There is a sharp intake of breath at a BBC meeting when I tell the story of friends in Washington who have been known, after saying grace at the start of their smart dinner parties, to raise their glasses a second time with the shout, ‘Death to al-Qa’eda!’ This approach to the world, simplistic and doomed to disappointment as it doubtless is, strikes me as refreshing in its acknowledgement of identity. American self-confidence has been battered by the Iraq war and by events on Wall Street — on the eve of this election most Americans think the country is in poor shape — but they still back themselves and the American creed: pluralism, tolerance and freedom. They raise their glasses in what they genuinely believe is a fundamentally decent cause. And I raise my glass back to them.
I now have this great desire to organise a dinner party and invite Yasmin, Polly, Johann, Jackie, Sir Michael, et al. Mind you, I suspect they would be more shocked by the thought of saying grace, than by raising a toast to the death of Al Qaeda. Having said that, as an agnostic, it's not likely to happen at any dinner party I organise, I suppose.
The point about Justin Webb is that, having read his excellent book "Have a Nice Day!", you realise he plays it fairly well down the middle with a straight bat.
Some deride him as a pinko, some deride him as a 'rah-rah-rah' yank who has gone native. Some think he hates Bush, some think he hates Obama, but he tends to worry less about what people think of him, or attempting a 'faux-impartiality', and worry more about being interesting.
The success of his blog tends to confirm the wisdom of his approach, and his book has certainly persuaded me to look at the Americans in a new, and rather more circumspect, light..
This, unfortunately, is exactly what we have come to expect from the New Labour so-called "government" and its faithful lapdog Pravda-like allies the Brown Broadcasting Corporation.
So Justin Webb is disgusted that Americans might say 'Death to Al-Qaeda' when raising a toast, is he? Would he prefer it if they praised Al-Qaeda? No doubt he, and the rest of the BBC/New Labour ilk, would? Unbelievable yet typical.
Fortunately for the English people, very soon the Conservatives will be in power - and a massive overhaul of the Brown Broadcasting Corporation is sure to follow.
I'd happily raise a glass to the death of the BBC.
Do I sense a follow on to Dinner with Portillo? You have to admit, Iain, Dinner with Dale does have a certain ring to it...
"I suspect they would be more shocked by the thought of saying grace"
Why, Iain? What a ridiculous assertion to make. Back it up with a shred of evidence, if you can.
Justin Webb DOES NOT say "Death to Al Qaeda". I think you misread what he was saying.
Read again very slowly. The clue is in the word "suspect".
I feel foreign correspondents should always be world weary cynics. Justin Webb gives the impression he just can't believe his luck that he's somehow been appointed as US Correspondent. Surely the BBC must be able to see by now that he'd be more suited to Newsround.
Iain - OT - but going back to your blog, yesterday, suggesting Prime Minister Brown was being snubbed by the US and by Paulson in particular -how do you react to his meeting today with the President and his other meetings, (Tim Geithner - Head of the New York Federal Reserve, George Soros etc)?
Given that he has been invited to see the President and is playing a significant part in clearing up the mess left by the US Republican administration. Will the Conservatives offer their support?
Brown's measured response (which is actually more pro market than the republican administration)
contrasts well with Cameron (`lets defend the markets at all costs')Cameron is well out of his depth on this financial crisis - and his silence speaks volumes to the british public.
Perhaps one should ask whether Al Q***a will reciprocate the toast?
Get Cranmer to organise it then.
Shame it took them so long to take a similar attitude to Nazi Germany.
Oh dear, John Bull. Seeing what we want to see, are we? Try reading what Justin Webb actually said and point to where he says he is disgusted at Americans saying "death to Al Qa'eda"? Read it carefully and you might just spot that he describes it as "refreshing" and says "I raise my glass back to them".
Webb seems to have grown up in the last few years, he used to a horrible little snot and was the reason I stopped listening to al Beeb on shortwave.
So many of the UK correspondents in the US report throught the lens of East Coast dinner party chatter which is not at all representative of the country as a whole, a fact which the East Coasters themselves are frequently unaware.
Justin Webb's blog is jolly good sport. He's plays both sides off against each other wonderfully. He's another blogger who proves that people rarely read posts properly and are only too eager to impose their biases when interpreting what he is saying (bit like here I s'pose). It also proves there are lots of mental people on the internet.
"Oh dear, John Bull. Seeing what we want to see, are we?"
Oh dear, Labour troll. Having a quiet Friday at work, are we?
Defend Justin Webb as much as you want, that's your right. It's my right to object to my licence fee paying a man who seems to be disgusted by Americans saying "Death to Al-Qaeda".
You know you're working for American values when you:
Accuse others of interfering in Middle Eastern affairs.
Claim to value democracy in the Middle east, but refuse to recognise the democratically elected party of Hamas.
Claim to despise dictatorships in the Middle East but support the pro US dictatorships in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar.
Claim to want to spread demcocracy and the rule of law across the Middle East, but hold 130000 in military stockades in Iraq, without charge or trial.
Claim to be fighting a war on terrorism, but fund terrorism in Iran.
Stand up for a political system which views the profits of banks as private, but socialises their losses.
Lecture others, particularly Africans about the evils of debt, but are about to raise your debt ceiling to 11.5 trillion dollars.
Let's close the BBC
Good luck to you if you invite that shower of shits to your house.
john bull - you clearly have totally misunderstood the article, and have clearly never read Justin Webb !!
"Read the question" as they used to have to say to the thickos before each and every exam at school !!
Having spent a considerable part of my business life in the States, I have never ceased to be shocked by demonstrations of American nationalism and aggression from otherwise intelligent people. As a guest at a lunchtime meeting of a Rotary Club in Texas, I was gobsmacked when handguns and rifles appeared from nowhere during the oath of allegence. Then they calmly put down the weapons and said grace. During the Faulklands War I was having a drink in the bar of the Colonades Hotel in Boston with a British colleague when a newsflash from CNN announced that the Belgrano had been sunk. The whole bar erupted in cheering and quite manic joy. We suddenly had hundreds of friends and a hell of a lot of free drinks, but it left me more than a little worried!
Look at the way Americans believe in themselves. Their country may be in deep do-do at the moment, but you know it's not going to stay like that. They genuinely, actually believe in things like freedom and democracy, and fighting their enemies. The ideals are rarely met, but people still aspire to them. Go anywhere in America that isn't Washington and you'll see what I mean.
Here we've lost that self-belief - you can see it in people's faces, in political discourse, and in the fact that we've surrendered so much of our government to the EU without 99% of the population giving a rat's.
Which is why, barring some sort of sudden turnaround that history sometimes throws up, America will still be a first-rate nation in twenty five years, and Britain will not.
Great to hear you are agnostic. Hopefully you'll be attending the Conservative Humanist Association Fringe event next Monday evening with Professor Richard Dawkins.
Conservative Humanist Association
Well that's all very well, but I am far more terrified of America than I am of Al Qaeda. What would people think at a dinner party if I raised my glass and said
"Death to America"?
Having just read Webb's book "Have a nice day" I'm not sure what to call him. Misinformed? The book was superficial and riddled with weird non sequiturs. For example American ruggedness, whatever that is when most Americans live in cities and spend hours trying to park 100 feet nearer the mall door, apparently is due to the weather. Intellectually rigorous it was not. Maybe it was a reaction to reading my other christmas book Masters and Commanders, an altogether superior artistic endeavor. Webb's most risible conclusion was that American perfection was represented by life on Kiawah Island in SC.
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