Thursday :: Feb 2, 2006

The Ghost Of DeTocqueville Walks


by pessimist

I've written before about how I feel I get a much more accurate view of what's going on in America by reading the foreign media than I will get from the corporatized American version of the industry. I happened to find a couple of interesting articles describing the current condition of the nation, which frankly offer more hope than I've seen for a while. I recommend reading them in toto.

But for now, I have remained with the one topic both emphatically covered: George W. Bu$h.

The Atlantic Monthly asked reknowned French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy if he was interested in traveling in the footsteps of another French observer of Americana, Alexis de Tocqueville. Levy has now written a book about his experience and gave an interview to German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine last week.

Modern America Through a Frenchman's Eyes

Frankfurter Allgemeine: Your description of President Bush was very thorough. Reading it, I almost felt that you felt pity, or even sympathy, for him.

BHL: No, you read that wrong.

I have no sympathy for him. What astonishes me is the mediocrity, the lack of stature, just how ill-suited for the job he is.

Frankfurter Allgemeine: You describe him as a scared, prematurely aged child. You also describe his ease at dealing with a dissenting crowd, how he then just calls everybody by their first name.

BHL: In some ways, yes, he is quite a skilled man. But you can be a skilled politician and still be a cretin.

Another European shares Levy's assessment of King George:


The President is a dolt
Anatole Kaletsky

America, founded on a libertarian theory of minimal government, has always had low expectations of politicians. Because Americans expect so little of their government, they are rarely disappointed.
For the past five years, America has been led by a president who is clearly not up to the job — a man who is not just inarticulate, but lacking in judgment, intelligence, integrity, charisma or staying power.

As the State of the Union address made clear, President Bush has more or less given up on all the grand goals that were supposed to define his presidency: social security reform, peace in the Middle East, even the axis of evil doctrine, which was supposed to disarm North Korea and Iran.

Most embarrassingly, President Bush seems to have given up on capturing Osama bin Laden or bringing to justice the perpetrators of 9/11.

What war on terror?

America has been run by one of the most doltishly ineffectual governments in history. American politicians may be incompetent and venal, even by European standards, but this is not true of the public realm as a whole.

And that may prove to be our saving grace. I return to Bernard-Henri Levy for the last word, as he seems to feel similarly about the American people:

Frankfurter Allgemeine: De Tocqueville returned from the U.S. with a slew of democratic theory recommendations. What can we [Europeans] learn?

BHL: Above all, the integration (editor's note: the preferred German word for defining 'assimilation') of foreigners.

The U.S. is a machine for making Americans out of immigrants. The cultural difference between a Hispanic-American from San Diego, a Korean-American from Seattle and an Irish-American from Baltimore is much greater than between a Berliner and a Parisian.

Here Europe has some serious catching up to do. To Europeans, the U.S. is the proof that Europe is possible.

Let's just hope they get the correct 'America' example - the real one and not the cheap tinhorn televangical fascist Bu$hCo version.


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