Wednesday, July 23, 2003

As our friends in the New Europe remind us: the truth matters.

Eastern Europeans felt "unconditional love" for America after the Berlin Wall came down, Patocka explains. That love affair may have cooled, but people here expect American presidents to meet high standards. They don't want to fall back into the old communist-era cynicism that all politicians are liars.

Patocka, who edits Literarni Noviny, a weekly magazine in Prague, is more critical of the Bush administration than most. But similar concerns were voiced by many of the several dozen Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks, Bulgarians and Poles I talked with over the weekend.

"Here is my question," said Patocka, trying to fit the news from Washington into what he knows of modern American history. "Clinton was impeached for saying he never had sex with a woman. Now you have a president who seems to have lied to the country about the reasons for going to war. So I want to know, what will be the consequences?"