Sorry, there isn’t one. François Hollande, her counterpart across the Rhein? Sure, he’s French. The stories in the news recently from France and Germany make it hard to imagine that the two cultures have Charlemagne (Karl der Große) as a common ancestor, or that they share much at all in terms of values and way of life. It’s nothing surprising or shocking in France that a politician would have a maîtresse, even a politician as uncharismatic and down-to-earth as François Hollande. Just because they are elected to public office, French politicians aren’t expected to stop being human or men or French.
In Germany one expects politicians to be serious, that is to say, to focus on their responsibilities and to do their duty. Such extra-curricular activities are verboten as an unnecessary and unwanted distraction. How do German leaders break the public trust? If they plagiarize on their university theses, as has caused the downfall of several ministers in the last few years (dishonesty). Or they fall behind schedule on a building project, such as the debacle over the years late new Berlin airport (incompetence). Or they spend an inordinate amount of public money (in this case from Church tax paying German Catholics) on luxury for themselves (extravagance), as did the “bling bishop” (Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg).
The big news in Germany in recent days has nothing to do with lovers or sex, but instead with something much closer to the hearts of many Germans: their automobiles. The scandal in the news is the sudden loss of trust in an organization Germans depend on and see as the ideal complement to their cars, namely their automobile association, the ADAC (Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club). The ADAC has served as the trusted advisor to German car owners and prospective car buyers since 1903. The most widely published periodical in Germany is not Der Spiegel or Die Zeit, it is the ADAC Motorwelt (motor world). Now it turns out that data supplied by the ADAC (for example on the number of votes for car of the year) has in some cases been either manipulated or invented, possibly in order to inflate the importance of the organization in order to gain more members. This is not just dishonesty, incompetence and greed – it’s all three combined to swindle Germans in relation to their prize possession, the symbol of German economic power and engineering prowess. Mein Gott, o Gott!
Unlike their preferences in cars, Germans don’t like flashy leaders. What they do value in leaders and cars is dependability and familiarity – just the qualities the reliable and consistent Mutti Merkel provides. Mutti take a lover? No way.