Monday, February 28, 2005

The Bush Bashing Corporation

Former magazine maven and editorialist Myrna Blyth commenting in National Review, draws the reader’s attention to the BBC and their senior Washington correspondent, Justin Webb. He has a puzzling habit of not giving his own readers, listeners, and viewers an accurate picture of the nation he’s supposed to be covering. The British tv-tax payer should demand a refund.

For starters, we are "strait-laced and earnest." Our "heads are in the clouds." And, worst of all, we tend "to hold firm to a principle even when practicalities get in the way." So that, one might assume, is not the virtue that an Englishman named Churchill once so nobly displayed, but nowadays is a very naïve, very American flaw.

But what else ails us? He bashes us because we are religious, of course, declaring, "America is fast becoming a nation of faith not fact... Television coverage of the Asian Tsunami was a case in point. In Europe it was covered as an unrelenting tragedy, in America, one television network promised 'incredible stories of lives saved in near miraculous fashion."

Yet all I have to do is type "tsunami miracle stories" on Google and guess where the first story comes up? Yep, the BBC! "Tsunami 'miracle' woman pregnant," a survivor's story that was reported on January 6 and included the fact that a woman, who was adrift for five days told her rescuers, "I saw sharks around me but prayed they wouldn't hurt me." I assume her statement of faith is not yet incomprehensible to the British public.

But what really bothers Webb most is "the vision thing." We, darn it, think it is important and Europeans just don't. That, according to Webb, is what divides us most of all. "While Europeans fret about what they regard as real life, about poverty and social justice and about combating AIDS, Americans find it easier to rally round a vision, however unworldly that might be." This has been going on for years, he avers, illustrating his complaint with such past "vision-based" misdeeds as "President Reagan's arms build up in the 1980s, which helped destroy the Soviet Union, or the first President Bush's decision to press for German reunification, whenever Mrs. Thatcher was nervous." So are we to believe President Reagan's defeat of Communism wasn't a good idea because it was based on holding fast to a principle, which remains such a grave American failing?

He also declared, "The fact is that Americans have long regarded Europeans as weak-willed, lily livered, morally degenerate moaners, incapable of clear thinking or resolute action." That is obviously a sweeping generality that I don't think is true — but commentaries like this one on the Beeb certainly don't help. Then Webb concluded his moan with the same lament Brit journalists have been using about Americans since the 1960s: the size of our gas-guzzling cars. (Believe me, my husband through the years used it time after time.) He moaned, "At the end of my skiing holiday, I drove my family home in a hired car larger than most tanks and as fuel efficient as the Queen Mary. On the journey to Denver airport, dozens of similar vehicles passed us." Oh, dear. Well, Justin, if it bothered you so much, "at the very moment that the Kyoto treaty was coming into force, to the sound of great European fanfare" why didn't you do the right thing and go to the airport in the hotel's shuttle? But that, I guess, would have been acting like an American and holding firm to a principle even when practicalities got in the way.

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