CDU boss Merz has to take a lot of criticism and apologize after his “social tourism” statement. It is not the first time that such a derailment has happened to Merz.

Friedrich Merz actually only exists once. But sometimes the impression arises that the number one of the CDU appears in two versions. On the one hand there is the type of manager who analyzes in a factual and factual manner what he thinks is going wrong in this country and how he would like to change it. And then there is the “Fettnapf-Merz”, who repeatedly attracts attention with thoughtless statements that bring him a lot of opposition and malice, and which he then has to take back.

At the beginning of this week, “Fettnapf-Merz” was on the road again. On Monday evening on “Bild-TV” he complained about “social tourism” among a large number of Ukraine refugees: “to Germany, back to Ukraine, to Germany, back to Ukraine.” The message was clear: Many people use here, who are not at risk at all in their homeland, systematically exploit our welfare state.

A “shitstorm” then broke out on Tuesday night. Merz was accused of speaking like AfD politicians. The much-vaunted solidarity with Ukraine was also not very far. Regardless, “Team Merz” spread the “social tourism “Thesis on Tuesday at eight o’clock again on Twitter.

At 10 a.m. came the turnaround. Merz wrote: “If my choice of words is perceived as hurtful, then I apologize in all forms.” The use of the word “social tourism” was an “inaccurate description of a problem observed in individual cases”.

Apparently, nobody in the CDU noticed for a long time what was brewing on Tuesday night. Otherwise the “social tourism” statement would not have been repeated on Twitter. This raises the question of what the spokesman for the CDU and what the personal spokesman for the party and parliamentary group leader Merz actually do professionally.

In the party headquarters as well as in the parliamentary group, one should actually know that Merz, who is usually so factual, sometimes resembles a “loose cannon”. The image of an unfamiliar cannon lurching around on the ship’s deck represents people who are sometimes difficult to control. And Merz falls into this category.

This has been shown several times since autumn 2018, when Merz returned from self-imposed political exile. During his first candidacy for the CDU presidency, Merz confused even his loyal followers when the manager, who claimed to earn one million euros a year at the time, counted himself among the “upper middle class”. This earned him plenty of scorn and ridicule. His explanation for this choice of words was weak: he understood the rich to be people who had inherited a company.

A year later, during his second attempt at the party chairmanship, he tried to score points within the party by attesting the federal government’s “awful” appearance. Beating down your own chancellor like that was too much, even for critics of Merkel in the CDU. Merz rowed back ruefully. He would “phrase it differently today,” he admitted sheepishly. And: The CDU should never give the impression of being “disloyal to one another”. But that’s exactly what he was.

The next freak out was about the sensitive issue of dealing with homosexuals. When asked if he could imagine a homosexual as chancellor, Merz replied that “as long as it doesn’t concern children”, sexual orientation is “not an issue for public discussion.” Combining homosexuality with pedophilia in the same breath did not lead only for public protests. Even the then deputy CDU chairman Jens Spahn, himself married to a man, was publicly outraged. And again Merz had to correct himself.

Merz not only sometimes misrepresents the tone. He sometimes has no sense of which behavior triggers which reactions. It may be that Merz flew to Sylt with his wife in a private plane for the Lindner wedding because it was practical and he just likes to sit at the controls. But the flight was often castigated as “climate-damaging ostentation”. The fact that, according to Merz, the flight left a smaller CO2 footprint than some of the luxury cars owned by cabinet members, this could not make up for the damage done.

Only he knows whether Merz just slipped out the term “social tourism”. There are also suspicions that the CDU chairman wanted to use the refugee issue to address those in his own party whom he addressed at the CDU party conference – keyword: women’s quota – was too “middle”. Whatever the case: in the public discussion, the outrage over Merz is supplanting the gas levy fuss at the traffic lights. Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Economics Minister Robert Habeck should be very grateful to Merz.