A good bit of my job these days (as Berlin Bureau Chief of The Economist) is to follow people like Angela Merkel around. Sometimes I find myself right behind her (1), other times looking down on her in the Bundestag (2), yet other times with the hack pack in a press conference (3), or in a small circle (4), or just before or after some exhausting negotiation (5), or plugging some old buddy’s new book (6).
As you can see, she always wears the same uniform, which comes in beige, white, tan, pink, grey, beige again….
What is she like? More fascinating than you would think. Publicly, she has become a rhetorical robot, reusing the same over-rehearsed phrases (platitudes?) on any given topic, saying exactly the same thing whether she is “on” or “off” the record, staying relentlessly “on message”.
But when the group gets smaller, she shows tiny hints of her old witty side, which I’m told she has in spades. From what I hear, in private she can be hilarious. But politics and the euro crisis have beaten that spontaneity out of her.
Anyway, I’m just observing. Every gesture, every phrase, every involuntary smirk. Even if the only difference is that there is a “the” where last time there was an “a”. If Machiavelli were alive today, he would be sitting right next to me, doing the same thing, doing his homework.