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French President Nicolas Sarkozy spoke at Columbia University this morning, and he delivered some words that seemed much in line with things I heard over the last two weeks in Belgium and Germany. The first point generally made is that the American “brand” has gone up quite a bit. The second is that Barack Obama may be having a rough time in the United States, but among the Europeans, his name is gold across the political spectrum. Some of Sarkozy’s remarks are quoted in the current AP wire report.
On healthcare reform—“Welcome to the club of states who don’t turn their back on the sick and the poor… When we look at the American debate on reforming health care, it’s difficult to believe. The very fact that there should have been such a violent debate simply on the fact that the poorest of Americans should not be left out in the streets without a cent to look after them … is something astonishing to us. If you come to France and something happens to you, you won’t be asked for your credit card before you’re rushed to the hospital.”
The Obama healthcare reform is somewhat less aggressive that the one that Bismarck introduced in Germany in the early 1880s. And it’s being derided as “socialist”? Not from the perspective of the Europeans, including those, like Sarkozy, on the right. I have had to seek medical care on a visit to France in the past, and I can attest that Sarkozy is not exaggerating. After being examined and getting some drugs prescribed for a tenacious cold, I explained that I had U.S. health insurance. To which the doctor responded, “eh bien, tant pis,” or “let’s just not bother with that.” The encounter overall was friendlier than anything I’ve ever experienced stateside. Indeed, the freedom with which drugs were handed out was puzzling.
On America’s role in the world—“Reflect on what it means to be the world’s No. 1 power. The world needs an open America, a generous America, an America that shows the way, an America that listens.”
This is a standard message from Europeans these days, much like the one that German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivered when she addressed Congress. Europe wants an America that assumes its natural position of leadership. That’s what they saw as missing in the Bush years: leadership.
More from Scott Horton:
Conversation — August 5, 2016, 12:08 pm
Sidney Blumenthal on the origins of the Republican Party, the fallout from Clinton’s emails, and his new biography of Abraham Lincoln
Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.
Amount paid last fall for a Ford Escort driven by Pope John Paul II:
92 percent of Mexicans are relaxed by a pleasant-smelling bedroom.
Swedish biologists studying coercive mating in mosquitofish discovered that females’ brains get larger as males’ genitals get longer, and male Madagascar hissing cockroaches were found to attract mates with either their enlarged testicles or their enlarged horns.
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"It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of one’s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many times—in Germany, in Austria, and in France. I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis."