Almost exactly one year ago during a visit by French friends to London the inevitable dinner argument broke out over America. Any Briton living in France will know how it goes...Why are you British so fond of America? versus Why do you French hate America? The widespread anti-America sentiment in France always winds me up but this spat became particularly animated when one of the French friends sneered after I said - and the Frenchman agreed - that however you feel about the United States you have to admit it is the greatest democracy on earth. Our anti-American friend said the French for "rubbish": America was not a democracy because poor blacks had no political voice and elections were all about who had most money. I thumped the table and said the French might be in a better position to give lessons on democracy if their own black and North African citizens were better represented. He stuck to his argument that America was not democratic, the "American Dream" was rubbish and a black man could never be president. This was half way through the two-year presidential campaign when the Democrat candidate had not yet been decided and everyone's money was on Hillary Clinton. It was when Barack Obama was still raising campaign funds with $5, $10, $20 donations from members of the public before, it is true, the big bucks waded in. It was also well over half way through several bottles of red wine.
I said: "Perhaps you are right but at least America has Barack Obama."
And he said: "Barack who?"