The Annoying Irish Bush Haters
By Richard Delevan
YOU might think that an American working as a journalist in Ireland would have to cut himself off from politics at home. Not so in my case.
The hunger for news about the U.S. elections in Ireland is so great that every little blip in poll numbers in Pennsylvania, every debate misstep in Missouri, even the latest campaign ads from the 527s are covered in mind-numbing detail.
In fact, I’m so glued to www.realclearpolitics.com (the political junkies’ virtual dealer, showcasing every important national and statewide poll in the U.S. as well as analysis, updated hourly) that my wife suggests that after the election we go on vacation somewhere we won’t have to talk about American politics as much as we do in Ireland — like America, maybe.
But for the next week — and possibly for longer if the election is close and is decided by armies of lawyers — the news diet will be very heavy in the saturated fat of American fried politics.
Despite, or perhaps because of, all of the attention — the endless hours of broadcasts on RTE and column-inches in The Irish Times, Irish Independent and our other native media — there is, even before the election, a feeling of being cheated.
The chattering classes here and across Europe are galled that they don’t get a vote in the U.S. election. The Irish Times, in publishing a virtual endorsement for John Kerry this week, headlined its editorial, “Countdown to a Global Election” and lamented, “It has been said with justice that this U.S. presidential election is a world election in which the world has no vote.”
In the past few weeks, even before John Kerry’s “global test,” Americans have become dimly aware that the world is taking a bigger interest in this election than in any previous one.
In the left-of-center (in which the Irish media sits more or less comfortably) of Europe, that interest takes the form of pathological hatred for President George W. Bush.
That hatred manifests in a couple of ways. First is an overt support for Kerry that is unprecedented. Some of you may have heard of The Guardian newspaper, which though English is in wide circulation here, particularly among media elites.
Some may have also heard of the paper’s “Operation Clark County.” This lets British and Irish readers, frustrated at their inability to directly affect the outcome of the U.S. election by voting, try to influence actual voters in an Ohio county that was razor-thin last time for Al Gore, and may help tip the balance this time in the crucial state.
The Guardian bought the list of registered voters from the Clark County clerk, and posted the names and addresses of “undeclared” voters on its website — then invited readers to send letters to them.
“What you can do to beat Bush — with a little help from the folks in Ohio,” announced the paper on its front page to kick off the campaign.
“U.S. policy now affects every citizen on the planet,” went The Guardian’s thinking inside. “So we should all have a say in who gets to the White House.”
Some 14,000 letters were mailed, arriving last week. Republicans in Ohio were delighted, as voters (perhaps understandably) resented the idea of foreign interference in an American election.
Kerry campaign workers winced. Particularly when many of the Guardian letters to Ohioans had the tone of an irate parent long past trying to reason with a particularly slow and badly behaved child.
The reply from Ohio voters was so swift and, erm, clear that The Guardian headed a section of them with, “Dear Limey A**holes.” Sensing they were helping to actually shore up support for Bush, The Guardian last Friday announced it was stopping the campaign. Though the vast majority of its own journalists knew it was a bad idea, some of the paper’s more deluded employees were convinced that the overwhelmingly negative response of more than 5,000 e-mails was an organized right-wing spam campaign to intimidate the paper.
In Ireland, while The Irish Times hasn’t been foolish enough to copy The Guardian’s folly, the paper’s editorial page has let rip with a barrage of stories and letters about the need to stop U.S. global domination, that the aim of U.S. foreign policy since Woodrow Wilson has been to accomplish just that, and to “slaughter millions of innocents” in the bargain.
It published an “Irishman’s Diary” from one Anthony Glavin, who like more than a few Irish people was so pathological about Bush that they gave up their day jobs and flew to the U.S. to work for Kerry.
Working among the “Kerry Travelers” in Florida, Glavin described himself and colleagues from Britain and France as the “International Brigade” — not that he wants to be compared to those who went to Spain to fight against Franco and fascism.
Actually, he would rather compare Bush to — and those of you who remember the anti-Bush protests since September 11 in Ireland may have guessed — Hitler.
I used to get mildly annoyed about that grotesque analogy when it was deployed by the extreme anti-American types over here during protests. And at first, there were commentators over here who pointed out how ridiculous, insulting and horrific that was.
No more. Commentators like David Norris — whose day jobs are senator and Joycean scholar — have taken to regularly comparing the Bush administration to a Nazi takeover.
Never mind that the brownshirt tactics in the U.S. at the moment — rocks being thrown through campaign office windows, campaign office break-ins, stealing hard drives with get-out-the-vote plans, a mob breaking a campaign worker’s arm in Florida as they stormed a campaign office there, even shootings of offices in three states — have almost exclusively been directed at the Bush campaign. Such facts are inconvenient to the “Bushies as Nazis” storyline here.
Which brings us to the second way Bush-hatred manifests itself here. Some right-wing commentators, like New Hampshire-based Canadian Mark Steyn (the reaction to which has been so negative by Irish Times readers that he’s offered to quit his column if Bush loses) have predicted that British and Irish media types are so blind to their own bias that they’ll be shocked when Bush wins next week.
In fact, few will be surprised. Instead, they will have their darkest fears confirmed.
While, should Bush win, I’m looking forward to watching a few overheated Bush-haters swell up, turn purple and spontaneously combust around Dublin on November 3, many other people here will drift further off into the conspiracy-laden fantasy world of the Mickey Moore Club.
In this world, which far too many Irish people inhabit, Bush’s policy toward Israel is driven by the “Jewish vote.” Not a myth peddled by the overt anti-Semitic right, it’s actually perpetuated by the anti-American left.
Referred to regularly in supposedly straight news reports, it’s an article of faith that no amount of facts — like the fact that less than 2% percent of the U.S population is Jewish, or that as a group around 20% of Jewish voters are pro-Bush — will dent.
Mickey Moore Club members also believe that the Iraq war was to make money for Halliburton. That President Bush was wired with a bulky 1970s radio to get commands during the first debate. That if he wins, the election will have been stolen, “again.”
So many Irish people are so emotionally invested in the outcome of the election — so many believe that Armageddon (or whatever the post-Christian Irish equivalent is) is coming should Bush win — that I do wonder what it will be like to be an American living here after a Bush victory.
The Guardian (yes, them again) last Saturday published an article (supposedly a TV review column) by Charlie Brooker whose conclusion read, “On November 2, the entire civilized world will be praying, praying Bush loses. And Sod’s law dictates he’ll probably win, thereby disproving the existence of God once and for all.
“The world will endure four more years of idiocy, arrogance and unwarranted bloodshed, with no benevolent deity to watch over and save us. John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Junior — where are you now that we need you?”
When I pointed this out to a few colleagues in the Irish media — that we’re at the point where it’s acceptable, with the tiniest fig leaf of sarcasm, to call for the assassination of the president of the United States in print — the response was a collective “so what?”
If this kind of “interest” in the American elections becomes more frequent and accepted over here, it may be time to take my wife’s advice one further — and make that vacation from Ireland permanent.