We all know how you Americans are competitive and want to win every contest you participate in. And, lo and behold, you have presented the world with an exceptionally gifted candidate for the title of “Worst President Ever”.
But don’t think that this is a done deal, because there is serious competition around. Of course, the French are in the race, trying to spite the hyperpuissance with inflated claims of relevance – but today, I will let the Brits, hardly our cheerleaders, to make the case for Jacques Chirac. And your arch-enemy, the Iranians, have becoem serious contenders with their new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
First, out of fairness, the most recent advances by your champion:
US policy on torture, as summarised by Der Spiegel
Tell us about the CIA flights.
The US doesn’t torture.
Tell us about the black sites.
The US doesn’t torture.
But “we do, sometimes, but it’s not our fault.“
“Will there be abuses of policy? That’s entirely possible,” [Condi Rice] said on a visit to NATO headquarters. “Just because you’re a democracy it doesn’t mean that you’re perfect.”
or this charming tidbit:
The US has admitted for the first time that it has not given the Red Cross access to all detainees in its custody.
The state department’s top legal adviser, John Bellinger, made the admission but gave no details about where such prisoners were held.
And the most recent whopper, via the NYT
The Bush administration based a crucial prewar assertion about ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda on detailed statements made by a prisoner while in Egyptian custody who later said he had fabricated them to escape harsh treatment, according to current and former government officials.
A good summary of the case for Bush was provided as follows by an editorialist form Le Monde (sorry , no link, this is sub. only):
Peut-on redéfinir le mot torture afin de pouvoir la pratiquer ? Bien sûr, et c’est même digne d’une démocratie, à condition de redéfinir aussi le mot démocratie.
Can we redefine the word torture so as to practise it. Sure, and it is compatible with democracy, provided of course that we also redefine the word democracy.
Good, title-winning stuff, especially coming as it does after a dubious election, starting an unnecessary war, losing it, betraying secret agents, blowing several hundred billion dollars, and going 2 out of 3 already on his watch on the worst disasters that can hit the USA (and all the rest you can fill in).
But, as I said, these is competition.
First, Chirac. The case is made by Philip Stephens, one of the political editorialists of the Financial Times:
We should reserve our pity for Jacques Chirac.
France alone, of course, is not responsible for Europe’s ills. The tearing down of the Berlin Wall, German reunification, enlargement and globalisation were always going to disturb the comfortable assumptions of the Union’s first decades. Yet, Mr Chirac’s stubbornly defensive response to every upheaval does provide much of the explanation for the present disarray.
(…) look back over the past decade and Mr Chirac has misjudged and miscalculated at every turn. Each new challenge has been treated as a threat. Stubbornness has replaced confidence. EU enlargement, globalisation, international trade talks: all have been seen as part of a global conspiracy against the fifth republic. Every change has somehow been a betrayal; modernity itself is cast as a plot to diminish France’s standing in the world. Mr Chirac has thus swapped his country’s identity as a leader for that of victim.
(…) The decline of French influence has thus become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
(…) The French social model has much to recommend it. A confident leader would have shown how the model could be adapted and updated to meet the new insecurities of the age. Instead, Mr Chirac has built another Maginot Line.
For a time, the controversy over the Iraq war fed Mr Chirac’s foreign policy delusions. The argument about whether the US should have gone to war was entirely legitimate. Most Europeans would say Mr Chirac was on the right side. Yet in pirouetting alongside Russia’s Vladimir Putin in search of a multipolar world, he diminished France.
Mr Chirac has reached the twilight of his presidency. France and Europe can only wait now for his departure.
And, like Bush, Chirac has a lot under his belt from the past. He has been implicated in so many judicial procedures that everybody has lost count (and at least two indictments await him as soon as he steps out of the Elysée Palace, one on a file where his former right hand man and former Prime Minister, Alain Juppé, was sentenced to jail). He does not have a single policy success, major law or reform to his name, he has let inequalities and unemployment increase in France, he has destroyed the country’s standing in Europe by abusing its (large) capacity for nuisance, he has destroyed the career of every half-decent politician on the right, leaving only the fascists, the opportunists and the crooks.
His performance may not be as spectacular as that of Bush, but he has the considerable achievement under his belt of making France irrelevant and its (sometimes needed) arguments unconvincing or unheard. Not wholesale destruction, but steady decline. A consistent performance over 40 years of political life.
Finally, we have the new kid on the block. He burst on the international scene a few weeks back, with his comment that Israel should be “wiped off the map”, and is now establishing his credentials with the following:
“Some European countries insist on saying that Hitler killed millions of innocent Jews in furnaces and they insist on it to the extent that if anyone proves something contrary to that they condemn that person and throw them in jail,” IRNA quoted Mr Ahmadinejad as saying.
“Although we don’t accept this claim, if we suppose it is true, our question for the Europeans is: is the killing of innocent Jewish people by Hitler the reason for their support to the occupiers of Jerusalem?” he said.
“If the Europeans are honest they should give some of their provinces in Europe — like in Germany, Austria or other countries — to the Zionists and the Zionists can establish their state in Europe. You offer part of Europe and we will support it.”
“Why do they insist on imposing themselves on other powers and creating a tumour so there is always tension and conflict?”
Pretty impressive stuff. A negationist Head of State? Using words certain to provoke the ire of Israel and the USA, two countries who currently seem to be itching for any pretext to go to war with his country – and to lose him the support of everybody else? At a time when the stakes are nuclear weapons?
But that’s not all. The man is not only an obvious agent provocateur, he is an incompetent one, unable to control the most strategic thing in his country:
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has suffered further embarrassment as his third nominee for the key post of oil minister was rejected by MPs.
Mohsen Tasalloti, the director of a petrochemical development zone in southern Iran, was dogged by rumours about his personal life and fortune.
The Majlis rejected the president’s first two nominees for lacking experience in the oil sector.
Iran is the world’s fourth biggest producer of crude oil.
Nearly two-thirds of the MPs present voted against the president’s candidate in a session.
The BBC’s Tehran correspondent, Frances Harrison, says parliament’s rejection of three candidates over the past few months is an unprecedented challenge and a huge embarrassment to the new president.
So, who’s the worst?
- the man who is spectacularly blowing off your treasury, your reputation and your democracy?
- the man who’s made a loser of his country?
- the man who wants to go to war with the variously sized “Satans”?
Or do you have other names to nominate for “Worst President Ever”?