Yesterday I listened with little sympathy to a British friend complain about her government. There's plenty of fodder for complaints, especially this week, when the home secretary Charles Clark has lost hundreds of foreign prisoners, the health secretary was booed and heckled during a speech at a nurses' college, and the deputy prime minister John Prescott announced he'd had an affair. The Conservatives aren't any better, she moaned, since David Cameron's a wimp who'll never get elected (I disagree) and she'd never vote Lib Dem (I would).
Finally I'd had enough when she declared she'd move to the U.S., things were so bad here. Take my spot, I offered, since I'm moving to Switzerland. Or anywhere, since I can't imagine a more politically screwed up place than the United States. Our VP has shot a man, been booed, and runs the government with the help of a few shadowy figures. Meanwhile our congressmen are participating in a prostitution ring, our judges spout obscenities, and our president (I use that term loosely) openly breaks the law.
But the real difference is the fact that all this is greeted mainly by yawns. The citizens don't much care, as long as their gas prices don't go up, and the punditry finds ways to excuse every fumble and foible of the administration as if it were another episode of Desperate Housewives. Sons and daughters are coming home in body bags, yet Tom Cruise's baby gets more coverage on CNN. Katrina evacuees are still without homes, yet the biggest grievance the right-wing press can conjure is the thought of the Star Spangled Banner being sung in Spanish.
The cocksure Bush administration even dares to put the fox right in the henhouse, knowing Tony Snow of Fox News is hardly the predator BBC's John Humphrys is.
But I'm hardly ready to let Labour off the hook, just because they don't win the King John Award for Worst. Administration. Ever. No, they deserve a special ring in Hell, if for nothing more than spending £7,000 on Cherie Blair's haircuts. Local elections are coming up, and my prediction is Labour will learn the booing wasn't just a bunch of disgruntled nurse trainees.
The U.S. electorate will get its own chance to throw some of the bums out in November, but I don't see that happening, unless celebrities everywhere suddenly become sterile.