Jewish World Review May 29, 2002/ 18 Sivan, 5762

Wesley Pruden

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When the president
has to button his lip | The president of the United States is a powerful fellow, no matter who he is. But he has his frustrations. He can't always say what he thinks.

He blew up at an American television reporter accompanying him on his European grand tour for asking a question about what everybody in the world knows is true. A president has to act as though he is not aware that Europe is a civilization in eclipse, surrendering its parliaments for a bureaucracy unaccountable to the people, rendering itself helpless before its enemies and abandoning itself to the shadows of history. Why shouldn't such a civilization despise America, which is everything good that it cannot be?

Naturally they're particularly contemptuous of George W., who they think is a semiliterate cowboy who spends so much time figuring out the big words in his Spider-Man comic books that he can't stay awake through the "Law & Order" reruns once night falls.

So when the television reporter - David Gregory of NBC News - asked him why he thinks there's such strong sentiment against America in Europe, George W. was surely sorely tempted to let the Eurotrash have it. "I don't view hostility here," the president said, no doubt grinding his molars and swallowing bile. "I view the fact that we've got a lot of friends here."

Well, it's true. Gerhard Schroeder didn't spit in his left eye in Berlin and Jacques Chirac didn't spit in his right eye in Paris, and the view from his motorcade, behind all those heavily armed cops and soldiers shoving everyone out of the way, was as warm and comforting as a hot Parisian croissant lathered in Belgian butter and Swiss jam. If you're a plain American you're perfectly free to observe that the loathsome European disease, terminus temporizinus, is incurable, but if you're a president you have to keep in mind that though the situation is hopeless, it's not serious. The best of the Europeans are here, and the ones whose grandparents missed the boat are over there, where most of them will stay.

George W., for all his inherited New England manners, is a Texan, and in the tribute to his European hosts he seemed to enjoy slipping the needle to Mr. Chirac. "Look," the president said, "the only thing I know to do is speak my mind, to talk about my values, to talk about our mutual love for freedom and the willingness to defend freedom. And I think a lot of people on the continent of Europe appreciate that."

And here comes the needle: "There's a heck of a lot more that unites us than divides us. We share the same values, we trade $2 trillion a year. I feel very comfortable coming to Europe; I feel very comfortable coming to France. I've got a lot of friends here."

Why not? Customs officers rarely rummage through a president's underwear, dirty or not, and Mr. Chirac is careful not to display the customary French snottiness to a visiting president, not even after George W. demonstrated his fluency in French as she is spoke in Paris (the one 55 miles west of Texarkana). There's that $2 trillion in trade every year, speaking of the values that unite us.

Mr. Chirac, in fact, patiently explained why it's as foolish to imagine that his countrymen despise Americans as to imagine that a lot of them despise Jews. "You shouldn't give too much credit to these demonstrations," he said. "They do not reflect a so-called natural aversion of such-and-such a people in Europe to the president of the United States or to the people of the United States."

Mr. Chirac has had a lot of experience in explaining away things that are obvious to everyone else, even including (wink, wink) George W. "There is no anti-Semitism in France," Mr. Chirac said the other day, explaining how it was coincidence that the spring of '02 has been a French festival of synagogue burnings, and of course it was another coincidence that the embassy that burned the other night in Paris happened to be the Embassy of Israel. The thousands of demonstrators against the Bush visit in Berlin and Paris were kept to the side streets where the visiting president wouldn't see them. Why couldn't the correspondents shut their eyes, too?

The man who should be the happiest to learn that the venomous anti-Americanism so fashionable in Europe is a figment of media imagination is Colin Powell, whose job as secretary of state has devolved into baby-sitting chores for the milksops of Europe, who yearn for George W. to embrace the Arabs, as they have, and learn to love Islamist terror, as they have. Fortunately for us and for the rest of the world, George W. knows everyone may well think this. He also knows he could never say it.

JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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