Wednesday, 17 March 2004

The endorsement of death

Mark Kleiman wondered a few days ago why countries don’t try to muck around with internal politics to pursue their preferred policies (except, of course, when they do—most notably, during the steel tarriffs flap, the European Union was on the verge of imposing sanctions against the U.S. that were conveniently targeted at “battleground” states that George Bush needs for reelection).

The ongoing kerfuffle over John Kerry’s backdoor endorsements by foreign leaders suggests a reason why: if public, such endorsements are often counterproductive. I trust that the news that incoming Spanish prime minister Zapatero favors the election of Kerry won’t be prominently featured in Kerry’s advertising for that very reason. Even if you presume that Zapatero’s comments were made purely for domestic consumption by the Bush-hating European masses, he might have done well to consider that Bush—unlike Bill Clinton—is into the “personal loyalty” approach and doesn’t stand for the traditional left-wing European game of trying to have it both ways in a relationship with the United States (something that Tony Blair rather wisely figured out on his own, yet somehow this lesson is lost on Blair’s continental counterparts.)