Re: “Fit to Print”

by Clifford D. May

Andy, you know I don’t defend the NYT often and I don’t disagree with you often — but I do in this case.

When Richard Bernstein writes that “it would be hard to imagine a more sudden and thorough tarnishing of the Bush administration’s credibility than the one taking place here right now, ” he’s reporting what he’s seeing and reading on the ground in Europe. I’ve been on the BBC several times in recent days and it’s really unbelievable.

I actually found myself saying to an interviewer yesterday: “You know, I was on the BBC just after 9/11 and when I talked about what al-Qaeda had done, the presenter interrupted me to say there was still a presumption of innocence and to ask if I had evidence against al-Qaeda that would hold up in an international court of law. But such standards obviously do not apply when it comes to President Bush and the U.S., do they?”

The U.S. is indeed taking an astonishing beating in the European media right now, abetted by those most virulent anti-Bush and anti-American politicians. Bernstein is reporting on this wave of America-bashing, I don’t see that he’s endorsing or encouraging it.

For example, he says: “To a great extent, the latest trans-Atlantic brouhaha reflects a very real division between Europe and the United States, reminiscent of the arguments that took place over the Iraq war two years ago. In the view of the Bush administration and its supporters, the Europeans’ moral fastidiousness reflects a lack of realism about the nature of the terrorist threat and what needs to be done to defeat it.

“The view of Europeans, by contrast, is that they understand the terrorist threat perfectly well, but that the Bush administration’s flouting of democratic standards and international law incites more terrorism, not less. …

“In Mr. Guttenberg’s view, the reports filling both the German and American news media these days and fostering a surge of renewed indignation against the Bush administration are based on unproved allegations and rumors that have been transformed into established fact. …

“To some Americans at least, the way the charges about secret prisons and C.I.A. flights have gained currency illustrates the readiness of many Europeans always to believe the worst about the United States.”

I hope our public diplomacy people are thinking hard about what’s happening in Europe right now and are developing strategies to combat it.