America's tourism is hurting, just like ours. Just think of those huge fun factories empty. So they're trying to get us Europeans back, starting, I imagine, with us British because we're the biggest America-goers in Europe. Think of all those taxi drivers from Gants Hill piling into Florida. Think of all those sponging Brits from Primrose Hill piling in to Manhattan.
So there's a commercial with a star-spangled banner – more precisely an embroidered sampler affair with white stars stitched on a blue background – and some strong words from President George W Bush. He reads them and they come up in the sampler frame like poker-work homilies in a Western bedroom. George W's first big thought is: "Take your families and enjoy life the way we want it to be enjoyed."
Now this provokes one to exactly the kind of nit-picking pedantry that makes the Republican Party believe all Europeans are probably Commie perverts, just like the ghastly French. But I'm going to have to do it, George. I'm going to have to ask exactly who "we" are in this instance? (Picking George Bush up on the verbals is a very, very bad crime in right-wing circles; it's snotty, irrelevant, snobbish. No matter that George Bush, in American class terms, is practically royal, absolutely not Forrest Gump.)
So what's with this "we"? Should we be enjoying America in the way Americans want it to be enjoyed? It sounds as welcoming as "Keep Off The Grass".
The commercial, sponsored by the Travel Industry Association of America, shows a lot of uniformed servants of American travel and leisure facilities, clearly suffering from over-capacity and under-utilisation, begging us to visit America. It's air stewards and Avis girls and hotel porters. It doesn't show us America itself, no scenery, no people, no Golden Gates or golden days, nothing. Just a lot of planes and hire cars and cruise ships and Ritz-Carltonish-looking hotels. And they all grin like mad. The whole thing looks like a collage of early-Eighties corporate conference films.
And then President George W Bush says something else: "The world is beginning to see the best of this great land." There's a distinctly moanie tone here, a designed-for-home-consumption complaint that the world's never appreciated America's gorgeousness, that it's gone unchampioned. Why doesn't he say: "Come in, the water's lovely"? It's all held together with accordion-based country music. Which makes it sound even more hokey.
This commercial doesn't stir an ounce of must-see spirit in me, and I've enjoyed going to America for 25 years. Instead it shows exactly that ancient, corporate, klutzy, scripted world which Europeans usually see as the downside of American life.