'As Goes Paris, So Goes Wheeling, West Virginia'

July 24th, 2008 8:36 AM

Many McCain fans are no doubt bracing for the waves of European adulation that are about to break over Barack Obama, the MSM avidly reporting the scenes.  With polls showing Obama with a 50+ percentage-point lead across the Old Continent [the French leading the Obamaphile way at 64-4%], the Dem candidate is assured of ecstatic crowds wherever he goes.  Euro-Obamamania begins in Berlin today, with a speech by the candidate at the "Victory Column" in Tiergarten park.

But could all the adoration backfire?  That emerging theme has found expression in two very different ways this morning.  On the one hand, a scholarly exposition by Prof. Thomas Madden, writing at NRO—who draws parallels to the world of ancient Greco-Roman politics—and in more colloquial fashion by Joe Scarborough.

Here's how the Morning Joe host put it today at 6:34 AM EDT, in an exchange with Mika Brzezinski and Willie Geist. Republican strategist Mike Murphy got in a good line at the very end.

View video here.

JOE SCARBOROUGH [tongue-in-cheek]: Sometime, you know, I have trouble sleeping.  No, seriously, I call Willie up in the middle of the night, a lot of times --

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: I don't want to hear about your personal life.

SCARBOROUGH: I'm tossing back and -- Willie, what does it always come down to? I mean, you know what it always comes down to.

BRZEZINSKI: What does it come down to?

SCARBOROUGH: I'm worried about our tarnished reputation in Europe.

BRZEZINSKI: Oh-h-h-h-h!

SCARBOROUGH: I'm like: Willie, what do they think about America in Luxembourg?

BRZEZINSKI: You're making fun of my op-ed [which contains the "tarnished reputation" phrase].  I don't appreciate this.

WILLIE GEIST: There's some new polls out, I think you'll be very dismayed by, Joe. You're not going to like what you see.

SCARBOROUGH: If they could only love us as much as they loved Ronald Reagan when he deployed Pershing II missiles to western Germany, and millions of people went out into the streets screaming "death to America."  If they could love us like that.  But all of this has just happened in the last seven years. They used to—oh, I'm sorry, let's read, let's read your op-ed, because there is hope, Willie.  They may love us in Luxembourg, yet. Go ahead, Mika.

BRZEZINSKI: Oh, may I speak now? Stunning!

SCARBOROUGH: When I say "go ahead," that's your five-second window of opportunity.  I'd jump through it.

BRZEZINSKI: Annette Houser, Washington Post, A European Honeymoon:
[T]he senator can begin to revive America's tarnished reputation. Many Europeans have become disenchanted with U.S. foreign and domestic policies under the current administration. Obama can try to associate his image as a driver for change and motor for innovation with the image of his nation.

BRZEZINSKI: That's nice.

SCARBOROUGH: A European honeymoon.  You know, perhaps --

BRZEZINSKI: He is having one! You better admit it, mister.

SCARBOROUGH: Perhaps we are the change we've been waiting for.

BRZEZINSKI: Well, you know what?  Apparently he is.  Take a look at what is happening all over the airwaves. He's having a good week.

SCARBOROUGH: In Europe, I know. That's great. I'm so excited.

BRZEZINSKI: I actually think it probably doesn't hurt for Americans to see him on the international stage as well.

GEIST: That’s why he's there.

BRZEZINSKI: Well, I'm just saying: it's not just for Europe. What did you pick?

SCARBOROUGH: OK, yeah.  As goes Paris, so goes Wheeling, West Virginia.

BRZEZINSKI: Alright, be quiet.

MIKE MURPHY: He could be the next Jerry Lewis if he plays his cards right.

SCARBOROUGH: He could.  Very big in France!

OK, we began with dessert. But over at National Review Online, Prof. Madden makes the scholarly point that there is political danger for American politicians in currying the favor of the Old World. He points to the example of Roman politicians of antiquity, who while revering Greek culture, were also careful to dissociate themselves from what came to be seen as the feckless and decadent Old World that Greece represented:

By the first century B.C. when Cicero (another new man) was on the stump it was political suicide to be seen as a Greek effete or dandy. Although Cicero spoke Greek fluently, he was happy to relate his grandfather’s maxim that “the better one learns Greek the worse a scoundrel one becomes.” Cicero was well-versed in Greek culture, yet he pretended not to remember the names of Greek artists and dished out contempt for Roman elites who slavishly aped Greek manners and tastes. Cicero knew well the political dangers of being too chummy with the Old World elite.

Concludes Madden:

[N]o matter what Obama says in Europe, and no matter how many times he says it, there will still be the crowds. And they will be vast, ecstatic, and thoroughly European. With their cheering enthusiasm they will make abundantly clear to Americans just who they want elected in November.
And in that great, big, adoring embrace, the Europeans really could love their candidate to death.

It's going to be a fascinating few days, observing the interaction between Obama and the adoring crowds, and judging the reaction back home. We'll be watching  . . .