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January 27, 2005
Friedman: Listen -- To The Same Old Song

Thomas Friedman advises George Bush to make a silent tour of Europe when he meets with leaders on the Continent in February. Friedman believes that the only way for Bush to get people to like him is for the President of the United States to do his Marcel Marceau impression:

Let me put this as bluntly as I can: There is nothing that the Europeans want to hear from George Bush, there is nothing that they will listen to from George Bush that will change their minds about him or the Iraq war or U.S. foreign policy. Mr. Bush is more widely and deeply disliked in Europe than any U.S. president in history. Some people here must have a good thing to say about him, but I haven't met them yet.

In such an environment, the only thing that Mr. Bush could do to change people's minds about him would be to travel across Europe and not say a single word - but just listen. If he did that, Mr. Bush would bowl the Europeans over. He would absolutely disarm and flummox people here - and improve his own image markedly.

His rationale? If Bush gives no public speeches and instead sits while Europeans gripe about American policy, then "pundits" will have no ammunition with which to write clever editorials picking apart Bush's words. Apparently, all European op-ed columnists do is peruse transcripts of Bush speeches for subject matter. Likewise, European politicians would fight over what to say to Bush, even though mouthing off at America has never been a shrinking industry in Europe.

Friedman then goes on to cite examples of Eurowhining that the Silent Treatment will somehow improve. Mostly, they seem to bemoan the fact that we woke up to the twenty-five year attack on American interests by Islamist terrorism:

Tim Kreutzfeldt, the bar owner, said to me: "Bush took away our America. I mean we love America. We are very sad about America. We believe in America and American values, but not in Bush.["] ... The Bush team, he added, is giving everyone in the world the impression that "somebody is coming to kill you."

Did Kreutzfeldt consider the fact that people are coming to the US to kill us? Perhaps he missed that fact on 9/11, when 3,000 of us died in four attacks by people who came to the US, ostensibly as visitors. We continue to catch people coming into our country to kill us, Tim, which is why we're getting serious about making sure we do catch them first. I don't feel like getting killed by Islamist nutcases just so you can feel better about America.

The only other person Friedman includes in his piece has the exact same complaint, which undercuts the notion that the European reaction to Bush has any merit or breadth at all:

Stefan Elfenbein, a food critic nursing a beer at our table, added: "I know many people who don't want to travel to America anymore. ... People are afraid to be hassled at the border. ... We all discuss it, when somebody goes to America [we now ask:] 'Are you sure?' We had hope that Kerry would win and would make a statement, 'America is back to what it was four years ago.' We hoped that he would be the symbol, the figure who would say, '[America] is the country that welcomes everybody again.' [But] now we have to wait four more years, hopefully for somebody to give us back the country we knew and liked."

Funny, Stefan, most of us voted against John Kerry for that same exact reason. Kerry, Kreutzfedlt, and Elfenbein all want to live in that September 10th world, where most of America remained ignorant of the threat to its citizens and the world could exploit our open borders for their own purposes. This is the so-called "squandered goodwill" that the Left loves to bemoan about the aftermath of 9/11. Europe loves us when we don't ask anything of them, but they adore the idea of America's passive victimization and loathe our refusal to play that role.

Too long have we remained silent about global threats before 9/11. The solution to the problem isn't silence, but continually challenging the European electorate to rouse themselves from their defeatism and knee-jerk pacifism. They don't like George Bush because he reminds them that the European public can't even defend themselves any more, let alone assist us in our security issues.

But if Friedman likes the idea of silence so much, I recommend he follow his own advice -- especially when he has so little to say.

UPDATE: Read Outside The Beltway's hilarious parody of Friedman.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 27, 2005 6:05 AM

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