Dutch POV: McCain “acts like angry neighbor”

I live in Leiden, one of the smaller big cities in The Netherland’s (NL) most heavily populated region, the Randstad. I am learning, or trying to learn/understand/speak/read the Dutch language. As it turns out, Dutch is considered by many as the second toughest language to learn… after Chinese! Holy moly.

However, I have learned one thing: politically, the Dutch are as tough as their language. It is a complex mix of parties that fosters ever-shifting coalitions among its liberal, conservative, socialist, green, and religious members.

Along that spectrum, there is, according to local papers here, a place for GOP VP nominee Sarah Palin: seems a small minority have adopted Gov. Palin as a role model for Dutch womanhood.  However, most of the Nederanders I know will be stunned if Senator Barack Obama loses to Senator John McCain on 4 November 2008.

cross-posted at dkos

Perhaps the best description I’ve heard of John McCain is a sound bite from a radio commentator, who said:

John McCain acts like an angry neighbor.

And I thought, oh my god, that’s it. He’s very much like an in-your-face whining neighbor, assailing you based on the false logic of self-interest.

The people I know here, including other buitenlanders (non-Dutch living in NL), perceive Barack Obama as a more balanced candidate and one more likely, for example, to back world-based green initiatives, work via alliances to deal with global terrorism, and honor global treaties. The fear here is that McCain would pursue a more aggressive foreign policy than George W. Bush.

Having said that, the debates did little to impress the Dutch, on either side. From what I can tell, those in NL perceived the debates as little more than talking points, with very little substance.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former Dutch parliamentarian now living in the USA, wrote a recent essay about these two candidates. I cite her because she captures the perceptions of those with whom I’ve discussed American politics.

Their choice of words and their party affiliations distinguish them, but their foreign policies do not. Obama wants to combat “global terrorism,” McCain to win “the war on terror.” This is a matter of style, not content.

What orders their priorities is continuity with their predecessors (despite Obama’s insistence that he wants to “end the mindset that got us into war”) and the simple fact of a world where America is the dominant power. This, in turn, means that whoever wins the election will choose from a much narrower range of options than his campaign speeches might suggest. If there is a crisis that directly threatens American interests and this requires military intervention, then either candidate will intervene. In 1991, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, energy flows into the American economy were imperiled, and so there was military intervention. By contrast, there is no military intervention in Sudan to save the people of Darfur because no direct threat or vital interest presents itself.

Even their rhetoric tends to be nearly indistinguishable. The candidate who summons America to “lead the world in battling immediate evils and promoting the ultimate good” and says the U.S. military should “stay on the offense, from Djibouti to Kandahar” is not John McCain. It is Barack Obama. The candidate who would “combat HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, fashion better policies to confront environmental crises”-this is McCain.

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Having cited Ms. Hirsi Ali, I absolutely believe that John McCain has the potential to further upend stability in America and the world. I will be bold enough to say that the many people I know in Europe and those with whom they discuss these issues agree: a McCain presidency bodes ill for this planet.

They, and I, keep our fingers crossed that we won’t see a repeat of this headline on 5 November 2008:

daily mirror


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    • pfiore8 on October 20, 2008 at 12:30

    and when I wake up on 5 November 2008, it’s to an Obama victory.

    • pfiore8 on October 20, 2008 at 12:49

    never moon a werewolf

    just had to share it!

    • RiaD on October 20, 2008 at 16:17

    is spot-on:

    Obama wants to combat “global terrorism,” McCain to win “the war on terror.” This is a matter of style, not content.

    Obama is the better choice…. but the similarities between them are…disturbing.

  1. Neighbor McCain

    One of these days I’ll learn how to post the picture directly, but this picture is too much, too good, it can’t wait for me.

  2. …is an utterly fascinating character.  She’s like, five movies in one life.

    Congratulations on your Nederlands classes!  What a hard and wonderful thing.  

    The world will be so freaked out if McCain wins.  Not freaked out enough to give any of us asylum, though :}

  3. is still the lesser of two evils.  There is no new active accountability for 911.  There is still the left’s total endorsement in many regards of the global military-industrial complex structure supporting Orwell world and total surveillance.  

    Kudos on learning Dutch and the myriad miraculous diversity that is European politics.  It is an eye opening experience and you for the rest of your lifetime will benefit greatly from it.  You will know stuff, be able to make a decision based upon what little there is of non-propraganda media there is left.  You will be light years ahead of the rethuglican thinking.

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