INDECENT DISRESPECT. There's a lovely phrase in the opening to the Declaration of Independence that I think gets at much of what is wrong with Bush's presidency. Jefferson writes that "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind" compels him and his fellow revolutionaries to explain why they are separating themselves from the British monarchy.
During the presidential debates in October, John Kerry made this very point, saying that when a president takes military action, "you've got to do it in a way that passes the global test where your countrymen, your people, understand fully why you're doing what you're doing, and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons."
A decent respect to the opinions of mankind, in other words. But Bush and his allies on the right sneered and smirked, accusing Kerry of sucking up to the French. Bush twisted Kerry's quote around into a cheap applause line: "America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our people." That's not what Kerry said, but never mind.
Today the Guardian reports on the results of a BBC poll of people in 21 countries that reveals deep distrust of the United States under Bush, and that suggests negative opinions of the White House are beginning to harden into negative opinions about the American people as well. The nut:
Fifty-eight per cent of the 22,000 who took part in the poll, commissioned by the BBC World Service, said they expected Mr Bush to have a negative impact on peace and security, compared with only 26% who considered him a positive force.
The countries are a disparate bunch, ranging from Turkey and Brazil to Germany and France.
In the United States, the political conversation, aided by a fearful and compliant media, has become so dishonest and corrupt that it's impossible even to discuss such things as the BBC poll and be taken seriously. Try talking about this on Fox or MSNBC and you would be accused of appeasement, and our international critics would be portrayed as the "Axis of Weasels." Let's have another round of freedom fries, baby!
But that kind of superficial pap can't paper over the fact that Bush has destroyed our standing in the world, which is the single worst thing he's done during his four years in office.
I think the fact that Bush didn't actually win in 2000 gave us a lot of slack, making it easy for the world to despise Bush, but not the American people. Now, though, we've actually elected him, and we have to face the consequences of our decision.
The Guardian quotes one of the pollsters, Doug Miller, thusly:
Our research makes very clear that the re-election of President Bush has further isolated America from the world. It also supports the view of some Americans that unless his administration changes its approach to world affairs in its second term, it will continue to erode America's good name, and hence its ability to effectively influence world affairs.
This is what Bush has done to us. This is what we have done to ourselves. We had the world behind us after 9/11. And we've pissed it all away. Jefferson would be apoplectic. Something for the fat cats to think about as they make the party-going rounds tonight.