In a reflection of rapidly cooling relations between the U.S. and Germany since President Trump’s uncalled for rudeness towards Chancellor Angela Merkel in March, her spokesman addressed Sean Spicer’s bizarre reference Wednesday comparing Adolph Hitler’s use of chemical weapons to that of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with a dismissive remark.
Steffen Seibert, who is Merkel’s spokesman, said that Spicer’s comment “only shows what is, in any case, the German government’s position – any comparison of current situations with Nazi crimes leads to nothing good.”
Although Germany is one of America’s closest and most important allies, Merkel’s meeting with Trump in Washington last month was polite but cool. Merkel defended her stance on accepting refugees into Germany, globalization, and trade deals that benefit both sides. Trump discussed his nationalist economic vision that puts American workers first, and aggressively used the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism.”
In an awkward moment, Trump did not shake Merkel’s hand during a press photo op. The President later said he did not hear her request to shake hands but the moment was seen as rife with symbolism.
Spicer apologized for his remark about Hitler, and later in the day said he had let his President down. “Your job as a spokesperson is to help amplify the president’s actions and accomplishments,” he said at the Newseum in Washington. “When you’re distracting from that message of accomplishment, and your job is to be the exact opposite, on a professional level I thnk it is disappointing because I think I’ve let the president down.”
In his brief statement, the German spokesman made clear Spicer also let down an important ally who has worked hard to put the horrors of Germany behind them, while keeping what happened in perspective, so it isn’t forgotten by today’s generation.
Clearly, Trump’s spokesman needs to remember the lessons Germany has learned.