The mark of a truly skilled politician is to make any possible source of weakness or fallibility look exogenous. Angela Merkel can do it with her eyes closed.
Faced with hard questions about what her government knew and when about US surveillance operations that may have harvested the private data of millions of Germans, the chancellor walked into her last press conference before the parliamentary summer break and managed to sound solicitous about getting to the bottom of the issue – which, of course, had nothing to do with her.
No matter that the opposition Social Democratic party are doing their best to turn widespread public concern about mass surveillance into questions about Ms Merkel’s leadership ahead of the September 22 general election. No matter the accusations that Germany’s own spooks were actively colluding with the US National Security Agency. And no matter that, thus far, the US appears to have done next to nothing to soothe German nerves.