Jewish World ReviewJune 14, 2004 / 25 Sivan, 5764
They always come back
One thing I've learned about the Europeans is they always come back. Oh, sure, they bash our arrogance. They even bash our ignorance. They say we're not cultured or refined. They call our presidents who shoot from the hip empty in the head. They said the same of Ronald Reagan. They say much the same of President Bush.
But in all these retrospectives on Reagan and his life this past week, one remarkable fact stands out even the Europeans come around. And Reagan is the perfect example. When he first came into office, the French press, in particular, called him a cowboy (the hat didn't help). The Germans bemoaned his lack of sophistication. Even some in the often-uppity British press called him clueless. His Strategic Defense Initiative was similarly blasted for being naive at best, and a global threat at worst. His huge tax cuts were labeled a huge mistake for which the world would pay a huge bill. Ronnie Reagan could do no right.
But things changed, namely because the economy changed; not only in the U.S. but abroad. And as things picked up in Paris and Stockholm and Lisbon and Bonn, suddenly the economy ring-leading this turnaround was getting credit, albeit grudging credit. Now the same vicious press that lambasted Reagan's tax cuts as reckless was praising them as prescient, even brilliant. Not only had those tax savings lifted American spending for American goods, they had lifted American spending for European goods. And a fellow named Ronald Reagan had made it all possible the guy with the simplistic economic solutions that had led to a simply marvelous global economic turnaround.
Ditto Reagan's infamous Star Wars campaign. It prompted the Russians to retreat, and eventually communism itself to die. And all this prompted Europe to rethink, reanalyze and reassess the man for whom it had held such collective disdain.
It's too soon to say whether President Bush will enjoy the same swing in support. But we're already getting signs he just might. During his recent European tour, commemorating the 60th anniversary of D-Day, European leaders that used to avoid him suddenly had no problems yapping with him. The cozy pow-wows continued at the G-8 summit in Sea Island, Ga., as heads of state sauntered up to the head of the biggest and most economically productive state. The improving U.S. economy might be a big reason. After all, their economic engines are following our lead, and I guess, by extension, our leader. His tax cuts also seem to have done some good getting things going. So respect, or at least "like," is back.
Now don't get me wrong. George Bush is no hero with the French. But the fact the French are willing to consider dipping their toes back in some United Nations-sponsored role in Iraq closer to Washington's liking than Jacques Chirac's says something.
It just got me thinking. With success comes influence. With power comes prestige. And with prestige, stubborn recognition. Ronald Reagan experienced it first-hand. There were enormous doubts about this cowboy actor when he stepped into the White House. There were enormous doubts about this cowboy Texas governor when he stepped into the White House. But each in his own and different way compels even his critics to take a second look.
To be sure, each had his problems even after winning over converts. Deficits loomed large for Reagan. They loom larger still for Bush. Reagan had Iran-Contra. Bush has Iraqi prisons. But Reagan made a nation forget the bad, and I suspect this president will make a nation and a world forget the embarrassing.
The sum of each man's good accomplishments ultimately triumph over the perception of all the bad. It worked for Reagan, who ended up wowing Europe.
It will work for Bush, who just might end up surprising Europe.
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Neil Cavuto is managing editor of Business News at FOX News
Channel. He is also the host of "Your World with Neil Cavuto" and "Cavuto on
Business." He's the author of "More Than Money : True Stories of People Who Learned Life's Ultimate Lesson". (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.) Comment by clicking here.
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© 2003, Neil Cavuto