Bush's European Itinerary by Gerard Baker, The Weekly Standard 11/29/2004, Volume 010, Issue 11 THOUGH PUBLIC REACTION in Europe to President Bush's reelection this month was predictably outraged, grief-stricken, and generally dumbfounded, it wasn't hard to detect behind the mask of uncomprehending disapproval a smug half-smile of self-satisfaction. Deep down, European political and media elites must have been delighted that their instinctual prejudices about the world had been confirmed in such spectacular fashion. The ignorant voters of America had, by a decisive majority, chosen to reject the enlightened entreaties of the sophisticated leaders of Europe and reelect that halfwit cowboy bent on wiping out humanity in pursuit of American power and Middle Eastern oil. What more proof did clever, rationalist Europeans need of the effortless superiority of their culture, political institutions, and way of life over a nation of Bible-reading, foreigner-hating, fundamentalist rednecks than this stunning election result? "How can 59,000,000 people be so dumb?" screamed the front page of London's Daily Mirror. North America had divided into two, according to a cartoon in a German magazine--the civilized northern and bicoastal United States and "Jesusland," the theocracy now represented by the vast swath of red-state America. Colin Powell's announced departure from the State Department merely confirmed the master European narrative. The last urbane, multilateralist man of peace in the Bush administration had been cast aside to better ensure that the bigoted, war-loving instincts of the American people could now be given free, full-throated expression. The left and right in much of Europe agreed. America could no longer be seen as a civilized country: It had become an alien, medieval sort of place. Europe should put even more effort now into building its own secularist, enlightened nirvana as a beacon of hope to the world. President Jacques Chirac of France, on a state visit to London last week, seized on President Bush's reelection to return to his theme of the need for Europe to unite around a vision (his vision) of an alternative to American power and influence in the world. This followed his decision to snub Ayad Allawi, the interim Iraqi prime minister, at a European summit meeting last month where he chose instead to caucus with the German and Spanish leaders in an effort to begin building the European alternative to the United States. It is a shame that Europeans were paying so much attention to interpreting developments on this side of the Atlantic because they seem to have missed a remarkable series of potentially more significant events in their own backyard, events that say much more about the real divergence between Europe and America, events that point in a disturbing, dark direction for the peoples of the old continent. Take the Buttiglione affair. A couple of days before the U.S. election, the European parliament, an institution with zero popular legitimacy but growing political powers in the European Union, forced the resignation of the entire European Commission, the executive leadership of the Brussels bureaucracy, because a majority of the parliament's members objected to the religious views of the Italian nominee. Rocco Buttiglione, a highly regarded conservative, who also happens to be that rare thing in European public life, a devout, churchgoing Catholic, caused an outrage when he told reporters that he agreed with his church's basic teachings on homosexuality, the sanctity of marriage, and abortion. As the proposed justice commissioner, Buttiglione made it clear his own religious views could not and would not affect his capacity to enforce European law. But for the European parliament's politically correct majority, that was not enough. The liberal elites in Europe, who share the same basic characteristic of their American counterparts, that is, a willingness to tolerate anything except those who disagree with their own view, rose up as one to reject Buttiglione. When the new commission was named, Buttiglione's name had been dropped. A few days later, on the very day Americans were going to the polls, the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered on the streets of Amsterdam. As Christopher Caldwell documented in this magazine a week ago, van Gogh was killed by an Islamist militant who objected to the filmmaker's portrayal of the abusive treatment of women in some Muslim countries. The reaction in the Netherlands to the murder was almost as troubling as the murder itself. Mosques were firebombed, the country's large, mostly Muslim, immigrant population was under siege. But at the same time the authorities demonstrated how inert European leadership has become in dealing with the terrorist threat at home and abroad--playing down the significance of the killing as a terrorist act. Much of the commentary in Europe focused on van Gogh's sins in inflaming radical Muslim opinion. Later that same week a Belgian court handed down a ruling that in effect banned the largest political party in the Flemish half of the country. The Vlaams Blok, a nationalist party with some unedifying views on immigration, is nonetheless a serious and respectable political party that favors secession for Flanders from Belgium, and is deeply hostile to Brussels, both in its national and its Europe-wide roles as seat of government. So the courts ruled that it was a racist organization and no longer eligible for public funds or access to state-run television. Then last week, in Antwerp, in the latest example of rising anti-Semitic rage in Europe, a young Jewish man was murdered. Once again, while the authorities tried to play down the ethnic dimension of the murder, the condemnation was tempered by the search for a deeper reason. Coincidentally, the murder happened the same week that the United Nations, in a new report on anti-Semitic violence that attracted much favorable attention in Europe, suggested Israel's policies were stoking anti-Jewish hatred. Also last week, at a "friendly" soccer match in Madrid between England and Spain, thousands of Spanish fans chanted obscene racist taunts at two black English players throughout the game. The abuse was so fierce that the referee and the England coach considered abandoning the game but carried on gallantly despite the torrent of bigotry. These apparently unconnected events ought to force Europeans to look a bit harder at the decay in their own societies. Even as the authorities go to absurd lengths to justify politically correct tolerance of those intent on destroying the very foundations of free societies; even as they seek, by contrast, to eliminate traditional Christian values and principles from European public discourse; even as they try to block American attempts to bring about a better, more enlightened, world for the people of Iraq and the broader Middle East, their own society is sliding steadily into an ugly maelstrom of intolerance, fear, and hatred. President Bush has said he will travel to Europe early in his new administration to mend fences with European allies. He should. Continuing difficulties in Iraq and the need for toughness with Iran may require more cooperation with the truculent governments of Europe. But President Bush might also take the opportunity to bring the Europeans a few lessons from America. His itinerary is not yet confirmed, but here are a few suggestions. He should visit the site of Theo van Gogh's murder and say what so few Europeans have been willing to say about it--that it was a brutal act of religious and political intolerance that reflects the broader struggle of free societies against the new totalitarianism of Islamofascism. The president could go to Belgium and meet with the leaders of the Vlaams Blok and reaffirm America's belief in freedom of speech and organization around the world. He should certainly find time to visit Rome and reassure Signor Buttiglione and his supporters that he, too, understands the importance of the struggle for human dignity, and the virtues of the family and morality in public life. He might also want to stop by the European parliament in Brussels and deliver the same message there. He could then go to Antwerp, or better still to Paris, and warn Europeans not to turn a blind eye to resurgent anti-Semitism. And if he has the time he might take in a football game in Spain and show the fans there the basic decency and respect for others that America alone these days seems intent on demonstrating to the world. Then he should get on with the difficult but ultimately glorious task of bringing the hope of freedom, tolerance, and dignity to parts of the world where it is absent, with or without Europe at his side. Gerard Baker is U.S. editor of the Times of London and a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard. © Copyright 2004, News Corporation, Weekly Standard, All Rights Reserved.