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Some British papers mock, malign Bush


By Gregory Katz / The Dallas Morning News

International view
Read stories about George W. Bush in major British newspapers

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LONDON – President-elect George W. Bush may be enjoying the kind words from world leaders congratulating him on winning the presidency, but he is being hammered by much of the British press for what they say is a lack of qualifications and brainpower.

While most American newspapers have called for citizens to unite behind the new leader, influential British newspapers have called Mr. Bush's victory illegitimate and challenged his right to claim the Oval Office. Editorial writers contended that he won by suppressing the rights of African-Americans to vote freely and have their ballots counted.

To some degree the attacks on Mr. Bush in the last two days have been part of a long tradition of Yank-bashing in the British press. But there has been an unusually personal tone to the insults, with columnists warning that "big hair and barbecues" are returning to the White House now that a Texan is in charge again.

The mocking tone, emphasizing Mr. Bush's relative lack of overseas travel experience, was evident in Friday's edition of The Independent, a left-of-center newspaper that ran a map of the world "according to George W. Bush" on the front page of its feature section.

The map showed Texas containing nothing but oil wells and an electric chair for executions. Europe was misspelled, Iceland was confused with Ireland, Spain was identified as "Kinda Mexico" and Britain was "Another Island."

The glossary to the map listed a number of misstatements by Mr. Bush during the campaign, including his comment that Nigeria is an important continent and his description of Greeks as Grecians. There was also a memo from Mr. Bush to Colin Powell asking if Canada was part of the United States.

The theme was picked up in Thursday's edition of The Mirror, which showed a picture of England as viewed from space with the following message to Mr. Bush: "P.S., We Are Here."

By contrast, the conservative editors at the powerful Daily Telegraph newspaper could barely contain their glee at the triumph of Mr. Bush. The newspaper was filled with more than a dozen pictures from the Bush family album, and the editorial writers hailed the long awaited end of the Clinton-Gore era.

The newsaper's editorial writers slammed Vice President Al Gore for his "graceless" challenge to Mr. Bush's victory and said Mr. Bush would provide the leadership President Clinton was incapable of.

"After eight years of uncertain trumpets, all true Atlanticistscan look forward to some real leadership in the White House, rather than the nervous multilateralism of a man who was profoundly ambiguous about the use of American power," the editorial said.

The negative reaction to Mr. Bush's designation as president-elect goes far beyond these tongue-in-cheek assessments of his fitness to serve. Editorial pages have been filled with condemnations of Mr. Bush's policies and questions have been raised about whether his presidency can be viewed as legitimate.

A lengthy editorial in The Guardian – a leading left-wing paper – categorically rejected the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to end the Florida recount as blatantly political and unfair.

"The fix is in," the newspaper said. "Al Gore is out and it is a bad day for American democracy."

The newspaper said that the election process had shattered confidence about the "fundamental fairness and honesty of American democracy" and left the White House in the hands of a "lightweight" who is not up to the job.

The hostility from the left-of-center newspapers is not surprising in light of the disappointment about the departure of Mr. Clinton, who was often seen as an ideological ally eager to develop new policies to meet social needs.

But even the centrist newspapers seem unhappy with Mr. Bush, and there is concern that his lack of experience in Europe, coupled with his interest in Mexico and Latin America, may lead him to play down Britain and Europe and concentrate on building better trade ties throughout the Americas.

In The Times, a middle-of-the-road newspaper owned by the conservative tycoon Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., Mr. Bush's alleged mental weakness was spotlighted in an illustration Friday that showed a medical examination of the president-elect in which doctors found there was nothing inside his skull.

On a more serious note, The Times' lead editorial on Friday warned that Mr. Bush may not share Mr. Clinton's interest in and commitment to Europe. Nonetheless, the editorial writers concluded that Mr. Bush should not be underestimated and may yet produce an effective foreign policy.
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