I was in my twenties when I landed my first and only job in the petroleum industry. I worked for one of the largest oil companies in the world, a global conglomerate that had tens of thousands of employees, fleets of tankers, and huge pipelines running through the heart of almost every continent on earth creating profits that outstripped the GDP of entire nations. My position called for me to interface with end-users at a run-down gas station in Baltimore. I managed that deft career move by quitting my job as the editor of a lowly rural weekly newspaper before I had actually landed, or even asked for, a job someplace else. Then I quit the gas station job a few minutes after some lady pulled in complaining about a funny noise under her hood, which turned out to be her cat–but before I had made other plans, which is how I ended up driving a cab down Broadway (the Baltimore one, not the Manhattan one) with my first fare in the back seat. I kept saying “Where to?” in my best cabbie voice, but he was too busy shooting up to pay attention.
So when I read a report a couple of weeks ago in the Frankfurter Allgemeine that José Manuel Durão Barroso, the Atlanticist prime minister of Portugal, had quit his day job before he had nailed down his new job as president of the European Commission, I thought to myself, hey! that’s how I got a job driving a cab! But he pulled it off, Barrosos did, and that’s why today, he’s the president-designate of Europe and I’m the Duke of Earl.
As the Daily Telegraph reported, Barroso got the job the way I used to get prom dates–by being the only guy available. The scramble to replace the weak, ineffective, odious, grasping, petty, anti-American, but otherwise brilliant Romano Prodi, who made his office into a huge shell beneath which the EU’s massive pea of fraud and corruption could be hidden, has been underway since Prodi started using most of his office time scamming for political positioning back in Italy. His plan: unseating the Edward G. Robinson of European statesmen, Silvio Berlusconi, whose Forza Italia, according to La Croix, took a hammering in the most recent round of European elections.
The first name out of the hat was that of Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, a “poodle” (to use every Euro-politician’s now-favorite word of opprobrium) of the French and Germans and one of the most vociferous non-French Yank-bashers in Europe. The British countered by nominating Chris Patten, a failed politician, the last governor of Hong Kong and, as the EU’s external-affairs commissioner, the man personally responsible for blocking the investigation of how EU money ends up in the coffers of Middle Eastern terrorists. Patten was on the side of the French before the war, but his nomination still drew more laughs than votes. Bertie Ahern, the Irish prime minister, was loved by one and all, but he realized that running a sheep-infested country that outlaws chewing gum on the pavement and smoking in pubs was much more fun that negotiating cod rights, so he decided to stay where he was. That meant the choice was either Barroso or Bill Clinton, and even Europeans have some standards.
As Barroso moves toward confirmation July 22, he’s facing sniper attacks, mostly from the left, as this report in the Wiener Zeitung (my kids’ favorite name for a newspaper) suggests. Barroso hosted the prewar, pro-war Azores conference and he has his share of potential enemies, not least of whom are the newly cowering Spanish. And he may even stumble over some bizarre surprise, like the body of soon-to-be-ex-French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin blocking his path. A report Le Monde explained Raffarin was kind of hoping he’d be offered the Brussels job since he’s doing so well becoming despised in France and wanted to do the whole continent.
But the biggest surprise may be Barroso himself. As John Vinocur reported in the International Herald Tribune not long ago, the Portuguese politician, who taught for a while in Washington, understands the hypocrisy of the European (and, for that matter, American) Left: “Barroso explained that, excepting France, whose leadership is nominally right-of-center, he believed much of the opposition to the war in Europe had ‘an ideological basis’ in the left. ‘If it were Clinton or the liberals in power’ in the United States, he said, ‘we wouldn’t have had the same criticism. There was an ideological construction in this crisis,’ he said. ‘Unfortunately, ideology came before strategic thinking, long-term considerations.’”
Barroso had already brushed off German and French claims on key EU posts as the price of their support. And the French hope of building an anti-American EU may be put back a step or two, if what Barroso told Vinocur last December holds true: “It’s stupid to see [the EU] as a counterweight. In some European countries, there’s the idea we’ll be independent if we’re a counterweight. This is silly,” he said. “Is it in Europe’s interest to place the United States as our competitor? It’s nonsense.”
Vinocur’s conclusion: “If he is consensual as well as determined, he might also emerge as the strongest holder of the post since Jacques Delors.”
Bastille Day Blues: According to Le Monde, Jacques Chirac celebrated France’s national day by explaining again that France isn’t really an anti-Semitic, racist, bankrupt nation of slackers–although he didn’t use those exact words. (Chirac speaks French.) The French are as fed up with Chirac as we are, of course. His squabble with the nation’s only popular politician, Nicholas Sakozy, continues to grow as Sarko moves in on Chirac’s job. Chirac told his finance minister that he would have to choose between continuing in the cabinet or accepting the job as leader of the UMP because of a legal technicality that Chirac himself violated on his way to the Elysée. If Sarkozy tries to have it both ways, he should resign, or, Chirac warned, “I’ll fire him.” Chirac also used the occasion of the annual address to announce that France would hold a referendum on the new EU constitution. Those nameless bloggers at Eursoc have the story. The last French referendum on an EU issue concerned the Maastricht treaty. A whopping 51.05 percent said oui.
A Pulitzer for Moore? Laugh now. But the influence of faux-shucks documentarian Michael Moore, the Left’s dream journalist, grows. An editorial (archived, don’t bother) in the New York Times celebrated the grotesque performance of “intrepid Carole Coleman,” an Irish tele-hack who was given the chance to interview George W. Bush on his recent visit to Ireland but who used the occasion to make her own private Fahrenheit, cutting off the president and talking over his answers to her heavily-loaded questions. Her performance had nothing to do with journalism, of course. She was addressing what the press sinister likes to call “a larger truth.” Dutifully, a few days later, the Times-owned IHT ran a piece of non-journalism headlined “U.S. is seen losing its moral authority.” It took two IHT reporters to find what they were looking for. Their insightful sources? A spokeswoman for Amnesty International USA and the former director of a “Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding” at Georgetown, among others similar. Meanwhile, the headline on the larger truth: “Journalism is seen losing its moral authority.” The source: Pick any number out of the phone book. Except Michael Moore’s.
Caution: This item will leave you speechless. Just in case you were thinking of lighting up your TV and inhaling, read the lead of this item from the Daily Telegraph: “Foreign news channels such as Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News may be made to carry on-screen ‘health warnings’ under proposed new guidelines published yesterday covering accuracy and impartiality on television.” The predictable kicker, which I suspect may also gain notice in today’s Corner: “The rules will place particular emphasis on protecting children under 15, after research showed parents believe they should be a priority.”
July Euro-Blog Tour. After a whole lot of weeks–five, was it?–it’s nice to be back at a clean desk. I feel like Enron emerging from bankruptcy. Here’s a quick four-step through El Mundo del Bloggo, just to stay in touch:
‐God Save the Queen. In honor of Bastille Day, the completely engaging but totally anonymous blogger at GSQ manages to do one of those Moe face-slaps that Larry and Curly liked so much, all in the course of a “Defence of Jacques Chirac.” Yes, Jacques Chirac. “This isn’t an easy case to make,” he writes. “But it’s good discipline.” Absolutely. And somebody had to try it.