There’s an interview with EU external affairs commissioner, Chris Patten, in Monday’s edition of the Independent. Much of it covers familiar, if annoying, ground, but this passage is striking:
“Mr. Patten believes things might have been very different had the Democrats clinched more disputed votes in Florida and won the last presidential election. “I don’t believe that America has changed fundamentally. I don’t believe that there has been a sea-change in US public opinion despite the energetic activities of Fox News,” he says. “Clearly, the born-again Christian movement in the US is politically very influential. I think it is wrong to talk about fundamentalism as if it were solely an Islamic phenomenon. I think that alienation touches every great religion.””
Take each sentence individually and, despite the childish jibe directed at Fox News, there is not too much to object to. Put them together, and the underlying subtext is clear, and rather less innocuous: the US government is under the influence of a bunch of religious nuts drawn from a fundamentalist tradition that is not so far removed from the loppers and choppers of radical Islam.
Patten is entitled to his opinions, which are, in reality, little more than a tawdry collection of prejudices masquerading as sophistication, but if they represent the extent of Brussels’ understanding of this country, it’s no surprise that US-EU relations are in such poor shape.