Friday, January 24, 2003
The Major Problem Is Bush the Cowboy
This is why you don't allow an unqualified brand name in a suit be president of the most powerful country in the world. He thinks he's cute but he is actually confusing and unnecessarily provocative.
To European ears, the president's language is far too blunt, and he has been far too quick to cast the debate about how to separate Saddam Hussein from his weapons of mass destruction in black-and-white certainties, officials in Paris and Berlin say. They add that his confrontational approach, his impatience with the inspections and even his habit of finger pointing as he speaks undermine the possibility of common strategy against Saddam Hussein.
No kidding. I'm California born and bred and I find his language embarrassingly puerile and simple-minded (although I realize that this makes me something more akin to French than American, what with my diet of brie and cheese and all.) That finger pointing drives me up a wall, too. His default tone is a scold. "Ah tole the Murican people they were gonna half tah be patient, an Ah MEANT it!"
"Much of it is the way he talks, this provocative manner, the jabbing of his finger at you," said Hans-Ulrich Klose, the vice chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee in the German Parliament. "It's Texas, a culture that is unfamiliar to Germans. And it's the religious tenor of his arguments."
It's not Texas. It's stupid. There are millions of smart Texans. He isn't one of them.
When Bush is on CNN, if you close your eyes you would believe you are listening to an inarticulate, bumbling Jimmy Swaggert instead of a world leader. His religiosity has all the sincerity of Elmer Gantry. But, it's one of the only ways he knows how to speak. Lame preacher. Angry scold.
Over the past several months, as Mr. Bush has mounted his argument for forcing Iraq to disarm, the president himself has once again become the issue here. In interviews in three capitals over the past week, diplomats, politicians and analysts said they believed relations between the United States and two of its most crucial allies — Germany and France — were at their lowest point since the end of the cold war.
As the White House was quick to argue today, the American president has friends and admirers among the leading politicians in several Western European countries, starting with Britain, Italy and Spain, and spreading east to Poland.
Not starting. Ending. And there is going to be some tension on those counts as more and more citizens of those countries take to the streets. Unlike the US, when the citizens of Eupopean countries march in huge numbers, the press and the government actually notice.
It is no wonder, Mr. Bush's foreign policy aides say, that he has redrawn his mental map of America's alliances, and that Paris and Berlin have been placed in the deep freeze for failing his loyalty tests.
His loyalty tests. His personal loyalty tests. This is all that matters. It's all about Him. They are supposed to do what he tells them to do. He's the Commander in chief. Of everybody.
An American diplomat trying to keep European objections from delaying Mr. Bush's timetable for disarming Iraq said he heard similar complaints all the time.
"Much of it is the way he talks, the rhetoric, the religiosity," he said of Mr. Bush. "It reminds them of what drove them crazy about Reagan. It reminds them of what they miss about Clinton. All the stereotypes we thought we had banished for good after Sept. 11 — the cowboy imagery, in particular — it's all back."
Reagan was Aristotle compared to this little boy. He had many, many years of experience making speeches and talking politics. He could articulate what he believed. And he could be an utterly charming personality even if you hated his policies.
Clinton actually had the goods. He had a politicians' gift for drawing people to him. But, he also had a lively and nimble mind that could flexibly adapt to situations and people. He knew what he was talking about and that gave other countries' leaders confidence in him. (They were unconcerned with his cock because, well, Europeans know that genitalia is common to all creatures on the planet. It doesn't make them giggle like schoolgirls or recoil in shock.)
Junior is callow, unschooled, unpredictable and tempermentally mean. His good-ole boy persona is a phony mask for his insecurity. He makes thinking people nervous because he is so obviously in over his head.
He has a credibility gap as wide as the Grand Canyon and his rhetoric is so unpredictable and incoherant that they simply cannot trust what this government says.
From the French Foreign Ministry to the chancellor's office in Berlin, there is broad acknowledgement that the breach between the United States and its traditional allies in Western Europe has gone beyond the friction that has long been a staple of French-American relations or the misunderstandings that have grown since the cold-war ended.
Senior officials insisted in interviews that in France and Germany Mr. Bush had not made the case that Iraq posed a more imminent threat than, say, Al Qaeda.
One French official argued that the American military's failure to hunt down Osama bin Laden and other members of Al Qaeda's top command had led Mr. Bush to search for "easier but less important prey."
That is only partly true. He was manipulated by the people in his administration who wanted to go into Iraq before 9/11 and cynically used that tragedy to justify what they were planning to do anyway.
And it is wrong to say that he is not completely on top of the Al Qaeda situation. Why, just today he made the bold and unprecedented statement that we have Al Qaeda "on the run" and that we've "disrupted their operations," something I don't think we've heard before. I believe he also mentioned something very intriguing about how the terrorists "live in caves" and we are going to "rout them out." Very interesting new developments on that front.
"Terrorists are a hundred times more likely to obtain a weapon of mass destruction from Pakistan than from Iraq," one senior European official said, not permitting a reporter to identify even his nationality because tensions with Washington are so high. "North Korea is far more likely to sell whatever it's got. But can we say this in public? Can we have a real debate about priorities? Not with George Bush."
No, you cannot have a debate in public if it challenges the omnipotence of our great and good leader George W. Bush. It is treasonous for Americans and it is disloyal for world leaders. He TOLD the world what he was gonna do, an he MEANT it!
This sense that many European officials have of dealing with an American president who makes up his mind and then will accept no argument is a central element in the current friction.
Yeah. It bugs the hell out of over 50% of Americans, too.
In all seriousness, this is a real problem. Say what you will about the Europeans, after 9/11 they were backing us 100%. They are our very closest allies politically, culturally and economically , most especially on the threat of Islamic terrorism. We have worked hand in glove for over 50 years to establish international institutions and a set of norms to govern civilized behavior in the era of nuclear weapons and an increasingly interdependent world.
It is truly outrageous that Cowboy Bob and his band of frustrated middle aged warriors have so little regard for these long standing alliances. They seem determined to destroy every single shred of goodwill we have built up over the last half century the same way they destroyed the post 9/11 goodwill in a matter of months.
I fear that the Strangelove elements in this administration suffer from a feeling of impotence because they did not receive the victory parades and heroic adulation they felt they were entitled to for zealously fighting the cold war and defeating communism.
Containment sucks. Nobody ever says "uncle." Our allies don't lay wreaths of gratitude at our feet. The anti-communists don't get any credit for keeping the heat on. The chickenhawks are frustrated.
So, they bought themselves a nasty little sock-puppet and are going to seize what they think they deserve. They want to be worshipped for being right.
digby 1/24/2003 11:12:00 AM