June 30, 2005

Anti-Europeanism flourishes on U.S. right

By Alan Elsner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - As President Bush heads to nextweek's Group of Eight summit in Scotland, one of his main taskswill be to try to mitigate anti-U.S. sentiments in Europe --but he may also need to look at growing anti-Europeanism in theUnited States, political and foreign policy analysts say.

"There is a strong strain of anti-Europeanism coming fromsections of the Republican Party, related to and sometimesencouraged by the White House," said Jan Kubik, director of thecenter for comparative European studies at Rutgers University.

"Connected to that is the anti-Europeanism of the religiousright, where Europe is seen as a place without God that hasbecome too secular and lost its values," he said.

Many Americans were outraged at the refusal of prominentEuropean nations, especially France and Germany, to support theU.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. Now, some analysts fear thatEuropean anti-Americanism and U.S. anti-Europeanism may havebecome mutually reinforcing.

"Negative opinions about the United States in Europe haveaffected attitudes toward those countries here," said pollsterAndrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center.

A Pew survey last week found for instance that only 43percent of French citizens viewed the United States favorably,while 46 percent of Americans had a favorable view of France.

There is nothing new about anti-European sentiment in theUnited States. But sour feelings on both sides, largely maskedduring the 40 years of the Cold War, have widened into a chasmin the past three years.

"As an American, the characteristic that is particularlytroubling to me is the virulent anti-Americanism I experienceevery time I visit the continent," said Sen. Gordon Smith, aRepublican from Oregon who describes himself as a strongchampion of the traditional U.S.-European alliance.


In a speech to the conservative Heritage Foundation onTuesday, Smith said he particularly objected to the "grossanti-American reporting and demonization of President Bush," inmuch of the European media.

He said that made it difficult for leaders like himself tochampion the continuation of the traditional Atlantic alliance."A lot of Americans would like to see that relationship chippedaway at," he said.

Among Christian conservatives, who form a powerful bloc inthe Republican Party, criticism of European secularism hasbecome a standard theme, said University of Akron politicalscientist John Green, an expert on Christian fundamentalism.

"It's also a useful way for them to attack Americanliberals who admire Europe, especially the relative absence ofreligion in public affairs. The Christian conservative responseis to say that Europe has become a basically decadent place andan example of what America would be if liberals had their way,"he said.

Among Republicans, especially in the U.S. House ofRepresentatives, who travel overseas much less than U.S.legislators did a generation ago, hostility to things Europeanhas blossomed in recent years, Green said.

Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay began one speechto fellow party members last year by saying, "Good afternoon,or as John Kerry might say, bonjour" -- a contemptuousreference to the 2004 Democratic presidential challenger'sability to speak French.

Some U.S. commentators, echoing the critique of the latePope John Paul II, point to falling European birth rates as asign that European societies have given themselves completelyover to the pursuit of pleasure, to the point that they arecommitting demographic suicide.

On the economic front, the United States has producedconsistently higher growth rates and lower unemployment thanmany nations in Europe. Some U.S. commentators blame theexcessive regulations imposed by the European Community. Otherssay Europeans are plain lazy.

"French voters are trying to preserve a 35-hour workweek ina world where Indian engineers are ready to work a 35-hourday," wrote New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman earlierthis month.