Proudly presenting the English version of Jeffrey Gedmin's article in WELT "Why so many Europeans have hated George W. Bush" (Warum Europäer George W. Bush hassen). It's an excellent piece. I have only a suggestion to make regarding the title: "Why so many Europeans hate George W. Bush" would be a slightly more appropriate description.
Mr. Gedmin is Director at the Aspen Institute Berlin.
Why so many Europeans have hated George W. Bush
Die Welt, 15.11.2006 / By Jeffrey Gedmin
Now that the Democrats will control Congress, there is some relief. More than 200 members of the European parliament have issued a statement praising “the beginning of the end of a six-year nightmare for the world. A little relief." According to ARD the damage has been immense: “Die Amerikaner haben keine Ahnung, wie es im Kongress zugeht. ... Es gibt keine offenen Debatten ... Das ist keine Demokratie mehr. Es handelt sich praktisch um ein autoritäres System.“ („The Americans have no idea how things happen in Congress. … There are no open debates … This is no longer democracy. … This is practically speaking an authoritarian system”).
I keep wondering why so many have hated George W. Bush. The Democrats in the Senate, John Kerry included, had already rejected the treaty by the time Bush arrived. As for Iraq, maybe things would have been different if we had found weapons of mass destruction. But then again nearly everybody thought Saddam was hiding WMD and no one runs around screeching that Al Gore or Joschka Fischer lied.
I have a theory. I helped convene a conference in Prague in parallel to a NATO summit several years ago. On the last evening of the summit, Czech President Vaclav Havel invited our conference participants to attend a state dinner at Prague castle. Chirac, Blair, Schroeder, Bush, all the leaders from NATO countries were there. One of our participants was a Gore advisor, who introduced himself to the President. The President greeted him warmly, and said to Mr. Chirac standing nearby, “Hey, Jacques, I want to introduce you to a friend of mine.” The U.S. President then took a short walk with this Democratic adviser, asking along the way about advice for new exercise equipment for the White House. In the end, my Democrat colleague was charmed. If I tell a group of Americans this story, they tend to conclude, love him or hate him, that Bush is a pretty likeable, down-to-earth guy. If I tell this story to Europeans, they either invariably look disgusted (as in--“how unsophisticated, un-statesman like!”) or their faces go blank. My theory? Bush’s greatest sin is that he is too American.
When some Europeans say they like Americans, they tend to mean those Americans who seem most like European Social Democrats, and even then they airbrush out inconvenient details like the fact that Bill Clinton favoured the death penalty, that Hillary voted for the Iraq war, or that John F. Kennedy, that suave and promiscuous East coast liberal was also a staunch anti-communist, who frequently quoted from the bible. George W. Bush is the full package of everything that makes Europe squirm. He is anti-elitism. He’s religion. He’s morality and muscle. He’s patriotism and self-confidence. He is very un-European.
As for foreign policy, it’s the idealism thing that seems to cause confusion with our European friends time and again. Remember how contemptuously Helmut Schmidt treated Jimmy Carter and his human rights campaign? Ronald Reagan was not exactly a hero at the time when he came to Berlin and told Mr. Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin wall. Mr. Bush may have badly mismanaged Iraq, but does anyone still believe this was all about oil? When European commentators say they are yearning for an end to American unilateralism, our moral crusades and the influence of those dreaded “fundamentalist evangelicals,” what they really mean is that they are longing for the United States to become more like Europe: secular, post-national, consensus-seeking and Social Democratic. So on to the next disappointment. Even with the Democrats, it ain’t gonna happen.
As an add-on, I suggest this article (Europe is Finished, Predicts Mark Steyn) by Daniel Pipes. Also, have a look at this article by Jeffrey Gedmin in Weekly Standard, which elaborates some of the points presented here.