At Large

America’s President — and the Free World’s

Our friends abroad will be staying up late tonight.

By 11.6.12

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When my friend Michel Gurfinkiel called from Paris to ask what was going to happen on Tuesday, I said spontaneously enough, what is supposed to happen? I'm going to be up at dawn and get my work done and if the sun's out I'll go look for a few sets of tennis. Then I added, "We'll win, of course. I'm calling it, not you."

I was teasing him for his wrong call in '08, when I had warned him his Gallic logic would not withstand the groundswell for Barack Obama, a moment in American history that says much about us, as a people. I then sent him a short e-mail, which in American English reads more or less as follows:

Mon cher Michel, you and I go back a few years and I know that among your many concerns, the safety and well being of our great republic are foremost, and by no means only because you know the safety and well-being of France and Israel, the two countries to which you are of course most passionately attached, depend in no small part on America. You also have a brother here, and both of you know that the immense tragedy that engulfed your other brother and so many others 60 and more years ago will be remembered and will be prevented from ever happening again only so long as free men remain free and ready to fight for their freedoms and that too, in the end, depends on America.

There have been elections, and this is one of them, when we have to win simply because we cannot afford to lose. This is, as I am well aware, your thinking as well: surely this is not "the most important election in whatever time span you want…" as some of our more overheated commentators have been saying, but there is no doubt we cannot afford complacency about this one. That is the real significance of Mitt Romney's misunderstood "47 percent" remark.

He was right, as you yourself wrote several weeks ago -- if we reach a tipping point of our people being dependent on the state -- and it does not matter if this dependence comes in the form of a welfare check or a six-figure boondoggle -- statism as you know it in France and the rest of Europe becomes irreversible. This is not news. Americans and Europeans were saying it 50 years ago if not earlier. Friedrich Hayek's pamphlet on benevolent statism is titled The Road to Serfdom.

The fierce reaction to this at bottom banal statement by the governor shows how entrenched and desperate our statists are. Every time they advance, as they did in the past four years, it becomes more difficult to dislodge them. In this sense, the election is indeed exceptionally important.

You ask if I think it will be close. The polls say it will be, the experts claim it will be. The conservative side, including the editors of this paper and most of their friends, are confident the current for the governor is far stronger than the polls reveal or that most of the experts want to believe. I read your paper of the other day about the astounding bias in the French and indeed European media. They see in the current administration a replica of European social democracy and approve it. They also, as you noted, resent a strong America, for all kinds of historical reasons going back to the humiliation they still feel about having been saved twice in the past century from collective suicide, then saved again from enslavement to Stalinist totalitarianism. Ingratitude is mother to perverse political notions.

Israel feels no such humiliation or ingratitude for the good reason that Israelis are full partners in the work of defeating their enemies, unlike the west Europeans who for so long have been junior partners. I would say it is quite clear Mitt Romney understands this much better than Barack Obama, and this is itself an indication of his understanding of the American idiom, freedom ain't free.

Most -- 53 percent, let us say conservatively -- Americans understand this too. I think we can rest easy, and I look forward to celebrating with you next time you visit.

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About the Author

Roger Kaplan, a Washington-based writer, covers the Middle East and Africa (and tennis) for The American Spectator.