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BERLIN (AP) — Chancellor Angela Merkel's challenger in Germany's Sept. 24 election is suggesting that he would be better at standing up to U.S. President Donald Trump than the longtime German leader.
Martin Schulz's comments in an interview with Der Spiegel magazine published Thursday came as polls show his center-left Social Democrats struggling to gain traction, trailing Merkel's conservatives by 12 to 18 percentage points.
Schulz criticized Trump for "merciless nepotism" and for his habit of conducting politics via Twitter.
"I think reducing politics to a tweet is really dangerous for a U.S. president," he was quoted as saying. "Trump is a risk for his country and the whole world."
Asked how he would deal with Trump as chancellor, Schulz pointed to the example of former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, a Social Democrat, who "unambiguously said no to a U.S. president" on the invasion of Iraq.
Schroeder's stance helped him win a tight re-election campaign in 2002, but chilled his relations with then-U.S. President George W. Bush.
"Men like Trump ultimately need what they spread themselves: clear messages," said Schulz, a longtime president of the European Parliament. "I would counter him as clearly as possible. A German head of government has not only the right but the duty to do that."
Schulz said, while it isn't akin to boxing, "politics sometimes needs clear words. I think I am better here than Ms. Merkel."
Merkel has taken a diplomatic approach toward Trump but also has distanced herself from the president by suggesting Europe can no longer entirely rely on the United States.