Dutch Give Dubya a Failing Final Grade

As we near Barack Obama’s inauguration, it naturally becomes time to look back and assess George W. Bush’s eight-year tenure as American president. (Check that: it’s time first to gather up one’s courage and brace oneself, and then look back in anger.) One such assessment that I can recommend comes in a 17-minute video from the UK’s Guardian newspaper. The Guardian is well-known for its political positioning somewhat to the left, and thus for its long record of hostility to Bush. Still, that video presents discussion from not only Mike Tomasky, the Guardian’s American editor, but also a couple of personalities you might find more credible, namely David Plotz, editor at Slate (on-line) magazine and Adrian Wooldridge, American editor for The Economist. (The fourth and final panelist is Sarah Wildman, from the New York Times. A quick consultation reveals that she is mainly a travel writer there, occasionally contributing pieces on the arts.)

But what about, say, the Dutch? Fortunately, we can now discover their valedictory attitudes towards George W. Bush, and that even from the “People’s Newspaper,” De Volkskrant (Netherlanders give Bush a 4.7).

That’s right, as a final over-all grade ol’ George gets a 4.7, but keep in mind that is on the customary Dutch academic grading-scale of 0 (worst) to 10 (best), where you usually need a 6 to pass. This comes from a survey among 500 Dutch respondents over 18 conducted by the firm Synovate, which further reveals the curious paradox that, while 73% are willing to characterize the departing American president as “friendly,” 71% call him “untrustworthy.” When it comes to free association (i.e. what immediately comes to mind when you hear a word), most of the respondents think “Iraq” at the mention of his name. It further emerges that you are a better bet to dislike him the more educated and older you are, and the more to the left you are on the Dutch political spectrum (also if you are female). Of the various policies associated with his name, these Dutch judge approvingly only his reaction to the September 11 attacks. Everything else they disapprove of, especially his attitude towards climate change.

Finally, the survey-participants were asked what sort of going-away present they would be willing to give. Among the responses: a course in self-knowledge, a week spent among the poor, and “a kick in the ass.”

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