The Ugliest American

by digby

This E&P article about the way the NY Times celebrated Codpiece day back in 2003 is illuminating in a number of ways. But I particularly found this to be interesting:

The United States currently has more than five divisions in Iraq, troops that fought their way into the country and units that were added in an attempt to stabilize it. But the Bush administration is trying to establish a new military structure in which American troops would continue to secure Baghdad while the majority of the forces in Iraq would be from other nations.

I don't think enough attention has been given to that particular bit of Bushian hubris. He truly believed that he could force the rest of the world to come in and help pay for his misdaventure after the fact with troops and money. I don't know why any country would want to take on such a moral hazard, and they very obviously didn't, but Bush had so bought into his own hype that he believed he was not only the undisputed and sole leader of America, he thought he was Emperor of the world.

The American people must understand when I said that we need to be patient, that I meant it. And we're going to be there for a while. I don't know the exact moment when we leave, David, but it's not until the mission is complete. The world must know that this administration will not blink in the face of danger and will not tire when it comes to completing the missions that we said we would do. The world will learn that when the United States is harmed, we will follow through.

The world will see that when we put a coalition together that says "Join us," I mean it. And when I ask others to participate, I mean it

This administration didn't just insist that this thing be done their way. They went out of their way insult and demean any ally that expressed reservations. And they didn't just insult their leadership, they insulted the people themselves. It was one of the worst cases of ugly Americanism I've ever seen.

Bush (because of his own lack of curiosity and innate provincialism) and the neos (because of their dreams of American Empire) have long been hostile to "Old Europe." Bush even made his personal disdain obvious when he was forced to travel there in the early days of his presidency. (The press seemed to think it was charming.)

Sam Parry at the Consortium wrote about it at the time:

During that rocky week-long tour of Europe, intended to rally U.S. allies, Bush faltered badly. He said jet lag got the better of him as he struggled to stay alert. He also displayed his thin skin.

Bush bumbled one question about the sensitive issue of Russia’s support for efforts to build a nuclear power plant in Iran. During a joint news conference with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, Bush announced that Putin had offered Bush “assurances” that “will be very comforting for you (the public) to listen to.”

Immediately contradicting Bush, Putin reaffirmed Russia’s support for Iran’s nuclear power plant.

Bush’s fatigue also showed in testy exchanges with reporters. During a joint press conference with French President Jacques Chirac, Bush lost his cool when NBC correspondent David Gregory followed up a question to Bush in English with a question to Chirac in French.

“Very good, the guy memorizes four words, and he plays like he’s intercontinental,” Bush said in what looked like Bush impersonating Saturday Night Live’s Will Farell impersonating Bush. “I'm impressed – que bueno. Now I'm literate in two languages.” [New York Times, May 28, 2002]

Taken as a whole, Bush's inappropriate behavior – which included winking at reporters in front of a naked statue of the Goddess Venus – gave the impression of a president having trouble keeping focused. [Financial Times, May 29, 2002]

Most establishment reporters in the U.S. portrayed Bush’s stumbles in Europe as quirky gaffes. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, for instance, attributed Bush’s poor performance to his proving how “Texas” he is by overdoing “the anti-elitist, anti-intellectual sneer.” [NYT, May 29, 2002]

But the European press was less forgiving. Bush's behavior was described as “clownish.” Published reports examined Bush’s limited intellectual abilities. Europeans also expressed amazement at his high standing in U.S. opinion polls. Throughout the May trip, in scenes reminiscent of Bush’s inaugural parade, average citizens on the streets gave Bush the middle finger as his motorcade passed. In Germany, tens of thousands of protesters turned out with signs telling Bush to go home.

Bush’s insistence on U.S. exceptionalism from international laws governing other nations also infuriated Europeans. While insisting that U.S. adversaries such as former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic be tried for war crimes, the Bush administration demanded a special waiver from the U.N. Security Council to shield U.S. forces from the authority of a new global war-crimes court.

Diplomats also objected to Bush’s new military doctrine of preemptive invasions of countries, such as Iraq, deemed by Bush to threaten U.S. security. “What member states find most irritating is this perennial argument that the United States is a special case, that rules are for everybody else,” one diplomat told the New York Times. “Even close friends are very, very nervous. This is really a serious assault on the international legal order.” [NYT, June 19, 2002]

"In 32 years of reporting on international affairs, I have never seen Britain and the United States more separated from each other: not during the terrible last years of the Vietnam War, not during President Reagan's Iran-Contra dealings or his espousal of the crackpot Star Wars system," wrote correspondent John Simpson. "The way George W. Bush's administration deals with the outside world is affecting even the most traditionally pro-American elements in British society." [London Telegraph, June 30, 2002]

After 9/11 the whole world was open to US leadership and willing to work together as never before to deal with our common challenges. Imagine if we'd had a visionary in the presidency instead of what we had. Think of how we could have parlayed this international goodwill into comprehensive renewable energy agreements, nuclear non-proliferation with teeth and common security goals. Instead he treated the world like he owned it, was disrespectful and rude and when it came time to get his allies on board with his misbegotten war, there was no more goodwill left.

And the American people are left with the bill, both finacial and moral, not that we don't deserve it. But it is still galling beyond belief that the man who was in the white house on that fateful day was not the man a majority of the American people really chose to lead them. And it continues to gall that the American press pumped up this character from the moment he came on the scene and gave him the rope he needed to hang us all.