The United States, as seen by the media in the rest in the world, is sobering up at the Just Deserts Cafe.
Norway's Aftenposten wrote, "When God is on your team, the world can be dangerously simple. Arbitrary references to the Bible is a form of intellectual terrorism . . . For the past eight years, secularized Europe has been watching with increasing astonishment a president who, for the most part, is guided by religion; who has had a very difficult relationship with the English language; who has systematically prioritized loyalty over competence; and who seems to be without intellectual curiosity."
Hence the temptation of simplicity.
Bylined Bernt Hagtvet, the editorial said the world is now terrified at the thought of a Sarah Palin presidency: "We are risking having a woman who sees God's hands in all she does a heartbeat from the Oval Office. An unholy mix of ignorance and vulgarity."
For the Saudi Gazette: "It's hard to believe that only a week ago all anyone wanted to talk about was mooseburgers, lipstick on pigs and being able to see Russia from a remote Alaskan island . . . The election is back to where it should have been all along . . . This makes the going just a bit rougher for McCain, and it gives Obama a chance to regain the momentum . . . McCain has always been just a bit challenged by economic issues, even saying when the financial crisis broke that the economic fundamentals were strong.
"With major financial institutions going to the wall, everyone could clearly see that was not the case, and some may even have wondered how in touch with economic issues a man could be who does not even know how many houses he owns . . . The earthquake has put an end to the mindless clamor of the silly season . . . It's time to get serious."
Germany's Die Tageszeitung said: "Palin's naivete puts the fear of God in all of us. In her interviews she was successful in provoking worldwide horror with her views on foreign policy . . . they caused bewilderment because of her colossal ignorance . . . anyone interested in politics should pray for John McCain to live forever . . . [the same Mr. McCain] who showed the world a monumental disregard for the most powerful office in the world the day he chose his second-in-command."
France's Le Monde wrote: "The U.S. seemed to be heading for a cliff, paying cash for their years of financial debauchery and an orgy of credit. In Europe, [there was] a touch of pleasure that through a financial intermediary, [the euro], they are directly assisting in the decline of the American empire."
But instead of sinking like a stone, noted Le Monde, "the greenback climbed back at full speed . . . America, contrary to what some believed, and others hope, isn't KO'd." At least, not yet, echoed the Continental smoothies.
The London Sunday Times' Andrew Sullivan said: "Palin's favorables went from plus 17 to plus 1 in six days as voters realized there was less than nothing behind the marketing and the cynicism of this sinister and philistine Manchurian Candidate . . . Now [Americans] can no longer deny the massive mess they and their leaders have put themselves in."
"Americans," Mr. Sullivan continued, "resistant to the idea their incomes cannot keep growing at the free-lunch pace of the 1940s to the 1970s, decided to get rich the easy way. They borrowed to reflate in the 1980s, played the stock market in the 1990s, and gambled on the real-estate boom in the first decade of the 21st century . . .
"The greed that led many ordinary Americans to take out loans they had no way of repaying and the recklessness with which banks and mortgage companies satisfied that hunger, are, in retrospect, staggering. Both banks and the borrowers deserve their comeuppance. And a truly conservative, free-market administration would be happy to let them fail."
But Bush Republicanism, Mr. Sullivan continued, is not and has never been anything like conservatism.
Bush Republicanism has cut taxes regardless of fiscal reality and boosted domestic spending at a pace not seen since the Franklin Roosevelt era, concluded Mr. Sullivan. He added: "Bush has added a staggering $32 trillion to unfunded government liabilities future generations of Americans will have to bear. And he has borrowed and borrowed from the Chinese to ensure that the consequences of his fiscal madness will never come back to punish him."
But Mr. Bush failed in this, concluded the Sunday Times, "as in every other part of his disgraceful record. Just as his Iraq incompetence came back to haunt him, so his surreal economics has finally returned the favor.
"Watching the feckless Bush administration now is an almost perfect coda to the surreally anti-conservative policies it has pursued from the beginning."
Britain's Independent headlined, "Bush launches $700 billion rescue plan and confesses he didn't realize how severe problems were" and then quoted a congressional aide on a telephone conference call between the Federal Reserve chairman, the treasury secretary, and lawmakers in which the Fed chief said, "If Congress doesn't act quickly, there will be an economic meltdown."
"Financial earthquakes, like real ones," said the Independent, "are brutal reminders of the limits of the politician's capacity to shape events. Obama is no exception. He has been a sideshow to the dramas on the trading floor, and has added nothing to the debate except some sharp partisan barbs, when the population has yearned for leadership."
The Belize News in Central America, under the headline "America goes socialist," commented, "FDR's New Deal would have been considered socialist on Wall Street a few months ago, but now Wall Street, the cradle of crazy capitalism, has been crying out like a baby for government bailouts for the same financial institutions through which they looted the United States and the world over the last three decades . . . When there is a crisis, which they themselves create, the capitalists and the speculators always take their money and run. It is left to the people to pick up the pieces."
America's Humpty Dumpty has had a great fall. But no one is betting that all the kings of Wall Street can't put Humpty together again. For the rest of the world, the Bush doctrine's hubris got its comeuppance.
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