- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 19, 2000

George W. Bush is well on his way to disarming his critics in Washington.

Dick Gephardt and Tom Daschle finally conceded yesterday that he's a legitimate president, although not entirely without equivocation. Others can measure how grudging their concessions were. But at least they said the words.

The president-elect may have harder work ahead of him in Europe, where the French, as usual, are stirring up toil and trouble.

The French, whose contribution to modern warfare is the art of the surrender, are terminally envious of the United States (and the special relationship between the United States and Britain), and they're determined to join in the creation of a European army to rival NATO. The British or at least Tony Blair seem determined to tag along in a French orbit. But the British prime minister has had to insist, in the wake of that not very nice European summit in Nice where the French and Germans pushed their scheme of a European army, that NATO would continue to be "the linchpin" of European security. Some linchpin. The United States would continue to do the heavy lifting, the Germans would get fancy uniforms and brass bands and the French would get to drink the champagne. NATO would shrivel.

Mr. Blair, gambling that the dying Clinton administration would keep quiet about it, tried to soothe concerns raised by the Tories that American skepticism of a European army could lead to American withdrawal from Europe. Such a prospect frightens a lot of Britons, who don't particularly relish the idea of an army inevitably led by Germans with French lieutenants. The British have been there and done that. Mr. Blair and his men, eager to get on with dismantling Britain but nervous about being found out, called their critics "fundamentally dishonest," insisting that the Americans wouldn't mind.

Lame duck or not, William Cohen, the departing secretary of defense, pointedly refused to endorse the deal, and warned that a European army could relegate NATO to "a relic." Then Tony Blair, taking seriously the media mush in London that George W. couldn't figure out what was going on and wouldn't care if he could, got a rude shock Sunday night when John Bolton, expected in London to be a top deputy to Colin Powell, warned that the rising Bush administration is likely to regard the European army scheme as "a dagger pointed at the heart of NATO."

If that happens, Mr. Bolton said, the United States would be forced to withhold intelligence information from the British. "We would have to pose the stark question: 'Are you with us, or with them?' "

This is particularly shattering to Tony Blair and the New Europeans, who have swallowed whole the idea that George W. Bush is the merry prankster who doesn't know the difference between a Grecian formula and a Turkish delight. They've been getting a steady diet of the adventures of George W. as a playboy with a head full of cotton, hay and rang, and don't know any better than to believe what they read in the Guardian or hear on the BBC.

"Lightweight Mr. Bush," the Guardian (the enabler of England's codependent left) intoned solemnly, "gabbling nervously amid the wrangling, has looked ever more like a puny front man for the vested interests of the GOP machine, big business, big defense and big oil. He will need quality help to meet challenges that would sorely tax a more talented politician." The quality help, Dick Cheney and Colin Powell, are dismissed as either sick or vacillating.

Mr. Blair and his colleagues are suckers for the language beloved of the therapeutic left. They actually believe that George W. will be so preoccupied with an America in need of "healing" that he won't have time to pay attention to what's going on in the rest of the world.

The only America the Europeans understand is that little sliver of blue on the electoral map that hugs the Atlantic coast, and they see George W. lounging against the fence in his cowboy boots and figure that he has to be a reckless wastrel with nothing on his mind but breaking up a saloon. They imagine red blood to be a poisonous elixir and trust only neurotics like themselves. The reflexive European sneer at George W.'s triumph is similar to the sneer that greeted the election of the man whose grit and gumption two decades ago foreshadowed the fall of communism and the destruction of the evil empire.

They'll get over it. But until they do, the ambition of the Germans and the tantrums of the French can make mischief. This may be what occurred to Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt, who dropped their not-so-subtle allusions to an "illegitimate" presidency. Not a minute too soon. If we expect the rest of the world to act like grown-ups, we have to act like grown-ups ourselves.

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