German Chancellor Meets With Obama

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President Obama spent his day with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The White House grounds were decked out in German and American flags. And Merkel was given the full honors — the first accorded by Obama to a visiting European leader. That includes a state dinner this evening.


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

President Obama woke this morning to disappointing news: a new poll shows nearly 60 percent of Americans disapprove of the way he's handled the economy. More on that in a moment.

First, the president spent his day with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The White House grounds were decked out in German and American flags and Chancellor Merkel was given the full honors - the first accorded by President Obama to a visiting European leader. That includes a state dinner this evening. NPR's Ari Shapiro reports.

ARI SHAPIRO: This was the tenth meeting between President Obama and Chancellor Merkel; none has been as flowery as today's. A formal arrival ceremony on the south lawn of the White House included a 19-gun salute and a military band.

(Soundbite of music)

SHAPIRO: During a joint news conference, President Obama hammered home the point that these countries are closely connected - economically and militarily.

President BARACK OBAMA: There's hardly any global issue where we don't consult one another.

SHAPIRO: But consultation is not agreement. Back in March, Germany broke with the U.S. and abstained from the United States vote authorizing a no-fly zone over Libya. Speaking through a translator, Merkel tried to explain why Germany sat this one out.

Chancellor ANGELA MERKEL (Germany): (Through Translator) There will be areas in the world where we shoulder different responsibilities.

SHAPIRO: She said Germany does want to see a peaceful, democratic Libya and not just for abstract reasons.

Chancellor MERKEL: (Through Translator) You know, the changes in North Africa are changes that happen on our doorstep. And those are our immediate neighbors and we have a choice. Either this works out well or we have an enormous refugee problem.

SHAPIRO: President Obama said Germany will take a more active role rebuilding Libya's economy and helping the Libyan people once Moammar Gadhafi leaves power.

Pres. OBAMA: My expectation is going to be that there will be full and robust German support as there has been in the past from Germany on a wide range of issues.

SHAPIRO: But this assumes that Gadhafi ever leaves. Today, the Libyan leader vowed never to give up. After three months of this military operation, President Obama insisted today that the mission is succeeding.

Pres. OBAMA: Our goal there was to protect the Libyan people from a potential slaughter. We have done so.

SHAPIRO: Of course, this is not the only military operation the U.S. is involved in. President Obama will soon decide how quickly to pull troops out of Afghanistan. He noted that Germany has increased its Afghan commitment.

Merkel warned today that if the U.S. leaves Afghanistan quickly, her country may do the same.

Chancellor MERKEL: (Through Translator) We wish to go in together, out together. Afghanistan will need our support however in the long run, so we will not abandon them.

SHAPIRO: Beyond military ties, the U.S. and German economies are closely connected. President Obama said the leaders agreed today that they cannot allow Greece's debt to drag down the world economy. And he said he understands that the politics are tough.

Pres. OBAMA: You recall how difficult it was for us to make investments in our own auto industry or to make sure that we didn't have a financial meltdown here. Well, imagine if you're having to make those same decisions with 27 other countries with respect to somebody else's economic problems.

SHAPIRO: Those investments - or expenditures, as Republicans would call them -might have helped avert an economic crisis, but the unemployment rate remains at 9 percent. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows disapproval of President Obama's handling of the economy is at an all-time high.

The president today urged people to take the long view.

Pres. OBAMA: I'm not concerned about a double-dip recession. I am concerned about the fact that the recovery that we're on is not producing jobs as quickly as I want it to happen.

SHAPIRO: As the president enters a tough re-election fight, the economy remains voters' number one concern.

Ari Shapiro, NPR News, the White House.

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