EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece appears in the September 26, 2005, issue of National Review.
Most of us are familiar with the subtle differences between even relatively compatible cultures. One notes, for example, that what’s known to Americans as “The Hokey-Pokey” is called in Britain “The Hokey-Cokey.” Just when you think you’ve figured out what it’s all about, it turns out you haven’t quite grasped all the nuances.
Accustomed as I am to these linguistic variations, I was nevertheless brought up short browsing the Guardian the other day and reading that Angela Merkel’s election victory would make Germany “the 20th of the 25 EU nations with a centre-right government.”
That’s right: The EU–you know, the EUnuchs, the Euro-weenies, the proverbial cheese-eating surrender monkeys, etc.–are four-fifths “center-right.” Half a decade ago, they were all center-left Third Wayers. But having put its left foot in, Europe pulled its left foot out, stuck its right foot in, and shook it all about.
The Guardian is technically correct. At the moment, Europe is governed largely by politicians of “the right.” Jacques Chirac, for example, is in French terms a “conservative.” Granted, “conservative” is an elastic designation, and, in the hands of the media, it’s usually shorthand for the side you’re not meant to like. Thus, George W. Bush is “conservative,” and so are unreconstructed Marxists in the Chinese politburo and the more hardline ayatollahs . . .