In a shock move, Donald Trump told an interviewer that German Chancellor Angela Merkel was the world leader he most admires, before immediately clarifying he was also disappointed with her.Trump was asked by NECN to name his favorite global politician after Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson flubbed the same question at an MSNBC town hall on Wednesday, struggling to come up with an answer.
Late Wednesday, MSNBC's Chris Matthews asked Libertarian presidential hopeful Gary Johnson an interesting question: "Name one foreign leader that you respect and look up to." Johnson was stumped. Unable to name anyone, the former governor conceded he was having a "brain freeze."
It was, to be sure, painful to watch. But the exchange, which generated quite a bit of media attention, also served as a reminder to the other national candidates: you're bound to get the same question, so have a good answer ready.Somehow, Donald Trump flubbed it anyway. NBC News reported late yesterday:
"Well I think Merkel is a really great world leader but I was very disappointed that, when she, this move with the whole thing on immigration," Trump told the New England Cable Network. "I think it's a big problem and really you know to look at what she's done in the last year and a half. I was always a Merkel person. I thought, really fantastic, but I think she made a very tragic mistake a year and a half ago."Look, it wasn't a trick question. Asked to name his favorite international leader, Trump had plenty of credible choices and plenty of time to come up with a compelling answer. If he was tempted to point to Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose authoritarian style Trump has repeatedly praised, his staff had an opportunity to steer him away from the answer.But the fact remains that Trump doesn't like Merkel at all. We know this with some certainty because Trump said so in a big speech on his foreign-policy vision -- delivered just last month -- in which he complained bitterly about Hillary Clinton, insisting she "wants to be America's Angela Merkel." It wasn't a compliment.The German chancellor's approach to immigration, Trump added, has been "a disaster." This isn't ancient history; this was just 46 days ago.Soon after, the Republican presidential hopeful even tried to start an anti-Clinton hashtag campaign: "#AmericasMerkel." (As Rachel noted on the show at the time, the label was popular on fringe, right-wing websites, but the hashtag did not catch on.)A month later, after having accused Merkel of "ruining Germany" and being a "catastrophic leader" for her country, Trump now chooses her as his favorite international leader? Did it not occur to him or anyone of his staff to come up with a more coherent answer?For what it's worth, Clinton, predictably, was also confronted with the same question. Though this is probably a more awkward issue for her -- as the former Secretary of State, Clinton knows many world leaders personally -- but she too said Merkel is "one of my favorites."