Saturday, May 08, 2004


Mon Dieu! Européens n'aiment pas le Président Bush!

To no one's surprise (except those Republican pundits who insist that John Kerry must be lying) the New York Times reports that most Europeans in a wide swath of countries can't wait to see Bush thrown out of office:

Across Europe, anti-Bush feeling has contributed to a consensus that the coming American election is of singular importance: for the United States, certainly, but also for the rest of the world. Anxieties about the direction America is going are accompanied more often than not by a passionate desire, cutting across national borders and party lines, to see President Bush voted out of office in November.

Europeans are in general more liberal than Americans, and among Europe's mainstream liberals, rejecting Mr. Bush is a matter of course. But a strange thing seems to have happened to many conservatives, who would ordinarily be the American president's cheerleaders. Even those who favor him seem loath to admit to wholehearted support, tempering their praise with caveats and qualifications.

It is as if admiring Mr. Bush is seen as slightly shameful among thinking Europeans, like confessing a preference for screw-top wine bottles.

"I must say, he's not very popular," said Sergio Romano, an Italian teacher and commentator who has served as ambassador to NATO and to the former Soviet Union. "It's quite understandable that he wouldn't be popular with the bulk of the center-left European intelligentsia, but he's not very popular with the conservatives or moderates either."
. . . . .

In poll after poll, Europeans have shown themselves to be fervently anti-Bush. In Britain, America's staunchest ally in the war in Iraq, a poll of 1,007 people taken last month for The Times of London by the British polling company Populus found support for Senator John Kerry over President Bush by a margin of 56 to 22 percent.

From America, a poll of people in nine nations conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press in March found that opinion of the president and, by extension, the United States, had plummeted across Europe since Mr. Bush took office.

In France, the poll found, the president had an 85 percent negative rating; in Britain, 57 percent; in Germany 85 percent; and in Russia, 60 percent.

"People say, 'I'm very frustrated that I can't vote in the U.S. elections, because these are the ones that affect my way of life more than anything else,' " Ken Dubin, a political scientist at Carlos III University in Madrid, said in an interview.

Referring to the prewar meeting last year of President Bush, Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain and José María Aznar, who was then the prime minister of Spain and whose recent election loss was attributed to antiwar feelings by Spanish voters, Mr. Dubin said, "I've heard the comment, 'One down, two to go.' "

In an editorial in March, the left-leaning British newspaper The Guardian put it more starkly. "Senator Kerry carries the hopes not just of millions of Americans but of millions of British well-wishers, not to mention those of nations throughout Europe and the world," the newspaper wrote. "Nothing in world politics would make more difference to the rest of us than a change in the White House."
. . . .

"The thing that Europeans cannot understand is how you can vote for a liar," said Peter Schneider, a German essayist and novelist. "Here is somebody who lies about something that leads to a war where tens of thousands of people's lives are involved."

Nor are Europeans thrilled about the American values they feel Mr. Bush has encouraged, in which anti-Europeanism is applauded as a virtue, people boycott French wine in protest at the French position on Iraq and Senator Kerry is ridiculed by the Republicans for being able to speak French.

"The idea that you have a leader of the U.S. who's not interested in listening to his allies is important in the way people perceive Bush," Guillaume Parmentier, director of the French Center on the United States at the French Institute of Foreign Relations, said in an interview. "He has a very simplistic view of the world, which we find difficult to accept. In fact, that we find dangerous."

Meanwhile, John Kerry is enjoying support in Europe, not because of his policies, but simply because he isn't Bush.

I think it's a mistake to believe that the tensions with Europe will completely disappear if Bush loses the election. American and Europe will continue to have different interests on many subjects. The real question is whether there will be a more constructive way to deal with those differences. Moreover, the Administration has so badly handled American-European relations that the many common ends that Europe and America continue to possess-- and which formed the cornerstone of the European-American alliance for decades-- have been overshadowed in the process. The tolerance and goodwill that keeps mutually beneficial alliances together in good times and bad has been systematically squandered. This combintation of senseless beligerence and incompetence is among the Bush Administration's greatest foreign policy failings. It is one thing if the Administration's policies address real differences with European allies that cannot be papered over. It is quite another if the Administration's policies foment differences and disagreements that really shouldn't be there in the first place.


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