Into this mix you can add the streak of what we might call “establishment anti-Americanism” that transcends the political divide in Britain, and which has its roots in America’s displacement of Britain as a global power in the years following the Second World War. This typically manifests itself in a perceived crudeness and irresponsibility on the part of Americans in their attitude to the rest of the world and the foreign policies of their leaders in particular. Just recently, I watched a pundit on a BBC panel show call Romney a “cowboy,” to general approval, in the context of a discussion about foreign policy; the same term was routinely used to mock George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan before him.
And this kind of snobbery isn’t confined to the BBC and the Guardian; it’s regularly on show in the ostensibly conservative Telegraph and Mail newspapers, notwithstanding the columnists mentioned below. I suspect that this is because some British conservative commentators are keen to win the approval of the left-leaning cultural mainstream (and to secure coveted invitations to appear on those BBC panel shows). Left-wing pundits need to make no such accommodation.
While this anti-Americanism is evident on both the right and left, it’s directed disproportionately towards Republicans and conservatives for the simple reason that they’re comfortable talking about American exceptionalism, refuse to apologize for their country, and loudly extol its virtues of freedom and self-reliance. Democrats and liberals, on the other hand — as exemplified by President Obama — are rather more reticent about standing up for America, and tend to defer to other countries and international bodies such as the United Nations. In the eyes of the British and other foreign media, therefore, they “know their place”.
Unique to this election cycle, there’s also the “Obama effect.” In Britain, as elsewhere around the globe, the symbolism of the election of America’s first black president made an impression, and few in the media can bring themselves to acknowledge that he’s failed. Meanwhile, the tabloid newspapers in particular are too busy swooning over his latest appearance with champagne-guzzling rappers or Hollywood stars to pay much attention to unemployment numbers or the national debt. Even the more serious “broadsheet” newspapers still go weak at their collective knees when the president turns on the “cool.”
All that said: there are several reporters and columnists in Britain’s right-of-center press whose coverage of the election campaign has been broadly supportive of Republicans and occasionally verges on out-and-out cheerleading for Romney, and who have no qualms about tearing into Obama. Some of the most incisive election coverage has come from Toby Harnden, the Mail’s U.S. editor, and from the Telegraph’s Timothy Stanley. Also worth reading at the Telegraph are the American-born Janet Daley, Nile Gardiner, and Daniel Hannan, the Conservative Euro MP who’s something of a hero with American conservatives for his attacks on Obamacare. Among new media, The Commentator is unrivaled in its coverage of U.S. politics and conservative issues in general.