Merkel is measured. For her to lift the phone and go public with her criticism leaves no doubt she is livid. As she said last July, “Not everything which is technically doable should be done.” This, on the now ample evidence provided by the former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, is not the view of the N.S.A., whose dragnet eavesdropping has prompted fury from Paris to Brasília.
Obama, in his cool detachment, is not big on diplomacy through personal relations, but Merkel is as close to a trusted friend as he has in Europe. To infuriate her, and touch the most sensitive nerve of Stasi-marked Germans, amounts to sloppy bungling that hurts American soft power in lasting ways. Pivot to Asia was not supposed to mean leave all Europe peeved.
But all Europe is. The perception here is of a United States where security has trumped liberty, intelligence agencies run amok (vacuuming up data of friend and foe alike), and the once-admired “checks and balances” built into American governance and studied by European schoolchildren have become, at best, secret reviews of secret activities where opposing arguments get no hearing.