One of the nicest things about being outside the United States for a while -- no, the nicest thing -- is that you don't need to waste a minute of your time, energy or thought on George W. Bush. In Europe, I found earlier this month, they don't give a damn about him, wondering only how it is that a great nation -- ours -- could have doubled its initial idiocy by electing him twice. There's even a saying overseas, in various languages, from the northern tip of Scotland to the southern isles of Greece: "One mistake, OK. Two, and you're on your own." In Europe, they don't even bother to argue about Bush anymore. They just snort and roll their eyes.
This is not "anti-Americanism." It's just that people over there wonder how we can be so dumb. "Europe" is a big place, and the European Union, growing larger and more contentious by the minute, has problems of its own -- the ratification of a federal constitution, for example, "bird flu," global warming, currency regulation and whether to admit Turkey to its ranks before it admits Montenegro. There's also the burning question of who's going to win the next soccer title -- always a big deal in the Old World.
In fact, Europe is much like the United States in that regard. The only things people there really seem to care about are money, sports and the weather. That and the latest teenaged girl raped and hacked to death as she fumbles for her keys outside her apartment. News is news, no matter where you get it.
But in Europe, generally, Bush and his cohorts -- many of them already or soon to be indicted on a wide range of criminal charges -- aren't eternally in your face. You can overlook them. You can almost forget about them. At least you could until just before I came home and saw, plastered all over the European papers, the news that the president of the United States thinks he's on "a mission from God" to save the world, and specifically the Middle East (where all the oil is, remember?).
The headlines were big, bold, screaming, on the front page of every newspaper, whatever its political bent, "conservative" or "liberal." In Britain's Guardian I saw: "GEORGE BUSH: 'GOD TOLD ME TO END THE TYRANNY IN IRAQ.'" And in The Telegraph (The Guardian's mirror opposite politically), just a minor variation: "BUSH: 'GOD TOLD ME TO INVADE IRAQ.'"
Well! God's told me more than once that I'm quite a special fellow, but I don't go blaring it around. At least, not directly. I let other people make that assumption, if they want (usually, they don't). And this is what has so shocked unshockable Europe: that an American president -- for that matter, anyone after Louis XIV or the Russian czars -- could actually say such a thing and get away with it. Especially a man who spends so much of his time frothing over "Islamist extremism."
The particular allegation about Bush and God, automatically denied by the White House, comes from a just-aired BBC documentary concerning the Arab-Israeli "peace process" and the first time Bush met Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, at an Israeli-Palestinian summit at the Egyptian resort of Sharm-el-Sheikh. This was four months after the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. It wasn't Abbas who spilled these particular beans, of course -- he is too diplomatic for that -- but Nabil Shaath, another delegate at the same conference, who at the time was Palestinian foreign minister.
"I am driven with a mission from God," Shaath quotes Bush. "God would tell me, 'George, go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan,' And I did. And then God would tell me, 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq.' And I did."
Actually, "he" didn't. Instead, he sent a lot of innocent American children to die in his place, being a fraud and a stooge from his blinking eyes to his "Texan" toes. If George W. Bush is a man of God, I'm the purple cow you've read about. You can ask God if you don't believe me.
Anyway, we all know that Shaath's story is true -- we've heard it ourselves a thousand times before. "God" directs George W. Bush to such an extent that he even goes to church now and then, and thinks that "intelligent design" is the force by which he reached the White House.
Osama -- where are you?
All right. So I got home and found that the whole American press -- the so-called mainstream media -- is suddenly emboldened to say that the Bush administration is "in meltdown"; that even Republicans are afraid about it; that the rats are leaving the sinking ship; that Iraq, Cindy Sheehan, Hurricane Katrina, "falling poll numbers," "rising gas prices," "Plamegate," Tom DeLay, Bill Frist, Harriet Miers and the perfectly delicious destruction of Karl Rove -- "Bush's Brain," that veritable Pillsbury Doughboy of political piggery -- have left Little Hitler "defenseless" and in a very bad mood. Bush is even said to be "drinking again," which, for the sake of the nation, I wish he would. It would at least make him recognizable as human.
But don't count your chickens before they're hatched. This gang isn't finished with us yet, not by a long shot. "Nothing is more dangerous than a cornered wild beast," writes Norman Solomon on the Media Monitors Network. "And if the day comes that its political survival appears to be at stake, the Bush administration will counterattack with extreme ferocity." After all, with God on their side, what have they got to lose?