October 13, 2005
One Less Better in Europe

By Debra Saunders

See how low Our Betters in Europe have fallen.

Remember how highbrow European politicians had all those yuks berating that intellectually challenged hick George W. Bush? They aren't laughing it up now.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has lost his bid for re-election. Odd, how such a sharp, sophisticated fellow oversaw Germany's highest unemployment rate since World War II.

In 2002, Schroeder's justice minister charged that President Bush was beating the Iraq war drum to "distract attention from his domestic problems." Actually, it was Schroeder who tried to curry favor with Germans by bashing Bush to distract from his domestic problems. The ploy, alas, couldn't work forever.

True, Christian Democrat Angela Merkel, the lead vote-getter in Germany's Sept. 18 election, saw her huge lead in the polls tank at the ballot box. So she had no choice but to cut a deal with Schroeder's Social Democratic Party that awarded them key cabinet posts. But it's also true that Schroeder lost his chancellor hat and likely will leave the government.

French President Jacques Chirac thought he had French ratification of the proposed European Union constitution in the bag. He was so confident that he brought the measure before French voters in May.

The shrewd Chirac could not have been more wrong: Some 57 percent of the French voted "non" -- even though former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing headed the committee that drafted the document.

So the anti-Bush European Union has had to kiss its new constitution au revoir and auf wiedersehen. Chirac later lost to London the bid for Paris to host the 2012 Olympics. No surprise there: The French love affair with the transportation strike would threaten to botch Olympic planning. It also may have hurt that two voting members of the International Olympic Committee were Finns -- which is important, because they voted shortly after Chirac delivered these bon mots about the Brits: "We can't trust people who have such bad food. After Finland, it's the country with the worst food."

See how the French-German condominium is crumbling. Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero did thrive by opposing Bush on Iraq in the wake of the 2004 Madrid train bombings. His election was considered a rebuke of the then-governing pro-Bush Popular Party. But now, for the first time since the Madrid terrorist attacks, Agence France Presse reports that Zapatero's Socialist Party is running behind the Popular Party in the polls. A paltry 31 percent of those polled have a "good" or "very good" impression of Zapatero.

Yes, things are looking up for Bush supporters abroad. Despite opposition to the United Kingdom's role as a top ally in Iraq, British Prime Minister Tony Blair was re-elected this year.

At this year's G8 Summit in Scotland, Schroeder and Chirac tried to push Blair to hit Bush harder on the issue of the Kyoto warming treaty. Sorry, chaps. Blair is moving in the other direction. Last month in New York, the British prime minister said he was "changing his thinking" on Kyoto.

After Bush won re-election in 2004, the London Mirror ran a headline that asked: "How Can 59,054,087 People Be So Dumb?" The Guardian waged a campaign that had readers send letters to residents of Ohio's Clark County urging them to vote for John Kerry. The county switched from Democrat to Republican.

During the 2004 race, supporters of John Kerry argued that America should elect a president who has better relations with European leaders -- by which he meant Chirac and Schroeder. A year later, Our Betters in Europe are losing battles with their own electorates. They're so clever, yet somehow stupid is spreading through Europe.

Copyright 2005 Creators Syndicate

Debra Saunders

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