Glimmers of Hope

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For KCRW, this is Nick Madigan of The Baltimore Sun with Minding the Media.

News reports from around the world have documented the relief, and in some cases the joy, that greeted the results of last week's Congressional elections.

News that Democrats has been restored to power in both houses of Congress was a breath of fresh air to people overseas who have watched with increasing concern the relentless chaos in Iraq and the collapse of America's relationships with Iran, Syria and North Korea.

Two days after the election, the Associated Press reported that, from Paris to Pakistan, people hoped that the Democratic victories would "force President Bush to adopt a more conciliatory approach to global crises," and teach "a lesson in humility" to a president many see as a "cowboy." There was "global giddiness that Bush was finally handed a political black eye," the AP said.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, no friend of Bush's, was quoted as saying that "the citizens of the United States are humans with a conscience." The AP reported that more than 200 Socialist members of the European Parliament hailed the American vote as "the beginning of the end of a six-year nightmare for the world."

An editorial in the British newspaper The Guardian, headlined, "Thank you, America," said that "George Bush has led an American administration that has played an unprecedentedly negative and polarizing role in the world's affairs."

The Guardian said the new political alignment will "reassert a different and better United States that can again offer hope, instead of despair, to the world."

"The 2006 midterms bring to an end the 12 intensely divisive years of Republican House rule," The Guardian said. "These have been years of zealously and confrontational conservative politics that have shocked the world and, under Mr. Bush, have sent America's global standing plummeting."

The United States has been left "with a terrible legacy," the editorial said, including "climate-change denial... a shockingly permissive gun culture, an embrace of capital punishment equaled only by some of the world's worst tyrannies, the impeachment of Bill Clinton and his replacement by a president who does not believe in... evolution."

The Reuters news agency wrote that European politicians who opposed the war in Iraq felt vindicated by the Democrats' victory and the long-overdue firing of Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld.

"The reaction across the continent ranged from unrestrained gloating to diplomatic tiptoeing. But the bottom-line message to… Bush over his Iraq campaign was, 'We told you so.'"

In Italy, Pino Sgobio, a Communist Party official in the ruling center-left coalition, said, "The king has no clothes."

"These elections have certified the failure of six years of (U.S.) foreign and military policy," he said.

Reuters also quoted Italian Foreign minister Massimo D'Alema as saying the "cycle of preventative wars, of unilateralism, has ended in a great failure that even the American public has acknowledged."

In Spain, Jose Blanco, an official with the ruling Socialist Party, said Americans realize that "invasions like that of Iraq don't get rid of the radicals, but have precisely the opposite effect."

Closer to home, Frank Rich wrote in Sunday's New York Times that the election returns confirmed that Americans of both parties "are far better people than this cynical White House takes them for."

This was the year that Americans said a decisive no to vicious, racist politics "just as firmly as they did to pre-emptive war and Congressional corruption," Rich wrote.

Stanley Brand, a former general counsel to the House of Representatives, wrote on The Times's Op-Ed page that the Democratic majority has a Constitutional duty to investigate how the Bush administration managed to so badly mess up Iraq.

The executive branch, he wrote, cloaked itself in secrecy and "boldly asserted unprecedented powers" in the conduct of the war, "with disastrous consequences that the electorate has now repudiated."

This is Nick Madigan of The Baltimore Sun, Minding the Media on KCRW.



Nick Madigan