The challenge, at least in the early years, was to persuade Europeans that [Ronald] Reagan was actually guiding U.S. foreign and domestic policy. In Europe, the media and political elite treated Reagan with scorn.Be sure to read Reginald Dale's article on the Gipper in the International Herald Tribune, especially the second half devoted to the "two fond memories [that] illustrate Reagan's unique talent."
Whenever I went back to Europe in Reagan's first term, our European friends would helpfully inform us that Reagan was a B-movie actor, a cowboy (both of which he was proud of) and a "warmonger" — which he definitely was not.
These comments said more about Europeans' ignorance of America than they did about Reagan. Europeans are used to their politicians working their way up parliamentary and party ladders before becoming leaders, and are often unaware that Americans pride themselves on the fact that almost anyone can seek the presidency.
Europeans tend to think of typical American leaders as sophisticated northeastern types from the Washington-Boston corridor, even though such people represent only a tiny fraction of today's America.
This is one reason why so many Europeans are assuming John Kerry is bound to win this year. One hears exactly the same small-minded insults ("dumb cowboy") hurled at President George W. Bush as were directed at Reagan two decades ago.
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