In a global world, many await 2008

Now, it appears Europe is waiting for President Clinton – President Hillary Rodham Clinton, that is.

I watched the election results with an international crowd in the basement bar of Edinburgh University’s student union in Scotland when I found out that Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., was conceding. My Scottish friends tried to comfort me by saying, “Your problem is our problem; wherever Bush goes, Blair is sure to follow.” Tony Blair is the prime minister of the United Kingdom, which is composed of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

The United Kingdom is part of the European Union but it has retained its own currency, the British pound. Just to be more confusing, Great Britain is the island that England, Scotland and Wales, but not Northern Ireland, share. However, Northern Ireland still uses the British pound.

The immediate effect of the U.S. election was another devaluing of the dollar. When I visited the United Kingdom in the Clinton era, 1 pound equaled $1.60. Today, 1 pound equals approximately $1.86, and every day, the dollar drops in value. When the euro, the currency of the European Union, was introduced almost three years ago, it was equal to 90 cents. Today, 1 euro equals approximately $1.32.

The dollar’s devaluation is largely because of the growing deficit caused by tax cuts and the increase in military expenditures necessitated by the “Iraq Conflict” (as it’s called in Europe). President George W. Bush’s proposal to use large-scale government borrowing to finance his plan to create personal investment accounts in Social Security will almost certainly increase the deficit and devalue the dollar.

Blair might support Bush in some respects, but they are still very different leaders.

Both are now bogged down in the Iraqi conflict, but while Bush wants to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, appoint Supreme Court justices who could overturn Roe v. Wade and let the health-care industry set the standards for care, under Blair’s watch, same-sex party benefits and other “gay rights” were expanded throughout the United Kingdom. There’s been no talk of diminishing a woman’s right to choose, and the public health-care system has been maintained – a system I became part of just by paying tuition to Edinburgh University.

Despite claims in the United States that a public health-care system would be dictatorial to patients (remember the “Harold and Maude” videos ran by the Republicans during former President Bill Clinton’s attempt to reform the U.S. health-care system?), in the United Kingdom, no one is given a list of approved doctors and specialists (as many private U.S. health-maintenance organizations do), waiting times to see a doctor are minimal and prescription prices are capped, which doesn’t appear to have hampered U.K. drug research.

The United States should not become so arrogant that it cannot learn from its allies. All is not rosy here, though, Blair did follow Bush – right into Fallujah, Iraq. Back home, my local paper would update me on the whereabouts of Iowa’s National Guard units in Afghanistan and Iraq, units that some of my childhood friends serve in. In Edinburgh, the papers are full of the Black Watch, traditionally the guards of Edinburgh Castle, known for their dark plaid kilts and their bravery in defending Scotland’s capital from the marauding English. Today, England and Scotland tolerate each other much as the former confederate and union states do, and the Black Watch is a regiment of the modern British army, no longer wearing kilts, but military tan, as they serve in what the British papers have dubbed “the triangle of death” – the area in and around Fallujah.

Every day, the papers display the pictures of the young people from Edinburgh and the surrounding small towns who are fighting and sometimes being injured and killed half a world away. It is rumored the Highlanders, another Scottish military regiment with ancient roots, might be sent into “the triangle of death” as well.

I’ve heard some Brits remark that even if Kerry had won, the situation in Iraq is so hopeless that he would have been defeated in four years anyway. In Berlin, I heard a German official remark that even though Kerry would have been a better diplomat than Bush, at least Bush knows what he can and can’t expect from Europe. Kerry optimistically hoped to get other countries to help in Iraq, but even he might not have been diplomatic enough to do that.

Even with a new president, it would have taken years for the leadership of many European countries to be willing to be involved in any action led by the United States. German Chancellor Gerhardt Schroeder won an election by declaring that under no circumstances would he send his country’s troops to Iraq, and French Prime Minister Jacque Chirac has been one of the most vocal opponents of the occupation in Iraq.

The United States has military capital – it is the world’s only remaining superpower – but it has used up its political capital. Iran is negotiating with Britain, France and Germany to freeze part of its nuclear program, but the U.S. government has been unable to convince even the European countries most willing to work with it to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.

Now, I hear Europeans remark that Kerry’s defeat means Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., will run for president in 2008. I first heard someone suggest this in the United States a year ago, and at the time, I thought she was too divisive a figure to ever be elected president. (I then went on to recommend her for Kerry’s running mate in The Minnesota Daily.)

Now, it appears Europe is waiting for President Clinton – President Hillary Rodham Clinton, that is.

R.R.S. Stewart is a University student studying in Scotland. She welcomes comments at [email protected]