Saturday, April 03, 2004

Kerry's French Side: A Plus in Europe, a Minus in the U.S.

f ¡No Pasarán! is to be believed, the International Herald Tribune's recent makeover seems to have been a success. It's only been a week, and (with the present posting included) already three of its new page 2 features have been quoted on the blog (following Tuesday's Politicus, Wednesday's Globalist, Thursday's Entr'acte, and Friday's Europa).

In his second Globalist outing (he has two every week, the second being in the weekend issue), Roger Cohen takes a look at The Republicans' barb: John Kerry 'looks French' (for some reason, the title is changed on the website).
…perhaps the surest indication that the looming political season will be ugly has come from repeated Republican suggestions that Kerry “looks French.” …What is going on here? Ever since the Iraq war divided the Atlantic Alliance and the French government emerged as its most vociferous opponent, France has become a dirty word in some Republican circles. The France-bashing has had its lighter side — French fries disappearing from menus — but it has been no laughing matter. The criticism has carried the serious suggestion that France is not to be trusted. So if Kerry “looks French," the inference is clear enough.
Meanwhile, in France,
"There is a nostalgia for the Kennedy years and a hatred of Mr. Bush that I have never known for another American president,” Nicole Bacharan, a political scientist, said. “So the French have just blocked out the America of religious faith and straight talk that likes Bush.”

Much, it seems, is being blocked out in the talk of Kerry's French side. It is true that some of his promised policies seem attractive to many Europeans. He favors diplomatic engagement — in the past with Vietnam, today with Iran. He has castigated the Bush administration for its “intoxication with the pre-eminence of American power.” He has said he understands the need to “cooperate and compromise with our allies and friends.” He has vowed “to replace unilateral action with collective security.”

But Kerry also voted in favor of the war in Iraq — a fact not much aired in France — and urged the new Spanish Prime Minister, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, to refrain from withdrawing Spain's troops from Iraq.…

The fact is that Kerry understands the reality of post-9/11 America, one often only dimly perceived in Europe. The attack, like Pearl Harbor, changed the country, pushed national security back to the center of the political agenda for the first time since the end of the cold war, and almost certainly made any candidate not strong on defense and tackling terrorism unelectable.…

Still, in an election as tight as this one, the Republicans will do all they can to associate Kerry with what they see as the French penchant for conciliatory weakness and slow-moving international institutions.

No comments: