Donald Trump likes winners.
On April 17, one day after Turkish voters passed a controversial measure giving President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan unprecedented control over the country, Trump hopped on the phone to give his friend a verbal pat on the back. The State Department wasn’t thrilled about the referendum. “We look to the government of Turkey to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all its citizens,” State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said at the time. But Trump didn’t seem to notice. Erdoğan won, and that was enough for a bit of celebration.
So it’s a little awkward that it seems Trump still hasn’t found time to congratulate German Chancellor Angela Merkel on her victory in Sunday’s elections, which gave her a fourth term at the helm of her country. It’s now been more than 48 hours since the results came in, and the silence from the White House has been deafening.
It’s true, as Trump said during his Rose Garden press conference with the Spanish President Mariano Rajoy on Tuesday, that he works a lot.
“All I do is work,” Trump told the journalists.
One would think that reaching out to American allies — especially democratically elected ones — would be a vital part of that job. Trump doesn’t seem to agree, and Germans have definitely noticed. On Tuesday, Der Spiegel, the German weekly news magazine, tweeted “Donald Trump has not yet congratulated Angela Merkel after more than 24 hours.”
Trump doesn’t love the German leader, and he doesn’t try to hide it
Then again, things have always been a little awkward between Trump and Merkel.
On the campaign trail, Trump bashed Merkel for her open-door refugee policy, which allowed nearly 900,000 refugees into her country in 2015. “I used to be a fan,” he told a rally in November 2015. “I think what she did to Germany is a disgrace.”
He added, “I may have to deal with her. But you know what, I tell you right now: No longer a fan."
Then, when Merkel and Trump finally met in March, they had a terribly awkward Oval Office meeting. Merkel offered her hand, and Trump appear to pointedly ignored her. (The president later claimed, unconvincingly, that he didn’t hear her ask.)
And as friends go, their positions on the issues seem to grow further apart each week.
By May, following the G7 meetings in Italy, Merkel was publicly saying the United States was no longer a reliable partner. “The times in which we could rely fully on others — they are somewhat over,” she said, frustrated with Trump on just about everything from his waffling on NATO to his opposition to the Paris Climate Accords and his inexplicable fondness for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Then, earlier this month, Merkel made it clear she wanted no part of Trump’s saber rattling towards North Korea. “I am against such threats,” Merkel said after Trump used a UN speech to threaten to totally destroy North Korea if it attacked the US or its allies. “We consider any form of military solution as totally inappropriate and we insist on a diplomatic solution.”
She added: “From my point of view sanctions and their implementation are the right answer. But I consider everything else concerning North Korea as wrong.”
To be sure, Trump called Merkel to wish her well on the elections before they took place. But as of now he hasn’t officially extended a hand back out to the woman with whom he will, ostensibly, need to continue to work on some of the most important issues of his presidency.