Magazine article The Spectator

Bush Bashing

Magazine article The Spectator

Bush Bashing

Article excerpt

America, more than any other country I can think of, encourages such extreme opinions that it's sometimes difficult to analyse why such views are held.

There are rigid anti-Americans, of course, who variously dislike its capitalist and freemarket system, its silent majority's lack of sophistication, or its military and technological might. Much of this is just plain envy. Others define the country through its president. At the moment Bush-haters are in the ascendancy, hence the gloating tone of much of the broadcasting coverage of Hurricane Katrina. It was, as the mad Michael Moore put it, all the fault of George W. himself. I dare say Moore is already finding ways of blaming Bush for the Ice Age.

It was all very well for Rupert Murdoch to quote his shoeshine boy Tony Blair on the BBC's anti-American coverage of the hurricane, but in fact he should have been watching his own channel's Sky News, which itself was very quickly into the blame-game and Guardian mode. I know this because I was in Italy and watching it, as well as listening to Radio Four and the World Service. What astonished me was the naïveté of the coverage. I kept hearing people on the BBC say that the disaster had revealed to the world the existence of a black underclass they didn't know existed and that this was embarrassing for the only superpower. Really? Anyone who's been to the United States can hardly fail to notice it -- and, for that matter, the white underclass -- and, if any embarrassment has been caused, I suspect it was felt more by those blacks stranded in New Orleans for their televised exposure to the world as being so useless that they couldn't afford a car to evacuate the place.

This is why I think many of us miss Alistair Cooke so much. Oh for the fairminded shrewd analysis of his adopted country over all those years of Letter From America. Who is there to replace him? Not those who filled the spot on Radio Four after he died. Not the otherwise estimable Brian Walden, nor Harold Evans, the former editor of the Sunday Times who now lives the life of a Manhattan sophisticate but who retains some of his northern accent -- unlike Cooke who, mercifully, quickly shed his. Evans currently occupies the slot on Friday evenings, repeated Sunday mornings, now called A Point of View, and has been a disappointment. I expected the anti-Bush jibes; he is after all a member of the New York media tribe and as such has no real independence of thought to distinguish him from his fellow lemmings. …

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