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America tells Europe, ‘Shove it’

I guess those woolly-minded, gutless, godless, liberal Europeans had it coming. America had told us, quite clearly, where we could shove our opinions. NBC News' Chris Hampson weighs in on the tit for tat across the pond over the election.
British newspapers carry the story of President Bush's re-election on Thursday.
British newspapers carry the story of President Bush's re-election on Thursday.Richard Lewis / AP
/ Source: NBC News

I guess those woolly-minded, gutless, godless, liberal Europeans had it coming.

No bright new dawn for those condescending, arrogant limeys who think they know what’s best for the world (and look where it got them).

Nor for their "cheese-eating surrender-monkey" neighbors across the Channel in France.

Instead — if you believe the newspapers — they woke up with their worst hangover for four years.

America had told us, quite clearly, where we could shove our opinions. (Not difficult in the U.K., because the sun doesn't hardly shine anywhere here).

Of course, there are those in these parts who welcome the re-election of President Bush. 

But, mostly, they’re keeping quiet about it. Round here, it’s not something that wins the "make-my-day" award. Sorry, but that’s just the way it is.

Dumb Americans?
If opinion polls can be believed, Kerry would have romped home if only Americans had let us vote instead of them.

The British tabloid Daily Mirror summed up the feelings of many of its disappointed readers in a blunt front-page headline, “How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?”

A feeling shared, I would guess, by many Americans who voted for Kerry.

The more serious-minded Independent was even harsher. Under the banner headline, “Four More Years,” it ran photos representing its left-of-center view: a humiliated Iraqi prisoner at Abu Ghraib, shackled and masked detainees at Guantanamo, an oil pipeline, a Christian pro-Bush slogan and a grinning President Bush.

Much of this will offend many Americans, some of whom struggle to understand why so many in Europe seem opposed to their country’s actions to defend against terrorism (as they see it), and some who couldn’t give a damn what others think.

If the past is anything to go by, these “anti-American” views will prompt an avalanche of angry e-mails to the British papers telling us “pansy-assed limeys to mind (our) own goddam business” and suggesting that if it were not for America our “national language would be German.”

Strong words, and maybe justified for some, but not actually mine.

The quotes above are extracted from e-mails sent to another British newspaper when it, too, decided to "meddle" in the election. The Guardian newspaper got readers to write letters to the "undecided voters" of tiny Clark County, Ohio and suggest to them that Kerry was the better U.S. president for the rest of the world, if not for them.

I still have a robustly articulate reader reaction to a piece I wrote about President Bush’s controversial — and to some, unwelcome — visit to the U.K. a year ago.

“Until the Euro community, Great Britain included, realizes that the fact they have been around longer doesn't necessarily translate into wisdom, and that we Americans aren't as clueless to the world as you might think, you will continue to be frustrated by America and our president.

‘If anything, we view Europe as a timid consortium of old, rusted out relics of former empires whose ‘age and wisdom’ translated into two world wars in the 20th century alone. Wars that ultimately had to be resolved by an America that often didn't particularly want to become involved.”

Continuing debate over Iraq
It’s that last sentence that seems to reflect, in part, the dilemma for many in Europe, and Britain in particular, where opinion polls show the majority now opposed to the war in Iraq. Many who went along with it did so because of the “threat” from weapons of mass destruction and now feel they were misled. Some have even accused Prime Minister Blair of telling lies.

They see little difference in the story Blair was telling and the one that was being told to the voters of America. They thought their anger would be reflected across the other side of the Atlantic.

Well it was, but the president got re-elected in any case. The reasons are better understood there than here. The alliance between President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair continues unabated. Their fortunes go hand-in-hand.

The issue of Iraq arguably remains the biggest political problem for both of them. But for Blair — with an election due early next year — it could still blight his own hopes of a third term in office.

Today the British papers are headlining stories and critical comments about the deaths of three Scottish soldiers ordered with their regiment to fill a hole in the previously American sector near Baghdad. The deployment was controversial — an election bolster, claimed Blair’s opponents — for a beleaguered Bush. Such are the suspicions in Europe.

Blair: Maybe both sides should open their ears
No surprises then that, of those speaking out in support of the re-elected president, Blair is the leading British voice.

In an interview with the Times of London, he describes British coverage of the Bush victory as “unbelievable.”

“In a way some people are in a state of denial,” said Blair. “The election has happened. America has spoken. The rest of the world should listen.”

He added however, “It is important that America listens to the rest of the world too.”

To show that I, too, listen — and to save some of you the need to write me those e-mails —  I give the last word to a reader from Texas, who sent me this after my piece on the Bush visit.

“I have been to the United Kingdom, and I cannot say that I enjoy it much. The people are rude, lousy weather, expensive, and the food is terrible.”

Fifty-nine million American voters will be nodding their heads in agreement.