July 29, 2003

A Journey to Blue Country: My Two Weeks in Europe

By: AF Editors

The old Dubliner had bought me a pint, but he had no opening to hand it to me because of the drunken Canadian waving his arms. The Torontoan spread his arms wide while shouting about Iraq, trying to express, with his wing-span, what he thought was the magnitude of President Bush’s stupidity. Finally, the old Dubliner named Eugene handed me my Guinness and got in his ten cents.

“The problem is,” he rumbled in his brogue, “you Americans didn’t give a f&%k about the rest of the world until 9/11, and now you want to run it.”

“Yeah,” the Canadian piped up, “it’s not like 9/11 only affected the U.S. I got stuck in Vancouver for two days because of that.”

“Are you saying,” I asked, “that you wish we weren’t poking our noses around in the whole world’s business–trying to solve all the problems?”

The Canuck got furious, making it clear he thought I was being thick-headed. “No, that isolationist talk is the garbage you use to stay out of Kyoto. You can’t just say you’re going to mind your own business. You just can’t go fighting wars and trying to make deals–like in Palestine–where you’re only looking after your own interest. You’re too powerful and too rich to shun the rest of the world.”

“Let me get this straight,” I said, feeling a bit like a wise guy, “you want us to keep fighting wars, and keep butting around the world, but in the interest of Canada?”
“Not just Canada,” he said, “but Ireland, the U.K., France, Germany, Africa. You’re not the only country in the world, you know.”

I found a way at this point to peel myself away from the conversation, after complimenting his nation’s Ice Hockey tradition. But I had a handful of conversations not so different during my two weeks in Europe.

D.C. statehood, Puerto Rican statehood and the Motor-Voter Bill are all Democratic efforts to enfranchise their natural base. The single greatest disenfranchisement of Ted Kennedy’s party, I learned visiting Ireland with a quick jaunt to Belgium, is the fact that Europeans (I include Canadians here) living in Europe cannot vote in the U.S.

Almost every Irishman from Dublin to Galway to Kilrush was welcoming, friendly, and happy to meet an American traveler. The handful of Spaniards, Austrians and Belgians I met up with and ran with for a day or an evening seemed to love Americans. Even the French in Ireland were nice (although one hitchhiker I picked up told me, when I asked if he had ever been to New York or D.C., “French do not visit America”).

Late one night, after the pubs had closed in Galway, I had a perfectly pleasant chat on a street corner with three Frenchmen (one, I am not kidding, pulled cheese out of his bag and started munching on it). They taught me how to pronounce the letter “r” in French (it must be done with disdain and ennui) and asked me whether the term “cowpie” had an analogy in “American Pie.”

In fact, the only place I encountered nasty comments during my trip was when I logged on to read NRO’s “The Corner.”

But almost without exception, although they liked me fine and wanted some day to visit the States, the Irish had disdain or hatred for George W. Bush. Howard Dean was almost right when he described President Bush “turning world opinion against America.” “Against the Administration” would be more accurate, in my experience.

At heart, though, this negative world opinion is not grounded in any rational basis, and efforts to placate Europe would be in vain.

Amazingly, two Irishmen brought up Kyoto, asking why we wouldn’t sign on. When I cited national sovereignty, they said, “oh yeah, your obsession with ‘independence.'” You would think the Irish, of all people, would understand the problems of letting foreigners call the shots in your country.

One girl at Doyle’s in Dublin was brought to tears talking about the errors of the Iraq war. I couldn’t understand her emotion about it and asked her why she was so passionate about it. “Bush has f*&%ed up the world [the Irish like to cuss] with his war,” she sobbed. How her life had been upset, I couldn’t ascertain.

But it wouldn’t be fair, again, to call their sentiment anti-American. In Galway, I stayed at a hostel on Kennedy Square (named after JFK) and in Ballybunion I saw a statue of Bill Clinton.

No, they just hate Bush.

They hate him for attacking Iraq, rejecting Kyoto, imposing steel tariffs, pursuing a balanced peace in the Middle East, and rejecting the International Criminal Court. They don’t hate him for being an interventionist. They don’t hate him for being a protectionist or isolationist.

Largely, I suspect, they hate him because of who he is. They only get a superficial exposure to our president, and they can tell he is not slick like Slick Willy nor handsome and princely like JFK. He stumbles over his words and wouldn’t fit in in Europe. Whatever Bush did, they would hate him.

Accordingly, the Administration would be foolish to try to make the Europeans happy. We could not please them by ending our foreign wars. We could not please them by working to eliminate international terrorism.

They hate Bush, and, thankfully, that doesn’t matter.

Tim Carney is a reporter for the Evans-Novak Political Report.