First European Impressions and President Bush
Ace analyst Charlie Cook suggests in his weekly e-mail column "Off to the Races" that Europe loathed President Bush even before he was elected:
The truth, of course, is that most Europeans have disliked, and possibly loathed, George W. Bush from first sight. When former President Clinton left the White House, he was so popular among Europeans that he practically could have been elected prime minister of almost any country in the region. …It appears, then, to be a France vrs. Texas battle they have going.
George W. Bush, though, has had more than a few things working against him since he became the party's nominee in 2000. Europeans tend to look upon American governors who move up to the presidency with some degree of skepticism, given a governor's perceived lack of foreign policy experience. Their fondness for Clinton is more the exception than the rule.
Second, what most Europeans know about Texas, they learned from re-runs of the television show "Dallas," which did not exactly put the Lone Star State's best foot forward. Bush's renown swagger and studied anti-intellectualism seemed to feed the stereotype. If Europeans tend to put intellectuals on a pedestal, Americans are inclined to believe that intellectuals are a group of smart people who lack common sense.
Fourth, it has not helped Bush that Texas ranks first in the nation in the number of death penalty executions. Europeans are consumed by this country's use of the death penalty, which they think is barbaric and amounts to state-sanctioned murder. American foreign policy experts are always struck with how conversations with Europeans on American politics seem to invariably turn to the death penalty, rarely a major topic in the U.S.
And finally, Europeans have long believed that U.S. policy is not critical enough of Israel, and that the United States is not an honest broker in Middle Eastern politics -- a pattern they saw intensifying under Bush. They further think that Washington is becoming even less committed to the Middle East peace process than before.
Dr. Cook was obviously exaggerating when he suggested that Clinton could have won leadership office anywhere in Europe, though he seems to have bought into the standard group-think image of the President's intellect. I refer him to the President's vision of the future Middle East and its effect on the world.
Cook also goes on to suggest that the President has a sub-average IQ. ("T]here has never been a correlation between IQ scores and winning presidential elections, or for that matter, between IQ scores and successful presidencies," he said he explained to the Europeans. He also argued that the President "was more than just an arrogant cowboy.")
I'd link his column, but it is available only via e-mail. You can subscribe for free by visiting this page, and if you'd like a copy of this week's, drop me a line.