May 28th, 2008


The next President of Europe

One of the best pieces of news this month was that, after meeting with Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy withdrew his (crucial) support for Tony Blair to become the next President of Europe. Why? Because of Blair's support for the Iraq war, apparently, and Britain's failure to adopt the euro and join the Schengen zone of passport-free travel.

So who should become the next president of Europe? Perhaps it should be Barack Obama. He's already won the hearts and minds of this continent. And if Brian Eno, talking to Wired last week, is to be believed, Obama has little chance of becoming president of the US.


"I'm sorry to say that I think America isn't quite there yet," Eno tells Wired. Here's his thinking. It makes worrying reading, because Eno has very often been right, including the last time he predicted a Democrat wouldn't win.

Wired: "You won a $500 Long Bet with Stewart Brand (in 2002) that by August 2005, a Democrat would not be president of the US. Would you be willing to go double or nothing that by August 2009 a Dem will be president of the US? Why or why not?"

Eno: "I would bet the same again this time. I feel that the Rightists in America have almost complete media dominance — and are prepared to play as dirty as they need. They would be very happy with Clinton as the Democratic candidate because they know exactly how to slice her to pieces. A Clinton candidature means a Republican presidency, as far as I can see. Obama is more of a problem, because nobody hates him (as they do Clinton) and indeed a lot of people are genuinely inspired by him. So his candidacy will require the very dirtiest of dirty tricks, and I have no doubt they'll sink to the challenge."

"In 2002, I felt that it was important for the Republicans to win. Kerry did not strike me as a charismatic candidate, and I felt that whoever took the presidency next would get blamed for the complete cock-up that Bush and his team had started. If Kerry had won, he and the Democrats would now be getting the blame for the failures in Iraq and Afghanistan and the collapse of your economy. This would have given the Republicans 25 years of dominance — as they would continue to point back at Iraq, etc. and say, "That's what the Democrats will do for you." So it seemed to me important that Bush take the can for all that, since it was directly the result of his policies. I imagined that the resulting disillusionment with Bush and the Bushmen would open the way for a new broom — I was at that time hoping it would be Hillary Clinton. I thought the change of a mood in the country would enable her to take a strongly liberal position and not have to apologize for it. She hasn't done that, because she dare not. She knows the knives are out for any sign on her part that she'll be "softer" than McCain — because she's trying to play him at his own game, instead of coming up with a different one."

"As it turns out, it's Obama who is playing the different game. I hope that he will be the Democratic candidate. I would be thrilled if he became the president. However, I think he will be cut to ribbons by the most disgraceful campaign any of us will ever have witnessed. He has to be discredited, and he will be, somehow. And I worry that the American people will complain about it and then swallow it as they swallowed the fraudulent election of Bush. So, no, I wouldn't bet on a Democrat being president. I dearly wish that would be the case — either Obama or Clinton — but I'm sorry to say that I think America isn't quite there yet. It may require another four years of collapse and chaos under another Republican administration."

As dearly as Eno hopes he's wrong about this, I hope he's wrong about this. And as avidly as Eno supports Obama, I support Obama. But I've learned that most Americans (most British, for that matter, or certainly English) think differently from me in matters like this, and that just because I think a politician's views are sane and reasonable, it doesn't follow that they'll see things the same way. Here in continental Europe, though, we like Obama. Should he fail in his bid to become US president, he should come and do the job over here. It would be a step up, not down; after all, we in the European Union are considerably richer and more than twice as populous (728 million versus 300 million) than the US. What's more, we're a lot better educated than the average American, which is probably why we're more likely to agree with Obama's policies than his fellow countrymen are.

If Eno is right and America "isn't ready yet" for an Obama presidency, well, Europe is. You Americans just haven't earned him, and don't deserve anyone quite that good anyway, the way you've been behaving this decade. So, ladies and gentlemen, I give you... the next President of the United States of Europe!