Embarrassed Merkel admits plagiarising Reagan

A spokesman for Germany's opposition conservatives conceded that Mrs Merkel was " certainly inspired" by Mr Reagan's words, spoken during his 1980 election campaign, when she delivered her closing address to more than 21 million viewers during last Sunday night's televised election debate.

Excerpts from the two speeches were published on Germany's Spiegel-Online website yesterday. They showed that both put almost exactly the same rhetorical questions to voters - albeit 25 years apart.

In 1980 Mr Reagan asked Americans facing a choice between himself and President Jimmy Carter: "Are you doing better than you were four years ago? Is there more or less unemployment than there was four years ago? If you answer yes to all these questions, I think it is obvious who you will vote for."

Last Sunday, Mrs Merkel asked German viewers: "Is our country doing better than it was seven years ago? Is there higher growth? Is unemployment lower? If you answer all the questions with yes, I think it is obvious who you will be voting for."

The two speeches also had virtually identical passages. Ronald Reagan: "If you are of a different opinion and you don't want us to continue the course we followed for the past four years, then I could propose another choice which you have." Angela Merkel: "If you are of a different opinion and you don't want us to continue the course we have followed for the past seven years, then I propose another choice which you have."

Chancellor Schröder's ruling Social Democrats gleefully seized on the issue yesterday: "Merkel's cheap plagiarism suits her content," said an SPD spokesman, "She is just like the die-hard conservative Reagan and is cheating the electorate," he added.

Mrs Merkel did not comment yesterday. Despite some similarities in her policy proposals, she has studiously avoided being compared with the American right, fully aware that Mr Reagan and his Republican successors, with the exception of George Bush Snr, have been extremely unpopular figures in Germany.

She was also criticised by Chancellor Schröder's wife, Doris, who launched a bitter attack on the childless Mrs Merkel claiming she had no idea of the hardships of single parents. Doris Schröder- Kopf, who raised her own daughter Clara, on her own before she met Mr Schröder in the late 1990s, was acidly critical of Mrs Merkel's performance as "Minister for Women" in former Chancellor Helmut Kohl's conservative government.

"During Merkel's years as Minister for Women, I was having a really tough time as a single parent mother," Mrs Schröder-Kopf told the Handelsblatt newspaper, "I just wonder what really concerned her during those years," she asked.

It was Mrs Schröder's second broadside against Mrs Merkel in a week. In an interview with Die Zeit newspaper last Thursday, Mrs Schröder insisted that Mrs Merkel's childless background meant that she could not share "the experiences of the majority of women".

'Inspiration' from the past

Ronald Reagan, 1980

"Are you doing better than you were four years ago? Is there more or less unemployment than there was four years ago? If you answer yes to all these questions, I think it is obvious who you will vote for."

Angela Merkel, 2005

"Is our country doing better than it was seven years ago? Is there higher growth? Is unemployment lower? If you answer all the questions with yes, I think it is obvious who you will be voting for."

Comments