The Last Question, or How to Embarrass Tony Blair.

I just watched the press conference Gerhard Schroeder, Jaques Chirac, and Tony Blair gave after their talks regarding Iraq in Berlin today. The last question came from a British journalist whom I wasn’t able to identify so far. But her question was quite interesting.


She asked the British Prime Minister whether he wasn’t embarrassed talking to his European colleagues given that (so many people believed) he was only an envoy for George W. Bush (from my memory, I couldn’t find a transcript so far).


Well, I don’t know if he was actually embarrassed when talking to his colleagues, but he was certainly embarrassed to get this question. I somehow had the impression that he was blushing a little bit when Gerhard Schroeder took over and answered the question for Mr Blair, saying something along the line of “Tony Blair came as himself, talked as himself, and will also leave as himself” before Jaques Chirac added that this is “a question so far out of the imaginable that not even the three governments’ communications people were able to dream it up it in their briefing to the heads of state”.


Unimaginable? Apparently not. Embarrassing? Definitely so.

43 thoughts on “The Last Question, or How to Embarrass Tony Blair.

  1. A few days ago a regional TV channel rerun the last episode of “Yes, Minister”, “Party games”, and the minister Jim Hacker says in one scene that UK foreign policy is pure fa?ade, since the UK was only a US missile base.

    DSW

  2. Embarrassing: yes but useful: no. You can see that in the extreme positions in both previous comments.
    We can be absolutely sure that it is not and never was the intention of Blair of being Bush’ envoy. What i would like to know is to what extend Blairs position is prompted by his intention to keep the US-government and “Europe” allied (vs his opinion on Iraq per se).
    A difficult question still but not the counteractive insulting one.
    To answer the question myself: on such important matters the opinion on the issues itself should always outweigh the strategical ones.
    The Iraq-case is a good illustration of this: the (assumed) noble intention to prevent to big a gap between the american administration and the European administrations has resulted in problems within the EU.

  3. The French and German politicians are generally perceived to be very untrustworthy, which is the basis of much of the resistance in the UK to joining the EU.

    They lack integrity, while quite happy to accept protection from the US and The UK during the Cold War, they now feel quite comfortable in being spiteful and vindictive in matters concerning international matters. Having been rescued from one socialist nightmare, they now, can not wait to join in another statist fiasco, which has all the indications of being far worse than anything we have seen previously. Fair weather friends indeed..

    They lack personal honesty, their collective resistance to being subject to any departmental checks with regard to financing, is a sure sign that some sort of calumny has either been committed, or soon will be. There has already been some smoke from this particular fire.

    They lack morality, while they talk of ‘what is best for Europe’, they are really only concerned with protecting their positions and ensuring that they get voted into power at the next election. The French stand on the CAP is a prime example of this. While spouting on about Europe, they will be busy cornering the most lucrative commerce for themselves. They are the definitive example of hypocrites.

    They all have over-large egos and suffer from delusions of grandeur, and their construction of the proposed Constitution, is to ensure their tenure in power, without the bother of having to be re-elected periodically.

    THe UK representatives on the EU are no better than their Franco-German counterparts, the likes of Kinnock and Patten are just as suspect as to their honesty, perhaps this is why we are so suspicious of the whole sorry bunch. We have a saying about ‘birds of a feather’.

    It seems that the French and German economies are in decline, due largely to their unrealistic social welfare programmes, and they are trying to get the rest of us to join in the ‘club’, so that when they finally sink, they will take the rest of us with them. On their own they cannot possibly progress, or even maintain their present standards of living, the longer the delay in everyone being coerced into ‘club’, the worse their positions on the home front.

  4. The French and German politicians are generally perceived to be very untrustworthy, which is the basis of much of the resistance in the UK to joining the EU.

    They lack integrity, while quite happy to accept protection from the US and The UK during the Cold War, they now feel quite comfortable in being spiteful and vindictive in matters concerning international matters. Having been rescued from one socialist nightmare, they now, can not wait to join in another statist fiasco, which has all the indications of being far worse than anything we have seen previously. Fair weather friends indeed..

    They lack personal honesty, their collective resistance to being subject to any departmental checks with regard to financing, is a sure sign that some sort of calumny has either been committed, or soon will be. There has already been some smoke from this particular fire.

    They lack morality, while they talk of ‘what is best for Europe’, they are really only concerned with protecting their positions and ensuring that they get voted into power at the next election. The French stand on the CAP is a prime example of this. While spouting on about Europe, they will be busy cornering the most lucrative commerce for themselves. They are the definitive example of hypocrites.

    They all have over large egos and suffer from delusions of grandeur, and their construction of the proposed Constitution, is to ensure their tenure in power, without the bother of having to be re-elected periodically.

    THe UK representatives on the EU are no better than their Franco-German counterparts, the likes of Kinnock and Patten are just as suspect as to their honesty, perhaps this is why we are so suspicious of the whole sorry bunch. We have a saying about ‘birds of a feather’.

    It seems that the French and German economies are in decline, due largely to their unrealistic social welfare programmes, and they are trying to get the rest of us to join in the ‘club’, so that when they finally sink, they will take the rest of us with them. On their own they cannot possibly progress, or even maintain their present standards of living, the longer the delay in everyone being coerced into ‘club’, the worse their positions on the home front.

  5. Last month, press reports in America were saying Colin Powell will be standing down as US Secretary of State were Bush to be re-elected as US President – which seems increasingly unlikely.

    By today’s BBC press briefing, the SMirror carries a report saying a strategy is being prepared for Blair to exit smoothly in the spring if he cannot regain public trust – as seems increasingly likely.

    Are these reports connected?

  6. Bob,
    So, unspecified press reports that:

    a) Powell will stand down – not so, he was very quick to squash that rumour. put about by the lefty mischief makers.
    b)Bush unlikely to be re-elected, you must be joking, it is very difficult to find anyone who is anti-Bush and pro-Democrat. The only ones you hear running him down are the ‘lovies’ in Hollywood and the media types in New York and Boston. He is still seen as a decent man of his word, something that the Democrats, by their very nature, just cannot be.

    You would be very wrong to directly compare Blair with Bush, the two have very little in common. You would also be very wrong to compare the Americans with the English, the two also have very little in common, and even less with the Euros…

    If Blair does not enjoy the trust of the British people, who do you suggest might enjoy such trust. I think the Brits have completely lost trust in any of their politicians and in the political system as a whole.

    Anyway, it really is of little importance, the whole pack of cards is nearing collapse, including the EU scam…

  7. @ Heath: do I get any debating points for doing a search and replace on your screed against the German and French politicians? If not, why should you?
    and what’s this? [Bush] … a decent man of his word, something that the Democrats, by their very nature, just cannot be. By our nature? Seriously? Well I’m actually glad you said that, because that means I get to call you a dumb Coulter-fanboy in return and still needn’t worry that I might descend to your “all my political opponents are evil/stupid/dishonest” idiocy.

  8. Ah, poor Markus,

    Touched a sore spot did I?, never mind, the truth oft times hurts – suck it up!.

    At least I did not resort to calling you names, and you never even thought to ask, ‘why I think that Democrats are dishonest by nature’. It could have something to do with a philosophic point of view. But then you really dont want to hear that, do you?.

    Never mind, I am not trying to make up for the shortfalls in your education, and one day you may just have enough intelligence to realise why any form of socialism, is dishonest.

    I assume that you are the product of the latter day education system, that disallows any contrary point of view. When I see the leading lights of the Left, both in the House and the Senate, and their patronizing followers in Hollywood, practising what they preach, then I may be prepared to change my point of view.

    Having just looked at your blog reminds me of that other bastion of socialist cant that I forgot to mention – Academia.

  9. I don’t think Blair was embarassed by the content of the question, which he has been asked in different variations several times now. I think he was embarassed because Schr?der decided to answer this question directed at himself. If in a normal conversation, someone asked me a question and someone standing next to me started answering, “he has been doing this and that…”, I would certainly feel weird too. Not very polite.

  10. Interesting question 🙂 Certainly left Mr. Blair speechless ^^ *chuckles* Wish I saw this on TV. Quite embarassing indeed 🙂

    oh btw, hope to see your blog back up again soon ^^

  11. Heath,
    zip it up, your ignorance is showing.

    The rumors of Colin Powell’s stepping down, were seen as being more likely put out by Pentagon neo-cons as a way of undermining Powell who was gaining influence as their own Iraqi strategy was capsizing. Infighting, in short.

    As far as Bush being re-elected. Would you care to back up your assertions with some credible statistics ?

  12. hmm, my link got stripped out, so here’s the
    http://www.pollingreport.com/wh04gen.htm

    “In general, would you like to see George W. Bush reelected to another term as president, or not?”
    Yes No Don’t
    Know
    % % %
    9/18-19/03 44 50 6
    8/21-22/03 44 49 7
    7/24-25/03 49 43 8
    7/10-11/03 47 46 7
    5/1-2/03 51 38 11
    4/10-11/03 52 38 10
    11/02 49 42 9

  13. Interesting: Tobias says that Blair was embarrassed, while hans says that the embarrassment was due to being cut off by Schr?der. Who is right?

    Bob: I think you seriously underestimate Bush’s re-election chances. The Republicans haven’t even started campaigning yet. We are only seeing the Democratic Party nominees in the spotlight as they prep their platforms, and none of them has generated a platform that has a seemingly bipartisan appeal – a requisite for success in American politics. Howard Dean is way too left-wing; he will not succeed in Middle America. The only interesting possibility is General Clark.

    Bush has tremendous appeal in Middle America, reinforced by his strong showing after 9/11, AND his decision to go to war in Iraq. This is consistently lost in European media, who’ve never tried to analyze what has really happened in America after 9/11.

  14. Markku,
    I think that you are confusing supporting the president in a time of crisis (even if the Iraqi situation was a manufactured crisis) and rallying around Bush.
    If 9/11 had occured this year instead of two years ago, I think you might have been right.

    But frankly, for most americans, the lousy economy now looms larger than 9/11, and it’s increasingly obvious that the war in Iraq is not going well.

  15. Patrick G…

    Newsweek Poll conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates. Sept. 18-19, 2003. N=1,001 adults nationwide. MoE ? 3.

    “Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president?”
    Approve Disapprove Don’t Know

    9/18-19/03 51 42 7
    9/11-12/03 52 39 9
    8/21-22/03 53 36 11
    7/24-25/03 57 34 9
    7/10-11/03 55 37 8
    5/29-30/03 61 28 11
    5/1-2/03 65 26 9
    4/10-11/03 71 23 6

    You have your source, I have mine, we all believe what we want…

  16. Heath,
    your numbers show a 20% drop in approval rating over a bit more than 5 months. if that trend continued over the next 14 months, why, come election day, Bush might have 0% approval rating! 🙂

    Seriously though, your numbers show Bush’s approval/disapproval rating is split right down the middle, but clearly trending lower.

    If these numbers are indicative, Bush’s “re”-election is no forgone conclusion. No joking.

  17. Patrick: I would disagree with you on two issues: the economy is actually picking up, and the war in Iraq is actually going rather well.

    But public perception is everything. So far, the public has been quite tolerant of the losses and costs in Iraq (compared to other crises, such as Vietnam, or Somalia), – the best efforts of the media notwithstanding. And all this before the Republicans have even hit the campaign trail. But, still, I wouldn’t make a call this early in the game, as there are still plenty of opportunities for candidate mistakes…

    For Europeans, though, the key to remember is this: Middle America doesn’t give a hoot what Europeans think. In fact, – more so than ever before – European anti-Americanism only serves to strengthen Bush, rather than weaken him.

    It would be interesting to see Bush play the anti-European card. It would be a fitting lesson for Schr?der and company. If he did, most likely Bush would win.

  18. This BBC-poll http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/programmes/wtwta/poll/html/political/general.stm illustrates
    disapproving of Bush is not the same as anti-American.
    BTW it looks like some Americans indeed want to start some anti-Europe (or anti-French) campaign. :
    http://www.eamonn.com/archives/000627.html#000627
    Another Dutch blogger (writing in English don’t be afraid) suggested ironically (but with a serious background) that Bush should attack the Netherlands (instead of China):
    http://jobdebate.blogspot.com/2003_09_01_jobdebate_archive.html#106394238168317891
    (Edward Hugh found this one for me)

  19. Frans: You’re citing a BBC poll on anti-Americanism!? That’s like asking Pravda if there were any shortages in the USSR. The BBC has consistently lied and/or distorted the truth. They’re a horrible back-up for anyone’s arguments.

    In any case, my point is that European opinion is irrelevant: “criticism” of Bush has been interpreted as anti-Americanism by Middle America, whether Europe likes it or not. My guess is that Americans have instinctively understood that European hostility was not about just Bush, but also about America, and the American people.

    I hear it constantly from Americans who’ve recently returned from Europe: anti-Americanism runs rampant in Europe. Sometimes it seems it’s only the Europeans who do not recognize their bigotry…

  20. Markku,
    I’m curious, which part of Middle America are you familiar with ?

    if the economy improving; where are the 1.4 million jobs that that second tax cut was supposed to create ?

    Also, how do you figure that the war is going well ?

  21. Hi Markku,

    “the war in Iraq is actually going rather well.”

    Are you sure about that ’cause it’s not the impression I get from reading the American press online such as this from the Miami Herald, which is hardly radical fringe stuff:

    “Faced with rising costs, sinking polls, unsympathetic allies, an increasingly skeptical Congress and potential splits in his political party, President Bush has begun to question the hard-line Iraq policies long championed by Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld.” – from: http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/6821495.htm

    By the press reports there are mounting concerns in Congress with Bush asking for $87 billion in new spending on Iraq when the budget deficit next year was already projected to hit $480 billion. Without taking account of the additional Iraq spending, the Congressional Budget Office had projected a total deficit over the next decade of $1.39 trillion and that is huge at a time when additional spending on medicare and social security for the babyboomers will be needed.

    “It would be interesting to see Bush play the anti-European card. It would be a fitting lesson for Schr?der and company. If he did, most likely Bush would win.”

    Fact is that the polls show widespread public opposition to the war across most of Europe. Whatever Tony Blair’s personal standing is in America, his government is in trouble here over the dossier published a year back to whip up public support for a war. It has become clear that Blair mislead Parliament and the public by overstating the threat to Britain’s security from Iraq’s supposed possession of WMD.

    A week or so back an academic in a discussion on a BBC news programme made the point that public trust in Blair has fallen massively. Polls with a question: “Do you trust Tony Blair?” produced a 74% affirmative response in 1998 but only 27% in a recent poll. By that, almost 50% of the electorate has lost trust in Blair. An unintended casualty is his hope of holding a referendum during the present Parliament on Britain joining the Euro. Blair’s credibility is now too seriously dented to turn round public opinion when polls show a 2-to-1 majority against.

    On Blair versus the BBC, I guess you missed this:

    “A new poll for the Financial Times newspaper in London says more Britons trust the British Broadcasting Corp. than Prime Minister Tony Blair. . . The poll says 59 percent of those questioned say they trust the BBC, compared with 41 percent who say they trust Blair.” – from: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/957763/posts

  22. Patrick G: Although born in Finland, I grew up in suburban New Jersey – very much a part of Middle America.

    The effect of the second tax cut is yet to be felt; however, investment capital is finally flowing to Wall Street again, as people are increasingly willing to catch the ride up again (instead of keeping their IRA’s in low interest bearing cash accounts) in order to make up for past losses. Don’t forget that Americans simply have no choice than to put their IRA’s to work: government social security is simply not enough. And keep in mind that when we talk about IRAs (Individual Retirement Accounts, also known as 401k’s, and SEP’s) we are talking about hundreds of billions of dollars.

    The war is going well if you compare what the Pentagon actually had planned for before the war. So far the results have been incredibly good.

    Bob: The Miami Herald is incredibly partisan; you should know that. If you must read that newspaper, you should also read the New York Post for counterweight.

    Deficits scare Europe more than America, because Europe doesn’t have the economic flexibility of America. As I’ve indicated above, social security is pretty much a joke in the US, and not many people rely on it: private wealth accumulation is what matters, and that drive is what makes America so consistently strong financially. The US workforce is also growing every year, due to a higher immigration rate than that of Europe. Consequently, there will always be enough of a workforce in the US to take care of an aging population, – unlike in Europe.

    “Fact is that the polls show widespread public opposition to the war across most of Europe.”

    Fact is Americans still don’t give a hoot about public opinion in Europe, so I don’t know how this would be relevant to an American election.

    “On Blair versus the BBC…”, – the British might trust the BBC, but certainly not the Americans, because the BBC is so consistently anti-American. So I wouldn’t cite BBC studies on anti-Americanism. They are completely biased.

  23. Hmmm. About an hour ago here in New York I caught a Fox News (an admittedly quite partisan network) broadcast of an interview with President Bush. Bush had an incredibly relaxed, folksy, all-American, down-home kind of confidence about him during the entire interview (interestingly enough, he said he had not bothered to pay attention at what the Democratic nominees were saying at this point). The general impression I got was that the Democrats were not going to have an easy time going against Bush when he finally does confront them.

    As I later surfed on the internet tonight, I caught the BBC’s version of that interview:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/3130880.stm

    The BBC’s spin was absolutely the opposite of what I saw and, – more significantly – totally clueless as to the subtle signs and signifiers – the hidden messages – that only Americans would pick up. The message was clear: I’m still an average American just like you who’s hell-bent on paying back for Sept. 11th – except I will do it by forcing democracy on the Arab world.

    That message is what the Democrats have to go against. It won’t be easy.

    P.S. Just look at the BBC version. Exactly what does the suicide bombing at the end of the article have to do with an article supposedly reporting on Bush’s interview? Nothing, of course.

    I don’t understand the BBC’s tactics. It would be more productive for their political aims to explain exactly why Bush holds such appeal for so many Americans. That way, perhaps Europeans could formulate an intelligent response to American policies, – instead of falling back on counterproductive and self-defeating anti-Americanism.

  24. Fascinating to hear Europeans debating the mysteries of Midwestern-American public opinion. Here in American Bloggonia it’s usually the other way around. As an average (school teacher) American living in a Heartland/Red state (Ohio) I can tell you with some confidence that Bush has only a very slim chance of being re-elected in 04′.

    Most Americans pay little attention to foreign affairs, especially outside the east coast. They trusted the judgement of the president (and his advisors) after 9/11. Americans were told that the invasion of Iraq was necessary, effective and cheap. Now they are being told that it is none of these things, so they are getting angry. I don’t know how they feel in Jersey, but here they are getting very, very angry. Together with the transformation of the economy (even if the economy improves, the disappearance of well-paying jobs in the industrial Midwest is not going to be reversed anytime soon) this means that Bush will be a combination of LBJ and Hoover in 04′: Game Over.

    BTW, The very idea of ‘forcing Democracy’ is laughable. ‘Revenge’-blind, angry and misdirected nationalist rage-is what has driven the invasion of Iraq, together with the administration innuendo connecting Saddam and 9/11. But that is passing. Americans are returning to their senses.

  25. Hi Markkhu,

    “Fact is Americans still don’t give a hoot about public opinion in Europe, so I don’t know how this would be relevant to an American election.”

    Reading American blogs as I do, opinion doesn’t seem quite as monolithic as you claim and besides international opinion matters when Bush has to go to the UN to seek support for American forces in Iraq after the Bushies and Neocons spent months last year and early this rubbishing the UN all over the blogshere as I saw. But then on Voice of America today I read this:

    “A new poll indicates, for the first time, that a majority of Americans disapprove of President George W. Bush’s handling of the situation in Iraq. The weekly news magazine Newsweek, in a poll released Saturday, finds Mr. Bush’s approval rating on Iraq had fallen 6 percentage points since last week, to 46 percent.” – from:
    http://www.voanews.com/article.cfm?objectID=7780912C-67EA-4954-A00FE2860D218B06

    Ever see that advert in the NYT last September by 33 American academic specialists in international relations opposed to war with Iraq?

    In today’s The Guardian in Britain I read:

    “Tony Blair has decisively lost the debate over Iraq with a clear majority of voters now saying that the war was unjustified, according to the results of this month’s Guardian/ICM poll published today.” – from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/hutton/story/0,13822,1047893,00.html

    What was that Lincoln said about in a democracy you can’t fool all the people all the time?

    Cheers,

  26. Bob: You trust the Guardian with a poll? Ah well, let’s not even bother with that one…

    The key question to pose, – the key question the Democratic candidates are going to have to answer – is not whether or not going to Iraq was a mistake, but what is it that you would be doing differently now in Iraq if you were in charge. And the answer is that there is not much that a Democratic leadership can do differently in Iraq.

    On the issue of Bush going to the UN now, keep in mind that the Pentagon always expected to do it all alone. So UN support is not crucial – only helpful. Yes, it will take some of the burden off of the US, so why not ask for assistance? But if the answer is no, well then, the US will manage it alone…. The question the European states will have to ask is do we really want the US to manage it alone? My guess is that eventually Europe will want to join up, in order to have at least some sort of leverage with the US…

    American bloggers are anything but monolithic – they’re boisterously opinionated, made of every political hue there is. But I take issue issue with one of your implications: that Americans worry about America’s standing with the UN. It would be interesting to see a poll conducted on that one, – the problem, of course, is whom do you trust to conduct that poll?

    Now, in my opinion, VOA has a better standing than the Guardian, but why bother with a poll now, when the campaigning by both parties hasn’t even started yet? And those 33 American academics? Do you really think Americans hold academics in as high a regard as European do? Americans are not as class-conscious as Europeans are…

    As to Tony Blair, well, I’m not British, so I don’t know anything about his standing, – except that I wouldn’t trust the Guardian to tell me anything on that one, either…

    Jeanne: with all due respect, you are part of a union that has consistently supported the Democratic Party; it is no wonder that you would oppose Bush. And I don’t think you are representative of the entire Midwest. We haven’t even seen Bush play his best cards yet, so it is way too early to be calling the election of 2004 – even in the Midwest.

    However, I would like to point out that I have consistently supported Democratic candidates in the past. It is only after 9/11 that I’ve changed parties. I like Bush exactly because Bush goes against European values. That is exactly the kind of attitude America has to have at this point in time, – because European values fail when it is time to take action against external threats.

  27. Hi Markkhu,

    “You trust the Guardian with a poll? Ah well, let’s not even bother with that one…”

    If you check through you’ll find the poll was conducted for The Guardian by ICM, an entirely reputable, commercial polling organisation of long standing which has many clients. Were it to manifestly screw up a poll, ICM would be apt to lose mainstream business for being unreliable. Besides, on this we can safely bet polls on relating themes will be conducted shortly by ICM’s host of competitors so we will soon know if the poll is out of line.

    We also know that many commissioned polls are not published so there are independent checks and it is not as though there have been no other polls reporting a massive loss of trust in Blair’s leadership. Daily reports of proceedings at the Hutton Inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the apparent suicide of Dr David Kelly have amply demonstrated that the government DID distort the truth in the dossier it published last September to justify war with Iraq. Few can reasonably doubt this now. The supposed “owner” of the dossier, a Mr Scarlett, chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, has admitted that the notorious 45-minute claim in the dossier, which caused much stir at the time, related to small calibre weapons, which could not constitute a present and real threat to Britain’s security. The general view here now is that we were taken into war under false pretences.

    “On the issue of Bush going to the UN now, keep in mind that the Pentagon always expected to do it all alone.”

    I read heavyweight American broadsheet press online. By many reports, Congress, business and taxpayers in America are getting seriously worried about the mounting cost of Iraq plus Afghanistan when the projected budget deficit is already projected to reach historic records and the retiring babyboomers will be fearfully upset if expectations about medicare and social security are not met.

    “The question the European states will have to ask is do we really want the US to manage it alone? My guess is that eventually Europe will want to join up, in order to have at least some sort of leverage with the US…”

    Europeans have been so thoroughly abused and so often by the Bushies and Neocons that they are minded to let the Bush administration stew in the mess of its own creation. Believe me. Many polls across Europe showed public opinion to be strongly opposed to this misguided war. Schroeder and Chirac know they have strong public support for the positions they have taken.

  28. Bob: Again, I would not venture to guess the mood of the British public, but I would not listen to a poll published, editorialized, and “sexed up” by the Guardian or the BBC, – they’ve lost my trust a long time ago, through their sheer anti-American bigotry.

    I don’t know if you’re old enough to remember the clamor Reagan’s deficit spending raised in the US. Congress, the media, and the electorate were as concerned then as they are now. But, low and behold, the American economy was revived again, even generating a budget surplus for quite a while. Why? Because the world brought their capital to the most capitalist country in the world.

    One aspect most Europeans might not realize is this: while US pension funds are only now beginning to pour money back into Wall Street (which will create jobs and spur the economy even more), according to the New York Times, the immediate financiers of the Bush deficit… – have been the Europeans. Yes, indeed, Europe’s financial markets have been snatching up US treasury securities like hotcakes, – which leads me to wonder about how much faith European financiers have in their own economic recovery…. In either case, the fact that Europe’s capital is being poured into the US will mean that Europe must keep an interest in the financial stability of the US economy, – with or without a deficit.

    What was it that Balzac said? “The debtor is the slave of the lender, unless the debtor is big enough, in which case the reverse is true.” Hmmm….

    Another point I should make is that out of that $87 billion earmarked for Iraq, only about $20 billion will actually be spent on Iraq. The rest, – infrastructure contracts, military support contracts, army pay – will filter back into the US economy, and act as a spur on the economy. Subsidized pump-priming? Yes, and as a believer in the free-market, I don’t like to see that. But the political payoffs in Iraq make it worthwhile.

    German and French capitalists (who cares about the voters; they’re irrelevant) will ultimately come to the aid of the US, because they would like to get a piece of this action (though Chirac will twist it around in a way to make it seem like a French victory). They also stand to benefit from future contracts with independent Iraq if they’ve demonstrated support early on. Finally, all of Europe will give their financial support to the US, simply because the growth of the US economy is crucial to the well-being of their own over-taxed welfare states.

    Now do you see why the Republicans are not worried about the deficit? It’s the best-kept, open secret in town…

  29. Markku,
    New Jersey, huh ?
    And you read Murdoch’s New York Post ?
    well that explains something…

    You do know that New Jersey was a Blue State, right ?
    So, your views don’t seem to be representative of the majority of New Jersey (or at least of those that vote).

    As an Illinoisan, I think I might have a better claim as to the pulse of ‘Middle America’ than someone from New Jersey, if I were so bold to make that claim.

    Of the four Illinois counties I’ve lived in, Dupage County (Rep. Henry Hide’s staunchly republican base), is the one that probably has suffered the worst these past three years. My mother volunteers at a food pantry there, distributing food to people who used to be engineers at Lucent, and Tellabs among others. I highly doubt that they’ll be voting for Bush.

    As far as the economy goes; more people rely on Social Security for their retirement than you seem to think. Even for those that have them, only a small number of 401(K)s are funded at a sufficient level to support a retirement without Social Security.
    http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=1896&ncid=1896&e=13&u=/nm/20030923/us_nm/life_retirement_dc

    You seem to confuse the state of the stock market with the state of the economy. A truer measure of the economy can be had by following the unemployment measures like the 4-week moving average of new unemployment claims, and the monthly job loss estimates put out by the BLS.

    Lastly, the war; frankly, you’re in denial.
    Do you know how long we can maintain present force in Iraq ?
    http://www.commondreams.org/headlines03/0903-04.htm

    Does the New York Post ever give a tally of just how many dead_and_wounded have been flown out of Iraq ?
    No? Then, let’s see what the Guardian has come up with:
    http://observer.guardian.co.uk/iraq/story/0,12239,1041821,00.html

  30. Hi Markkhu,

    If ever I need a little topping up on critiques of the Bush administration, I only need sift through the American broadsheet press and read a few up-market American blogs with excellent credentials.

    The Guardian and the BBC aren’t anti-American. It’s one of the persistent propaganda myths propagated by the Bushies and the Neocons that they are. Those of us with years of online experience are thoroughly familiar with the efforts that go into painting any criticism of Republican administrations as an Un-American Activity – ROFL. As a notable European 20th century propagandist wrote [1925]: “The broad mass of a nation . . will more easily fall victim to a big lie than a small one.” [Oxford Dictionary of Political Quotations]

    Take eg Paul Krugman, the NYT columnist and Princeton professor, who regularly gets demonised in America as a wild leftie. When in the mid 1990s I mentioned him to my line manager, Krugman was quickly dismissed as “right wing”. Oddly enough, in a European context that is perhaps correct. Transposed to a European setting, the Democrats in America are right-wing and the Republicans over the edge of beyond with the Neocons even further out.

    One of the most illuminating online pieces I came upon about Conservatism in America was this by an American libertarian: http://www.lewrockwell.com/tucker/tucker30.html

    I especially enjoyed this bit: “[The] thesis of Jeffrey Frankel that the parties have switched places, with Democrats becoming the party of fiscal responsibility, free trade, competitive markets, and minimal government, while the Republicans have become the party of trade restriction, big government, and interventionist economics.”

    But then, what would he know? He’s only a professor at Harvard, one of those dummie academics.

    Btw readers may like to know that Paul Krugman’s columns from the New York Times can be found at: http://www.pkarchive.org/ Just click on: Columns.

  31. “German and French capitalists (who cares about the voters; they’re irrelevant)”

    That says it all. Only a fool could believe that Bush cares about Iraq peoples. The voters, they’re irrelevant.

    DSW

  32. Thanks, Bob and Pat; you put things much better than I could have, and saved me the trouble too (:

    Markku, I wasn’t talking about my fellow teachers. Though you should know, many teachers vote Republican (especially in 2000) for ‘God, Gays and Gun’ issues. It’s not like anyone has to take a pledge to vote Democratic to join a union-I find the very idea insulting. In my school district, I know many kids whose parents work in the auto industry directly or as contractors. Again, they often vote Republican, mainly for social issues. They want affordable health care and decent wages and working conditions (which means unions) and social security, and have nothing but contempt for ‘Enron Conservatism’.

    Teachers already have great health and retirement benefits, and when they vote Democratic it is not for their self-interest but because they think others should enjoy these benefits too.
    I’ve seen kids who had to suffer because of the Republican policies of the last 20 years.
    Most of the social problems here (passed down from parents to kids..it’s sad) are from unemployment and no safety net whatsoever, not ‘naturally’ incapable parents. And it’s getting worse. I’m disgusted by the snake oil of school vouchers, testing/testing/more testing and SS privatization the GOP has been peddling. Billions for Iraq and tax cuts for the rich may be a winning slogan in Markku’s neighborhood, but not in these parts.
    The only thing that can save Bush in Ohio and Michigan and Pennsylvania is a miracle.

  33. Patrick: I’ll concentrate on some of your comments, as I can’t agree on Commondreams and The Guardian as sources of any information that can be trusted.

    I actually don’t read the NY Post at all, since I don’t like its style. However, as I said, I would recommend that as a useful counterweight for any European trying to gauge the range of US media.

    Middle America does not necessarily connotate the Midwest. Middle America has come to mean middle-class, middle-aged and middle-of-the-road in terms of politics. Middle America is that which can be swayed to either the Democratic or the Republican parties, as the case may be. It is that portion of the population which can’t be counted on to be partisan, – and which, significantly, both parties must court in order to win an election.

    The stock market does have a lot to do with the economy: it is the first place to look if we must try to prognosticate future trends. Unemployment trends hit the economy a little later than a stock market decline; hence, we are now seeing unemployment trends that the market took into account two, three years ago. Additionally, present unemployment trends are already taken into account by the stock market, and the stock market is still on the rise – a good sign.

    But, yes, there is a lot of economic pain, to be sure. I certainly feel it in my line of work. But I don’t share your sense of gloom.

    Bob: I don’t need American “propaganda myths” to come to the view that The Guardian and the BBC are anti-American (American media doesn’t pay much attention to them). All I have to do is read them myself, and in my opinion, they are anti-American.

    But since you enjoy adding links to support your claims, I might as well offer this one:

    http://www.biased-bbc.blogspot.com/

    Antoni Jaume: I think you’ve misunderstood me. I was referring to European voters. They are irrelevant when European capitalists decide where to invest. And they’ve certainly chosen to invest in America, – whether the European voter likes that or not.

    Jeanne: I wasn’t trying to disparage the teacher’s union. I’m merely pointing out that teachers tend to vote in a way that has already been accounted for by both Republican and Democratic political strategists. It is the Middle American, middle-of-the-roaders that matter in this upcoming election. And, as far as I can tell, it is way too early to be calling the results.

    What the Democrats need to do is not concentrate on Bush-bashing, but start formulating policies and strategies to win over the middle-of-the-roaders. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen much of that yet, other than the old-style rhetoric. Hopefully, some good alternatives might finally evolve… who knows, at this point? I might even be swayed by Wesley Clark…

    But to return to my original point: Americans should be aware that European anti-Americanism won’t stop with the absence of Bush. Anti-Americanism is European bigotry at its worst. It is based on envy and jealousy for American accomplishments, it is very much alive, and it does seek to harm America and American interests, even at the expense of its own interests.

    Which seems to be what the Europeans are actively pursuing.

  34. Markkhu,

    Most contributions to the biasedbbc website are best regarded as bad jokes – which does not imply that Polly Toynbee in full prescriptive mode in The Guardian is to be taken as seriously as she takes herself.

    It needs to be understood that there is a coalition of interests hostile to tbe BBC:

    (1) Sooner or later governments of left or right become paranoid about the BBC because governments don’t like articulated, documented criticism and because of the BBC’s wide reach. Thomas Macaulay in the early 19th century wrote: “The gallery in which the reporters sit [in Parliament] has become a fourth estate of the realm,” and for many of us, the BBC has come to provide that function nowadays – no 29 at: http://www.bartleby.com/100/405.html

    (2) Those who find what they regard as the “liberal” values of the BBC “obnoxious” – but then that is perhaps another reason why some of us rather like the BBC. It seems many Americans took to relying on the BBC for news of the Iraq invasion because they valued its dispassionate reportings over the “conformist” or gung-ho reports of much broadcasting media in America, notably Fox.

    (3) Various commercial interests would like the BBC to be broken up so they could absorb its present loyal audiences.

    “Anti-Americanism is European bigotry at its worst.”

    Of course there is a vein of anti-Americanism in Europe. Both Mussolini and Hitler despised America, which they regarded as “degenerate” but then they would, wouldn’t they? Stalin and comrades also regarded America as the embodiment of the class enemy because it has a fully-fledged capitalist market economy and that challenged their authoritarian socialism which wasn’t working out well in practise. No surprise then that their latter-day followers have inherited parts or all of those attitudes.

    We also have this remarkably explicit statement of a European preference for statism from Edouard Balladur, Gaullist prime minister of France 1993-5: “What is the market?” asked Balladur. “It is the law of the jungle. And what is civilization? It is the struggle against nature.” – from: http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/3.05/culture.html

    Statism or dirigisme has a long history in Europe going back to Colbert and Mercantilism at the time of Louis XIV, or to Napoleon and the Continental System, before getting to Prouhon: “Property is theft”, or to Marxism and the inevitability of the collapse of capitalism through revolution. Some in Europe are finding it difficult to shake off old ideologies.

  35. Bob: “Some in Europe are finding it difficult to shake off old ideologies.”

    Agreed.

    But I still can’t agree with your support for the BBC. However, I don’t want to hash out worn arguments. I would, however, like to leave you with another model for broadcasting, namely, the PBS channel in America.

    The Public Broadcasting System was established in 1963 to counter the power and fare of the commercial stations in America. It is the closest example to a socialized television channel in the US: it does not show any commercials, and subsists on donations from the public. The federal government does put up a tiny portion of the budget, but the biggest donors are philanthropic foundations, corporations who seek to have some P.R. exposure (they get named at the beginning of a show, but that’s about it), and, – most significantly – public donations.

    I happen to be a big fan of the channel. It generally shows the type of programming that could not survive on the commercial market: documentaries, educational tv, and alternative programming. And, oh yes, it also shows BBC World News on a weekly basis (thought edited for American audiences, as I found out while visiting Europe), in addition to other fine BBC programming – hell, PBS introduced America to Monty Python!

    I’m sure you’ve heard about it, but I would like to offer the PBS financial model as an alternative to the BBC’s state-ordained mandatory tax for all British citizens who own a TV, whether they watch the channel or not. I believe that if the British take away the state-sponsored tax angle from the equation, you might also get a channel that has to actually serve the people – like PBS tries to do – rather than have a politicized elite, secure in their state tax-supported budgets, decide what the people need to see.

    I’m sure this argument has been heard in Britain, as I recall reading about it in some British publication. In either case, if you haven’t seen PBS, I think you should take a look-see, should you happen to be in the US sometimes.

    You’d be surprised how diverse American media actually is.

  36. Markku,
    That CommonDreams link you turned up your nose to was a ‘reprint’ of a Washington Post article.

    Otherwise, If you know of a mainstream U.S. publication which has tallied the dead-and-wounded returned from Iraq, please let me know so that I can subscribe. But in the absence of a substanciated contradiction of the Guardian’s own tally, I have no reason to doubt their numbers.

    Again turning to the Economy, I posit that the U.S. stock market has lost much of its usefulness as an leading economic indicator over the past twenty…due primarily to the rise of 401(k), as 401(k) contributions is automatically skimmed off the top of their paycheck and injected into the stock market every pay period with no reasoned/informed decision made by the investor.

    And while jobs are a lagging indicator; through his misguided inaction, Bush has dug himself into a job creation hole which could only be refilled if the economy were to grow at an unrealistic-ly high rate of growth for the next 14 months. But it’s not growing nearly that fast, and the economy is still losing jobs.

    Lastly, about PBS, the words ‘_____ brought to you by: ______, ________, and _______’, before every show amount to three or four commercials by the corporate and institutional sponsors of those shows. And the pledge marathons three times a year are annoying…that’s when they trot out the good stuff and interrupt it with a half-hour commercial for the local station. PBS has no independence whatsoever; it cannot afford to alienate any of its corporate sponsors or any congresscritters who might cut its meager financial strings.

  37. Patrick: If your 401(k)’s go to mutual funds that don’t have a financial manager in charge, I’d be worried, too. But, believe me, there are reasoned/informed investors in charge.

    As to unemployment trends, as much as I supported Clinton, it was during his tenure that the bubble grew and burst: Bush was left to deal with the aftermath. Again, try to lay off the Bush-bashing and concentrate on what should be done differently by the Democrats. That is the key to Democratic success in the next election.

    And the programming on PBS is different from commercial channels – even politically so. You can always turn the channel during pledge drives. It’s even easier than paying a separate, yearly tax for PBS just because you own a tv.

  38. Markku,
    What I said about Bush and jobs wasn’t bashing. Not unless, USA Today is also bashing Bush:

    “Bush is likely to be the first president since Herbert Hoover to preside over a net loss of jobs. Economists say it’s unlikely that even a boom in the economy would create enough jobs before Election Day 2004 to replace the nearly 3 million that have been lost since Bush’s inauguration.”
    http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=676&ncid=676&e=1&u=/usatoday/20030924/ts_usatoday/11867744

    Bush can claim the recession was Clinton’s fault if he wants, but “Don’t blame me for this mess” is not a compelling re-election slogan.

    Re: 401(K)s, I think that you are being entirely too optimistic as to how informed/reasoned 401K managers are.

    Other People’s Money keeps coming through their doors (so long as they don’t do too much worse than average), they take their cut and then they have to use the rest to buy the sort of stocks that their prospectus says they will, whether it makes sense or no.

    Re: PBS; my point was that it wasn’t as commercial free as you made it out to be.

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