The papers of Europe are full of warm headlines and quotes regarding President Bush and his latest visit to Brussels and beyond. Today, the headline in The Times of London proclaims “Leaders accentuate the positive.”
The paper suggests President Bush scored points with the German people. He said, “For some, September 11 was a passing moment in history. For me and my government, and many in the U.S., it permanently changed our outlook on the world. That outlook caused us sometimes to talk past each other.”
It is clear that President Bush is indeed enjoying a warmer reception in Europe, particularly from Europe’s leaders, than he has at any other time in his presidency.
But something else has changed as well. Just one page from The Times story celebrating the newfound warmth for President Bush is a more troubling story with the headline “Germans believe debt of gratitude has been settled.”
“Today 70 percent of 30 to 44 year-olds in Germany say they have no debt of gratitude to the U.S.” writes Mariam Lau (considered by The Times to be one of Germany’s shrewdest commentators). She also says that “Never in the history of the United States was anti-Americanism so broadly spread and so deeply anchored as today.”
So as Europe’s leaders work to warm their relations with the U.S., the people of Europe don’t seem to give a damn.
I have always believed that President Bush means it when he chooses the path of “go it alone” America. But I keep hoping I am wrong. And therein seems to be the confusion in Europe as well.
Leaders like German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder want to put that in the past and move on. “Nobody wants to conceal that we had different opinions about these things in the past, but that is the past. Now our joint interest is that we come to a stable, democratic Iraq,” Schroder declared.
I find myself in Europe rooting for Bush as president of the United States to succeed, but he seems to have a tin ear for this stuff.
When asked by the German media if he would reaffirm his father’s pledge to make Germany a partner in leadership (as President George Herbert Walker Bush had proclaimed during the struggle to unify East and West Germany), our current President Bush’s response was extraordinary: “Germany, he said, was a welcome partner, but not a co-leader,” he said.
You can not make this stuff up. Why could he not just say “Germany is a welcome partner”?
Europe is full of politicians— politicians who will fan the flames of anti-Americanism if it serves their purposes or helps in their own election efforts. Chancellor Schroder did just that in his 2002 campaign to boost himself at the expense of his relationship with our government.
Political parties will fan the flames of anti-Bushism for their own benefit, in an attempt to defeat those in other European parties who supported America, even if they did not always agree with how Bush implemented policy.
President Bush may have succeeded with some of Europe’s leaders on this trip, but to really succeed Bush has to project that Europe is a full partner in moving forward. The leaders of Europe can only move as far as the people will let them. If the people believe that Bush wants to continue to go it alone— they will be inclined to let him and America do just that.
Later today I’ll visit my favorite English pub and raise a toast to my president — to the hope that he shows a better understanding of what “a full partnership” really means.
My second toast will be in hopes that he really wants one.
Joe Trippi is a Fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and is the author of the recent book “.”
Comments? E-mail JTrippi@MSNBC.com