Excuse me on this anti-American thing. Suddenly U.S.-bashing during elections is said to be a Canadian “tradition,” mainly because taking shots at the U.S. is so “easy.” As U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins put it, the U.S. feels “like a great big hanging curve ball” that anyone can take a crack at.
But let’s not forget when and why this particular “tradition” started. It started a mere half-dozen years ago because the government of George W. Bush destroyed civil discourse among nations by ripping up treaties, playing cowboy on the international stage and hacking away at the constitutional underpinnings of the U.S. itself.
Before that, what I recall most about Canada-U.S. relations in my long years in journalism is that every time there was a glitch, some anonymous bureaucrat at the Canada Desk in the State Department would merely grumble and there would be major headlines in The Globe and Mail and elsewhere, and most of the Canadian political and business establishment would buckle at the knees.
More recently, surely you remember that a paltry six years ago, we, like much of the rest of the world, loved Bill Clinton, loved Hillary, loved Monica (where is she anyway? I do hope she’s doing well), loved the whole cast of characters. “Anti-Americans” might have been left-wing academics questioning the imperial reach of the United States although not doing it any differently from many American thinkers.
The current spat was triggered when Paul Martin took a crack at U.S. policy on the Kyoto treaty at the Montreal conference on climate change. A New York Times editorial last week, entitled “America’s shame in Montreal,” declared that “the Bush administration deserves only censure” for its refusal to co-operate with the international community, and approved of “the public rebukes by Canada’s prime minister and a surprise visitor named Bill Clinton” that moved the U.S. delegation to grudgingly commit to at least “non-binding” discussions on climate change in future.
In other words, Martin, although he might be playing the politics too hard with this and might even have been diplomatically overboard, was only stating the obvious when he knocked the U.S. administration for not participating in the “global conscience” on the environment and did a useful service in the process.
What this is all about is neither Canada nor anti-Americanism. It’s about the Bush administration, at historic lows in the polls and hunkering deeper and deeper into its bunker against its inevitable fate, as dozens, if not hundreds, of historians await the signal to declare this administration of rogue oilmen the worst in U.S. history.
The circling enemy is no namby-pamby bunch of Democrats, environmentalists, pinkos or what-have-you. The enemy is within. This very week, the Republican-led Congress passed a measure sponsored by Republican Senator John McCain to bar cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners in American custody anywhere in the world, over frenetic opposition from the White House, but which the president was finally forced to accept.
In fact, the gathering assault has everything to do with conservative Republicans outraged at how the Bush regime has dragged America low in the guise of searching for glory — wrecking public finances, stuffing regulatory bodies with cronies, justifying torture, trashing civil rights, invading Iraq without cause, and giving so much away to big corporations — so low that it has to be taking lectures from pipsqueak countries like Canada, whose role in life was supposed to be to tug the forelock.
That’s what rankles down in the bunker where they’ve taken to thrashing wildly, and the environmental issue illustrates the Bush conundrum very well. The Montreal conference was, in fact, overflowing with anti-Bush Americans who applauded Martin wildly. They included representatives of a group of America’s 190 or so largest cities and towns that have signed a pact to try to meet the Kyoto targets, state representatives and others. Polls show that up to 75 per cent of Americans are worried about climate change, while the Bush government has barely got around to admitting that it exists.
Just as a point of logic, then, how can it be “anti-American” to merely point out what three-quarters of Americans themselves are saying? And to the extent that it really is a problem, the solution to “anti-Americanism” is simple: Most of it will disappear as soon as George W. Bush does.