When I asked the European ambassador to talk to me about America’s deepening partisan divide, I expected a polite brushoff at best. Foreign diplomats are usually loath to discuss domestic U.S. politics.
Instead, the ambassador unloaded for an hour, warning that America’s poisonous politics are hurting its security, its economy, its friends and its standing as a pillar of democracy and global stability.
The U.S. is a “fat buffalo trying to take a nap” as hungry wolves approach, the envoy mused. “I can hear those Champagne bottle corks popping in Moscow — like it’s Christmas every fucking day.”
As voters cast ballots in the Iowa caucuses Monday, many in the United States see this year’s presidential election as a test of American democracy. But, in a series of conversations with a dozen current and former diplomats, I sensed that to many of our friends abroad, the U.S. is already failing that test.
The diplomats are aghast that so many U.S. leaders let their zeal for partisan politics prevent the basic functions of government. It’s a major topic of conversations at their private dinners and gatherings. Many of those I talked to were granted anonymity to be as candid with me as they are with each other.
For example, one former Arab ambassador who was posted in the U.S. during both Republican and Democratic administrations told me American politics have become so unhealthy that he’d turn down a chance to return.
“I don’t know if in the coming years people will be looking at the United States as a model for democracy,” a second Arab diplomat warned. [Continue reading…]