Where was everyone? asked Hans Monath in Germany’s Tagesspiegel. Perhaps it was different in the other nations visited by President George W. Bush during his six-day farewell tour of Europe, but here in Germany, Bush’s arrival practically went unnoticed. True, Bush “has few friends” in this country, but not even the “militant left” turned out to bid “good riddance” to the president who gave us the war in Iraq, torture, and the degradation of international law. The same was true across Europe, said Tom Baldwin in the London Times. In Italy, bracing for massive anti-Bush protests, the police set aside an entire prison to house all the protesters they anticipated arresting. Instead, they got a halfhearted march of 2,000 demonstrators, “most of whom went home when it started to rain.”
That’s because we know a lame duck when we see one, said Uwe Vorkötter
in Germany’s Rundschau. We can read the American political calendar as well as anyone, and we can see that George Bush’s “time is nearly up—finally.” What point would there be in protesting the arrival of this man with “the simplistic worldview and the foolish smirk?” We’re too busy being relieved at Bush’s imminent departure from the world scene to protest his arrival on our soil. Not that we aren’t glad he’s making this farewell tour, said the London Guardian in an editorial. It’s a reminder that he’s leaving, and that’s “enough to lift the spirits.”
There may have been a “distinctly anticlimactic air to his last trip to Europe,” said Gerard Baker in the London Times, but we Europeans are going to miss George Bush more than we realize. Whether Barack Obama or John McCain succeeds Bush, we’re going to find out what a luxury it was having such a willing “villain in the White House.” In Europe’s caricature of the dim, warmongering, unilateralist Bush, we had the perfect scapegoat for all our problems. Global warming? It was Bush’s fault for opting out of the Kyoto Treaty. Terrorism? Instability in the Middle East? All Bush’s fault, for invading Iraq, and/or supporting Israel, and/or pillaging the world’s oil. When Bush is gone, those excuses go with him.
There’s a more subtle reason Bush’s visit passed so quietly, said Bérengère Guy in France’s Le Monde: People don’t hate America here the way they did a few months ago. “Over the past decade, the global image of the United States has been tarnished” as seldom before in history. But with the imminent departure of Bush, and the rise of Obama, who is wildly popular across the world, there has already been a “slight amelioration” in America’s image. Rather than protest the America of the last seven years, said Gregor Schmitz in Germany’s Der Spiegel, most Europeans are “looking beyond Bush” to the America of tomorrow.