September 23, 2008 |  22 comments |  Print this Article  Your Opinion  

Transatlantic Tension Will Remain

Daniel Korski: While it is likely that transatlantic relations will improve after a new US president is elected, there are still major unsolved issues that are bound to cause disappointment on both sides. Striving for common policies on key issues like Afghanistan, Russia, and China should be a priority.

On both sides of the Atlantic, foreign policy types are busy drawing up wish-lists of what they want the other to do once a new US president is elected. More troops for Nato's Afghan mission, says Barack Obama. No, retorts John McCain, support for sanctions against Iran is more important. Progress on Kyoto, say some Europeans. Others want the US and Europe to concentrate on reforming institutions like the UN, World Bank and the IMF.

Whilst it's better than the fraught trans-Atlantic relations of the last eight years, this outbreak of list-writing nonetheless threatens to ultimately disappoint both parties. To ensure that relations between the world's strongest allies have a propitious, post-election relaunch, both parties will need to think not only about what they want but also about what they are willing to give.

Give-and-take characterizes all successful relationships, and the trans-Atlantic one is no different. But giving as well as taking may be harder for Europe than the US.

True, the contrast to 1992 could not be starker. Back then, asked whether he favored George H. W. Bush or Bill Clinton, Spain's then socialist Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez said: "We all become a little conservative as we grow older, so there's a tendency to think that things will go better with the person you know." Today such views might be considered odd. Europe may favor Obama - whose Kennedyesque rhetoric and stand against the Iraq War has won him many admirers - but Europe's leaders know, and can do business with, McCain, who is sincere about the EU's biggest concern - the need to fight climate change. Both represent a new start and the impeding sense of relief is almost palpable.

However, neither Barack Obama nor John McCain will dissolve the laws of international relations or abandon US interests. Take climate change. Both Obama and McCain have said they will endorse a "cap-and-trade" system in the US, which the Bush administration has resisted.

But on the question that matters most to Europe - a global agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol - the next US president may not depart from Bush's position, which has been that China and India must be part of any deal. Once put under the microscope, other foreign policy issues show similar potential for trans-Atlantic divergence.

Standing in the way of a transatlantic love-in is also a rise in American anti-Europeanism, which will likely outlive the current administration. Even though the US electorate may repudiate some of President Bush' policies - only 39% of voters now deny the invasion of Iraq was a mistake - many have a decidedly negative view of Europe, originally formed in the "Freedom Fries" days of the Iraq War, but fostered by the perception that prominent European nations are refusing to bolster NATO's Afghan mission. Whilst neither Obama nor McCain are likely to stoke this sentiment, they will struggle to overcome it altogether.

To ensure that a new trans-Atlantic deal reflects Europe's interests - but has enough traction in Washington to stick - common policies are needed on: how to tackle NATO's Afghan mission; political instability in Pakistan; Russia's growing militarism; China's emergence as a global power; the future of NATO; ESDP and the United Nations, as well as how best way to fight international terrorism.

Daniel Korski is a senior fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. A former British official, he was a senior advisor in the US State Department, and then led the Basra Reconstruction Team.

This article was originally published on spectator.co.uk and is reprinted here with permission from the author.

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Unregistered User

September 24, 2008

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The author, former State Department official, is talking about Russian militarism. His country brutally violated a numerous of international laws, from illegal aggression to torture. Us military budget is 12 times large then that of Russia. Instead of helping to bring people together, as a real democracy would do, US is building new dividing walls in Europe (AMD system and numerous new military bases).

The author is trapped in the past. This kind of cold war talk is making it more difficult for the people of Big Europe to build a better peaceful future.
 
Marek  Swierczynski

September 24, 2008

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Russian military spending is 10 times smaller in volume than that of the US but it is on the rise. Just recently PM Putin approved a 25% rise of Russia's defence budget and the three year spending plan provides for further increases. Let us remember that the prices of equipment procured by the Pentagon and by the Russian defence ministry are very different. Let us remember also that the Russian army, navy and air forces are smaller in numbers than those of the US. Hence, the spending increase per helmet may be quite significant. As to militarism and democracy, with all respect to the values shared and cherished by Russia, I have not heard in the last 10 or 15 years about US army deployed on the US soil to fight with US nationals neither have I heard about US using tactical ballistic missiles against a neighbouring country.
Tags: | Russia | militarism | democracy |
 
Unregistered User

September 25, 2008

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US has used a broad variety of missiles against several countries over the last 10-15 years, even against civilian targets in the heart of Europe (Yugoslavia). In fact, the United States is the only country in the world that used nuclear weapons (also against civilians!).

I have no intention to promote anti-Americanism here. However, it is very important for us to be even handed and make a sincere effort to understand how people think in various corners of the world. If Russian peace keepers in S. Ossetia are bombed, but Russia has no right to defend them, then there is something wrong with this world. Georgia, a tiny country in the Russian neighborhood with extreme anti-Russian leadership, was one of the largest recipients of the US military aid. This was a conflict waiting to happen.
 
Heinrich  Bonnenberg

September 25, 2008

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US has lost WW4: unipolar ideology against multipolar ideology!!

We should sympathize with our transatlantic friends. We should try to understand their current loser behavior.
 
Patrick  Edwin Moran

September 26, 2008

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II do not see in the ordinary people of the U.S. the negative attitudes toward Europeans depicted in this article. But perhaps I am out of touch with the majority in the U.S. What interests me more is the attitudes that may dissuade the national governments of Europe from more active efforts to give the troubles states of Afghanistan and of Iraq some relief. I confess that I suspect much of the reason may lie in the attitude, "The Americans started these conflicts, so let them finish them. They botched their operations in both places, and now they would like us to risk lives and treasure to snatch the prizes out of the fire." It is of little matter if I am being cynical, but a cynical attitude on the parts of people with regard to the lives and liberties of citizens of other countries (be they in Eurasia, Africa, or elsewhere) will bring benefit to none.

 
Meredith L. Nicoll

September 26, 2008

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"II do not see in the ordinary people of the U.S. the negative attitudes toward Europeans depicted in this article. But perhaps I am out of touch with the majority in the U.S."

I would agree with the author that there is still a huge negative sentiment against Europeans. In addition to the whole "freedom fries" trend, let's not forget that John Kerry was actually ridiculed and politically weakened for his ability to speak French.
I have often seen Europeans depicted as silly, snooty and ashiest and I would speculate those who have these negative feelings toward Europeans might be those that also attached these same negative stereotypes to Kerry and who are now attaching them to other American "elites."
So, I understand that those who work or who have studied at Universities (the elite) wouldn't be very in touch with this group or would dismiss them as ridiculous. I certainly would like to dismiss them. However, these fearful, emotional stereotypes will, unfortunately, have a huge bearing on the outcome of the election in November.
Tags: | elite | anti-European | John Kerry | anti-French |
 
Leonie  Holthaus

September 26, 2008

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Meredith,
thank you for pointing out the difference in sentiments toward Europe among the US elite and „the average joe.“ I like your point because it highlights that we not only need a renewal of the transatlantic alliance to achieve a common foreign policy, but also a rapprochement of populations' opinions. On the European side, a lot of issues cause confusion, such as the death penalty or the important role of religion in election campaigns. Maybe analyzing the differences in our central issues of political debate would be even more fruitful than repeating the empty phrases about common values. It is about time to redefine these principles.
Tags: | EU | US |
 
Marek  Swierczynski

September 26, 2008

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Aren't we too worried about anti-Europeanism in the US? It is a splinter in the eye when we take the huge amount of anti-Americanism in Europe. The difference is that while US elites are less anti-European than the broad society, the European elites are much more anti-American than the popular opinion. An average American is tought that his country, which suffered a lot from Europe in the early days, saved Europe's ass twice in the XXth century and is probably saving it now once again with the war on terrorism. And the average American feels very offended to hear European presidents, chancellors and other leaders comparing the US administration to fascist dictatorships. Average people in many countries know who saved their freedom, but face a decades long brainwash. In Europe we're tought to praise the Red Army but to criticise the Allies for bombing Dresden. We're told that terrorism was not there until the US attacked Iraq. We're asked to embrace Russia - with all its failures - but we're warned not to trust America, that fails on many counts too. We're living in a double-standard Europe, in which political hypocrisy driven by short-term interests prevails over long-term vision and historical heritage. I am just waiting to hear the calls to withdraw Germany from Afghanistan - in result of the recent terror threat. I can almost hear one MEP spitting rage against the US policies that undoubtedly have brought terrorists to his Heimat. I can almost hear the calls to get rid of those bloody Americans from Europe and create a new Pan-European world from the Atlantic to the Pacific with our great partners...
 
Meredith L. Nicoll

September 26, 2008

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"The difference is that while US elites are less anti-European than the broad society, the European elites are much more anti-American than the popular opinion."

Good point! Especially when you think about examples like what Steinbrücke said to Parliament (http://www.ft.com/cms/s/a8ab34ea-8b63-11dd-b634-0000779fd18c,Author...) .
However, American elites run the universities, think tanks and sometimes the press... but are often kept out of political office, by, you guessed it, the "average Joe's" vote... a.k.a. what they hear from their church, their families, and the corporations running everything else. So, no. I don't think we are being too worried about xenophobic attitudes of Americans toward everything Europe.

The fact that the US saved Europe's ass in the 20th century has been a reason for the US to do whatever they wanted. It was like a 50 year long guilt trip. The truth is that today is different; the enemies are different and the world is not black and white anymore, no matter what the new-cold-war theorists say. We are all simultaneously the good guys and the bad guys to different people on this planet. Freedom, evil, liberty, and all those beloved terms that have constituted so much US violence toward so many people in the last 50 years are relative! So, this leads me to ask, who exaclty do we fight again? And what exactly does it mean to win a war?

The splintering off of microstates, the sweeping power of transnational corporations, the formation and success of translational terrorist organizations, the formation and success of multinational institutions like the EU, and the deterioration of the effectiveness of US democratic procedures, etc. all expose the vital failure of the old definition of the nation-state. Identity — that is really what the nation-state idea was all about wasn't it ? — is defined a lot less by geographical characteristics than we all would like to think, thank you the internet. And the sooner we can wrap our brains around that fact and embrace the grey culture soup this world has become, maybe we could make some headway.
 
Marek  Swierczynski

September 26, 2008

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This probably isn't the right place for such discussions, but let me just pick a few lines from you post, Meredith. You say "the world is not black and white anymore" , but has it ever been black and white? "Freedom, evil, liberty" were used not only by the US as an excuse for worst crimes imaginable. Relativity is always there: someone's freedom fighter is another one's terrorist - to quote the famous phrase. "Success of multinational institutions like the EU" - excuse me but I do not see that success in any serious international field: did the EU manage to stop Balkan wars? Did it perhaps manage to stop terrorists from attacking Europe? Maybe it helped to bring peace to Middle East? The fact is that neither of these world problems could have been tackled by the EU alone. "Deterioration of the effectiveness of US democratic procedures" - come on, Meredith, maybe you've missed the debate on democracy deficit in the EU but if the democratic procedures have been deterioratin anywhere in the world, the EU is probably one of the best examples of that process. Please, be fair: the US citizens at least choose their president. The citizens of the EU have been deprived the right from the very beginning. And the mess with the new treaty illustrates that Europe is as far from democracy as could be. But maybe that's the way ahead, because the most effective, most vibrant and most admired entities tend to be those with little or no democracy: Russia and China.
 
Meredith L. Nicoll

September 26, 2008

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Has the world ever been black and white?

I was referring to the assumed good/evil fight of WWII and the clear-cut us-or-them rhetoric of the cold war. My point is that today, those methods of projecting things in black and white, good and evil, free and suppressed, are easily understood and therefore good tools in order for people to control the decisions of many.

Of course "freedom, evil and liberty" were not only used specifically for no good, but just because they did something right 70 years ago, does not give them the right to stamp their definitions of those things on every single population on the planet with the same tactics: force.

About the success of the EU: My definition of success on an international field was pointing to the fact that it, itself, IS international and brings nations to work with each other who were enemies for hundreds of years, making their borders softer and their identities harder to pigeon-hole into geographic blocks. Sorry if these countries are a little self-centered at the moment, but I didn't think the point of the EU was not to govern the world just yet. Furthermore, if success is measured by the Balkan wars, by terrorism and by continued conflict in the Middle East, then we are ignoring every single accomplishment that we have achieved (the euro is a good example) and every single organization on the planet are all failures.

"the democratic procedures have been deterioratin anywhere in the world, the EU is probably one of the best examples of that process."

Yes, that was exactly my point. The US was just one example. Thank you for agreeing with me.

"Please, be fair: the US citizens at least choose their president. The citizens of the EU have been deprived the right from the very beginning."

Actually, the electoral college does... which doesn't play as important of a role as was intended. The originators of the constitution intended for it to protect the government from "the average Joe." Not a very democratic move on their part. On the flip side, the most democratic constitution in history was the Weimar Republic, where the people actually DID vote the president into power... and look how their choice of Hindenburg turned out. Makes me question this eternal positive connotation attached to the word "democracy."

I still would rather live in a democracy of course... but what is the good of having it unless you question it constantly?
 
Unregistered User

September 26, 2008

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People are trapped in history
and history is trapped in them.
James Baldwin
 
Donald  Stadler

September 27, 2008

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"I do not see in the ordinary people of the U.S. the negative attitudes toward Europeans depicted in this article. "

I don't see them either, Professor, but as an expat I am even more out of touch than you are in Winston Salem. What I do think I am seeing is a certain cooling of attitudes in the US, the equivalent of a cooling in Europe which you mention below:

"I confess that I suspect much of the reason may lie in the attitude, "The Americans started these conflicts, so let them finish them. They botched their operations in both places, and now they would like us to risk lives and treasure to snatch the prizes out of the fire." "

I think some people lack long-term memory. The US intervened in the Balkans less than a decade ago after central Europe failed to halt a genocidal civil war by negociation. Even though it was a European War, started by Europeans in an geographic area historically of little concern to the US, the US came in and ended it - to much general condemnation by the very Europeans who could not clean their own backyard without the US military.

Should another European crisis blow up over the next few years it is going to be very tempting for Americans to react in precisely the same manner. "It's a European war, the Europeans botched it, and now they wish us to risk life and treasure to defent good old Europe. No thanks."

Whether it's Serbia or Russia that frankly will be my attitude. Not because I hate Europe but because I've been forced to develop a certain detachment from the affairs of Europe and the opinions of Europeans in recent years - as they have done with the US!
 
Donald  Stadler

September 27, 2008

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"However, American elites run the universities, think tanks and sometimes the press... but are often kept out of political office, by, you guessed it, the "average Joe's" vote"

I'm trying to think of a single western country where a member of the 'elite' has a better chance of being elected than in the US, and I can think of precisely one example - France.

In France they send their political elite to a special professional school (École Nationale d'Administration) which may be the single most selective graduate school on earth. The current French President is an exception to this rule, not being a graduate of the ENA. But Sarko is an elite in an older sense; he is a talented political infighter - the best of his generation.

I would argue that all recent US presidents are members of the elite. It's just that the most successful ones are very good at avoiding that appearance. Even Bush. Bush is a graduate of Yale University, which vies with Princeton and Harvard Universities as the most elite college in the US, and a graduate of the Harvard Business School, without much doubt the best graduate school of business in the US and probably the world. Bill Clinton graduated from Georgetown University (a top liberal arts school and one of two schools preeminent in training diplomats), and Yale Law School. YLS is (you guessed it) the best Law school in the US. George Herbert Walker Bush attended Yale and was clearly identified as one of the elite. Jimmy Carter graduated from Annapolis.

Ronald Reagan was from a different kind of elite. He made successful careers in sportcasting, as a Hollywood actor, as a respected spokesman and public speaker, and as a politician. He had a regular 5 minute radio show between 1974 and 1980, except when he was running for President. He was from an elite of accomplishment rather than schooling but no less a member of the elite. Richard Nixon went to lesser-known schools but is generally regarded as one of the most brilliant men to hold the office in the 20th century.

Compared with these men the candidates which failed to win election in the past 50 years are often of lesser demonstrated ability. John Kerry attended Harvard at the same time as Bush attended Yale - but his grades were lower than Bush. Kerry compiled a mediocre record in 18 years in the Senate. Prior to his Senate career he was an unremarkable Lt Governor of Masachusetts. Perhaps in compensation he conciously tried to be seen as 'elite' - but in fact he was a failure in practice.

Gore had a better Senatorial record than Kerry but was not regarded as a leading Senator, and his college record was at best uncertain. He was the son of another Senator, but his father was probably the better politician. Gore overcomensated I think. He never really communicated why he wished to be President (at least to me). He seemed to believe it was his turn after Clinton, and little more.

Many people don't see Bush as the member of the elite for two reasons: He has chosen an anti-elite political personae and he conciously sports a Texan accent, which many associate with being stupid. This is a callow predjudice unworthy of a sophisticated person, so why so many supposed sophisticates seem to hold it is beyond reason.
 
Donald  Stadler

September 27, 2008

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"Has the world ever been black and white?"

Yes, Meredith, it has. In Europe over the past 20 years. Europeans see things in shades of gray, but not where the US and it's interests are concerned.

The mishandling of a few prisoners at Abu Ghraib is viewed as sufficient grounds for Europe to potentially rupture NATO by treating the US as a despised supplier of unpaid mercenaries instead of a respected ally who has hauled Europes collective ass out of the fire multiple times this century. I don't only refer to "ancient history" such as US interventions in WWI and WWII, but also to US willingness to serve as guarantor of European security since 1948, and finally to the US willingness to intervene in the Kosovar War in an area of complete unconcern to the US but of great concern to central Europe.

But give Europeans just one or two relatively minor matters to blacken the US reputation with (Abu Ghraib and G-bay) and we find ourselves being painted as the natural successors of Hitler, Stalin, and Beria. This is not confined to propoganda but has been reflected in European policy going back to the Clinton administration.
 
Heinrich  Bonnenberg

September 28, 2008

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I am sorry: but since November 7th 2000 the US has shown the world that non-professional election, presidential lie, conquistador behavior, financial fraud, highclass robbery, living beyond one means, private and public accumulation of debt, throwaway mentality, trapper way of thinking, young earth creationism, plutocracy, death penalty, torture, jail camps without rights and last not least double moral standard are obviously not the best arms to rule the world and to solve its problems.
Let us hope and pray that the next president and his administration will come back to the basic principles of US: justice, correctness, estimation, performance as we, the Westgermans, have witnessed them since November 27th 1945, mainly in 1946, 1948/49 and 1990, which we shall thankfully never forget, never.
Anyway, Europe will become a competitor of US, step by step, and US will react playing hardball, hopefully with fairness. Has US already started?
 
Meredith L. Nicoll

September 29, 2008

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"John Kerry attended Harvard at the same time as Bush attended Yale - but his grades were lower than Bush"

They both went to Yale and both were C students. Fine. Let's ignore Bush's many failed business attempts, his stellar service in the National Guard and the fact that he had no interest in other cultures but his own. If they, Bush and Kerry, were under par, I think that proves my point that the two candidates that got as far as the presidential race were not exceptional.
And yes, Bush is seen less elite for his accent. His fake accent, I might add. He is from Connecticut, an grew up in Houston in a wealthy home. Nobody I know from Houston has an accent and no other member of his family has an accent. He has developed it to appeal to those who hate the elite, to make himself more folksy. So, I wouldn't feel that sorry for him.

So maybe I can alter point a little. Yes, there are elites in government. However, a lot of them dumb themselves down in order to prey upon the existing anti-elite / anti-European tendencies in the US population and to push their agenda. I believe this was the original subject of that previous post in the first place: the US population does, indeed, have anti-European sentiments, displayed by the actions of politicians to make themselves seem less elite/ less cultured/ more average/ less open to different opinions other than those of the US.
 
Donald  Stadler

September 30, 2008

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Meredith, you also ignore the fact that Kerry deliberately made himself into a political lightning rod by leaving Vietnam 4 months into a one year hitch, and later and more unforgivably by throwing his medals away.

He did his best to dishonor his own service and heaped scorn upon his fellow soldiers and then was astonished to find himself on the sharp end of attacks.

I personally am astonished that the Democrats overlooked two men who would have made fine presidents during these years. Former Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey was a sharp man and a bona-fide military hero who lost his leg in Vietnam and was decorated with the Medal of Honor, yet never was given even a sniff of the White House. Failing him, Joseph Leiberman would have been a fine President.

Both men were genuinely elite, far more so than John Kerry was. Both accomplished more than Kerry did as Senators, were better students, and both accomplished more before political life than Kerry did.

The Democrats have had a death wish since 1996, the last time they bothered to nominate the best man they had.

In 2008 we'll see. My feeling is that Obama is the most talented Dem since Clinton, but I would have preferred to see him take a turn as Veep or Governor of Illinois before going for the golden ring. Nevertheless he is winning this year. I decided to support him this spring and have seen little to change my mind. He doesn't have to be perfect, just the better choice. I also like Mccain, but I think he lacks a certain suppleness of personality which I think will be very much needed over the next 4 years. So it's Obama. May God have mercy on him, it's gonna be a hell of a ride!
 
Meredith L. Nicoll

October 1, 2008

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Donald,

Yes, I agree with you. I was also disappointed that Kerry was the best the Democrats could muster. But I really, truly have faith in the current one.

Obama's talent is undeniable. Yes, he is green, but I cannot deny my hope that his newbie status may somehow protect his honesty and drive. (And it is only a coincidence that Senator John McCain rhymes so nicely with Senator Joseph Paine.)

Oh, apropos, Jeffrey Sachs just published and article on Project Syndicate entitled "The American Anti-Intellectual Threat." I thought it very fitting to our discussion.
http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/sachs145/English
 
Member deleted

October 1, 2008

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I totally agree that transatlantic tension will remain. Reason to me is that both canditates have selected "Russophobe" persons as their aids. Biden has proposed concentration camps for Serbs, Palin is ready to war with Russians with expertice that planes are flying over Alaska to Russia, Brezinski and Scheuneman are designing the future foreign relations. What I am afraid is that whit this kind of Presidents, vice-presidents and aids the escalation to war is possible e.g. if Crimea separates from Ukraine. I hope that (western) Europeans could a little bit cool down the situation before US shortsighted foreign policy goes to yet another catastrophe making mess also to the whole world.
 
Heinrich  Bonnenberg

October 2, 2008

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we need a Pan-European conference as soon as possible. One result will be: integrity of Ukraine on one hand and no NATO membership of Ukraine on other hand. That will anyway come but with anxiety and some blood without conference! It is really better to speak. The conference should be happen in Autria, neutral!!! and very much respected by East and West.
 
Donald  Stadler

October 2, 2008

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Meridith, this exchange reminds me of something I read a few years ago discussing the difference between an Intellectual and an intellectual.

An intellectual is someone who reads books and thinks about them, maybe discusses ideas, visits museums, theatre, travels.

An Intellectual (capital I) is a member of a social class. I think Kerry was more of an Intellectual than an intellectual. An Intellectual buys a Ducati rather than a Harley (something Kerry actually did).

Another thing about Kerry which didn't go down well was his penchant for marrying extremely rich women. Theresa Heinz Kerry was worth about $800 million in 2004. A previous wife had a net worth of more than $300 million.

The 'Lifestyles of the Super Rich" thing led to a certain perception that John Kerry was disconnected with the average American. I remember a picture in "The Onion" (a satirical newspaper) showing Kerry delivering a campaign speech from the prow of an enormous yacht.

Anyway, I saw Kerry as less a reflective and thinking intellectual than a lifetyle 'Intellectual' - and that is a real disctinction.
 

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