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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Heard the one about the politician's sex life, the gas guzzler and the Pope? ...
Barroso: Not usually one to blow a gasket Shortly before last week's big summit to cut carbon emissions, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso uncharacteristically blew his gasket. He was being questioned about his choice of vehicle - a monstrous 4X4 which pumps out three times as much CO2 as a proposed new EU law would allow. The hacks were just doing their job: to most journalists the very whiff of political hypocrisy is like blood in the water to sharks.
But the Portuguese politician wasn't going to play by these rules. He said: "If we start now creating the idea that for every person we establish a certificate of good behaviour there is a risk that tomorrow it is not only ecological behaviour, it is family behaviour, sexual behaviour." Should we scoff or accept there is a genuine cultural argument here? ...
Just before this, someone close to Mr B was telling me of his boss's frustration at those in the media who were busily checking which commissioner drives what car. The gist of it was that he could not see why politicians - technical experts at designing the best possible laws - should have to behave in a certain moral fashion before any such law is introduced.
My contact claims this is a line through Europe, much more wobbly and patchy but just as real as the olive oil / butter line. It is the political line between Catholic and Protestant Europe. He thinks it is very Protestant to expect politicians to be secular saints who lead by example.
According to this theory, most Catholic nations accept flawed human nature for what it is and know that preachers may stumble in practice without affecting the truth of their doctrine, or indeed the wisdom of their laws. The flaw in this argument is that in resolutely Catholic Belgium it has been a great sport for the press comparing what monstrous cars ministers drive ...



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