tough political decision for her, but she take the lead “.
Bush himself was not satisfied with the The tough immigration policies of the Trump administration. He recently released a book on the coffee table showing portraits of immigrants: his own way of participating in political discourse.
A role model for girls
Bush, who is the father of two daughters, also sees the German chancellor coming out as a role model, especially for girls: “There are a lot of girls who look at Angela Merkel and say, ‘I can also hold a position of responsibility and power. he says.
Now, Angela Merkel is traveling to Washington for the last time as chancellor. His first meeting with the new President of the United States, Joe Biden, is both an inaugural and farewell visit.
In political America, there is a growing awareness that an era is coming to an end, even bigger than Angela Merkel. The transatlantic relationship will have to be redefined, and not just because global politics is gradually fading as other major powers play an increasingly influential role on the world stage.
Angela Merkel was the last German chancellor to deal with one United States where there is a close relationship with Germany and Europe was a given fact.
Inspiring young people towards transatlanticism
When Angela Merkel took office almost 16 years ago, almost every US family had a very vivid and personal relationship with Germany. There were veterans, including well-known politicians, who had fought against Nazi Germany during World War II or had been stationed in West Germany for many years until the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Among the unexpected twists in history, the hundreds of thousands of “occupants” who lived in Germany as young soldiers have become true ambassadors of German-American friendship.
Whoever succeeds Merkel will have the enormous task of inspiring a younger generation to support a close transatlantic relationship. Now, there is a generation for which the horrors of World War II and the Cold War are in the distant past. But it may not be enough.
“Did Angela Merkel do a good job?” I want to know when we conclude our interview. “I think so,” George W. Bush nodded. “Both she and I don’t have to worry about history in the short term, because we won’t know where we are until long after death.”