In a weird journalistic conspiracy, it seems that every single newspaper and wire service is describing President Bush's sojourn in Europe as designed to "mend fences." Presumably, he has to go to apologize for his uncouth act of winning the election against that great Europhile from New England. Yet this phrasing left me in some puzzlement: what "fences" does he have to "mend"?
Can they mean the security fence that Israel has constructed to defend its citizens against rapacious murderers and that has been roundly condemned by the citizens, the governments, and the courts of Europe? How does one go about mending that, by offering up little Israeli children as human sacrifices?
Or perhaps they mean the corrupt program by which the governments of Europe were enriching themselves by bartering Saddam Hussein's oil while he fed his citizens to the meat-grinders. Are they having trouble finding a fence for the oil? If so, President Bush is hardly the man for the job. They would do better approaching Bill Clinton who can put them in touch with Marc Rich.
Frankly, I don't lose any sleep over polls showing that 62 percent of Germans don't like Bush and think he acts like a cowboy. If we were to poll Americans, we would certainly find that a similar percentage thinks that Gerhard Schroeder looks and acts like a used-car salesman: Is he coming here anytime soon to mend fences?
A Spoonerism comes to mind: instead of going to "mend fences," Bush needs to go to "fend menaces." The Europeans have just enough power to get in the way sometimes, and it pays to keep them on the reservation, but the speaking softly part is usually less important than carrying a big stick. Their chimera of defeating Bush by daunting American voters with their superciliousness has been undone by reality. This returns things to their regular state wherein it's in the Europeans' best interest to be on our good side.
Perhaps a greater cause for concern is England, which has been our steadfast ally in the effort to unseat Saddam and bring a whiff of freedom to Middle Eastern air. Prime Minister Blair, who represents a Liberal political movement, is motivated to wrest some concessions from our President to cash in the chips accrued by that fealty. In so doing, he hopes to achieve the auxiliary benefit of convincing his nation's wry culture mavens that he is not Bush's "poodle."
Naturally, we would like nothing more than to be accommodating. As the old Persian king said to Queen Esther, "ask up to half of the kingdom and it will be done." Even if Blair wants us to be open to the idea of importing fried fish, which would cause half the United States Customs Service to resign and write tell-all books, there might be room to talk. The kicker is that of all the cockamamie things that he could take as valuable door prizes, he seems to have set his little liberal heart on Uncle Sam giving his avuncular nod to the Kyoto protocols.
Those were the product of all the mendicant nations of the world, the almoners, the beggars, the solicitors, the organ-grinders and the all-purpose schnorrers gathering in Kyoto a decade ago to penalize the United States for using too well the resources of the Earth. This excess is said to have caused Global Warming, a prospect that shivering citizens of the U.S. Northeast and Midwest may regard with some joy but which, if not soon curbed, will cause our fragile planet -- any day now -- to be charred down to a sizzling scree of embers and cinders.
Virtually every newspaper account notes the fact that Bush is opposed to accepting the Kyoto rules because they would severely hamper our productivity and expose us to various levies. What they consistently fail to mention is that the United States Senate voted 99-0 against our succumbing to this huge global rip-off. Such unanimous bipartisanship is very rare and precious in our society; it should serve as a strong signal to any leader that this subject is not open to negotiation.
So mend those fences, Mr. President. Amend them, emend them, commend, recommend to your heart's content. But there is no reason to give away the store. We would like to have those guys as allies, sure, but remember what the great Yiddish writer, Chaim Lieberman, wrote in 1938 in his epic essay about the Nazi invasion of Austria: "America is the correction of Europe."
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