Every week during this election season we’re bringing you a taste of what people in other countries are reading, hearing and viewing about American politics.
Needless to say this week’s coverage was focused almost exclusively (but not entirely) on Charlotte, North Carolina and the Democratic Convention.
The Obama-Clinton double act
Abroad, as in the U.S., many newspapers depend on the Associated Press for their international reporting. On Friday, the Jakarta Post was just one of the newspapers that ran an AP story on President Obama’s convention acceptance speech under the less than exciting headline “Obama urges Americans not to give up on him.”
Not that the Saudi-owned pan-Arab TV station al Arabiya was so different in tone from the AP. They describing Obama’s pitch as asking Americans to “grant him a second term to complete his battered crusade for change.”
In the UK, Fraser Nelson, editor of the conservative magazine the Spectator, pulled no punches:
“Given that Barack Obama is in a fair bit of trouble, you’d think he’d have given a better speech to last night’s Democratic National Convention. Instead, he just trotted out his greatest hits.” Nelson conceded that the President did score some points in attacking the Republicans for being unimaginative. But his conclusion was bittersweet: “Obama is perhaps the best orator of our times, which is why I felt disappointed by last night’s speech.”
Guy Rundle, from Australia’s Crikey, was enjoying cocktails at the Politico party in Charlotte last night. We won’t speculate how much vodka had to do with his mood but overall he was more positive – albeit in a qualified sort of way: “The last five minutes were electric, as everyone knew they would be. And then, a few days later, we will all come to our senses and feel that it was a good speech, maybe even a very good one — but not a great one, not something transcendental or transformative.”
Marc Pitzke writing in the German magazine Spiegel agreed…
“The speech…advocated for a second term in office without making use of streamers and garlands. Of course, it ended in a typically rhythmic climactic closing, but it was also very sober. It was combative but serious, at points defensive and almost introspective…But perhaps this was exactly the speech that he had to deliver now. The 2008 election is far behind us, and then came the great crash of the recession. Americans don’t want to listen to a preacher now; they want a pragmatist.”
No one, however, could describe Bill Clinton’s speech the previous night as “sober.” The foreign press’s reaction to the former President was overwhelmingly positive. In Ireland’s Independent, an enthusiastic Andy Sullivan writes that Clinton “made a more comprehensive case for President Barack Obama’s re-election in 49 minutes on Wednesday than the rest of the speakers at the Democratic Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, could muster in the 11 hours that preceded him.”
But Clinton’s “fiery” speech probably won’t do much to quell Israeli anger over the Democratic Party platform, says Narayan Lakshman in the Hindu:
“Even as Mr. Clinton’s eloquence appeared to raise the pitch of the entire convention, often bringing delegates on the floor to a standing ovation, his performance came on the heels of avoidable controversy when pro-Israeli groups objected to the Party’s platform dropping out a reference to Jerusalem being the capital of Israel.”
That flap prompted the speaker of Israel’s parliament to claim that Obama doesn’t understand the Middle East (Jerusalem was later added back in at the President’s insistence).
What about Mitt?
This Friday also saw the monthly release of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ jobs figures – and, as the BBC reported, the numbers are disappointing. Yes, 96,000 jobs have been created. But that’s not as many as expected.
The results do no favors for the President’s polling numbers. Meanwhile, presidential candidate Mitt Romney continues to take the heat from the foreign press.
Pundits overseas have been blasting Romney for his views on the economy, foreign relations and global climate change. If Latitude News didn’t take stock in conspiracy theories, we might think the torrent of criticism was an internationalist plot.
Germany’s international public-service broadcaster Deutsche Welle interviewed Andrea Nahles, leader of the Germany’s Social Democrats — see, in Europe they don’t distinguish between socialists and Democrats — who claims that Romney, if elected, would drive a wedge between the United States and Europe.
“People want the state to regulate things, to ensure fair conditions, to deal with things — and that’s what most of the Republicans don’t want,” says Nahles.
Even a Bostonian would think that depiction of Republican principles is a tad skewed.
In another story, Germany’s Spiegel Online provides artillery fire for Deutsche Welle, saying Romney should check out the recent Global Competitiveness Index released by the World Economic Forum. Romney often says “Europe doesn’t work in Europe,” meaning the continent’s generous social safety net is bankrupting the Eurozone. But the Index ranks the U.S. behind Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany as providing a good environment for business. “Indeed, the report hints that the U.S. might not be working in the U.S.,” Spiegel Online writes. Ouch.
Writing in Chinadialogue, blogger Corinne Purtill similarly dismisses Romney on his view of global warming, saying talk of climate change at the Republican National Convention evoked giggles rather than serious discussion.
There’s nothing new about the Republican omertà against global warming. But it’s a sign of how miserably unevolved the discussion of climate change remains in the United States in 2012, when one major political party refuses to acknowledge the reality of a warming planet and the other shows little desire to engage in the difficult and complicated work of moving beyond rhetoric to action.
Russia Today is also unforgiving. Referring to the Romney’s criticism of Obama signing an arms control treaty with Moscow in 2010, the (state-operated!) news service says the Republican is loony for opposing measures to reduce stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction:
According to the weird world view of Mitt Romney, Russia (which for much of the Republican lunatic fringe is just a codeword for Vladimir Putin) outmaneuvered the US on its plans for European missile defense by forcing Obama to sign an arms control agreement with Moscow. For Republicans, still suffering the acute side-effects of mad Neocon disease, a nuclear missile is a terrible thing to waste.
The Grand Old Party of gun owners, bible thumpers and billionaires thinks that signing a treaty with America’s former Cold War enemy points to some kind of weakness, which is unacceptable for a superpower with a bloated ego and a military on steroids…
Ria Novosti, another (state-run!) news service, argues that it doesn’t matter what Romney says because his bluster about Russia — in March he called the country America’s “number one geopolitical foe” — is ultimately hollow because he’s running for office and will say anything to get elected.
But Ria Novosti includes this quote in the story that undercuts its general thesis that Romney is exaggerating Moscow’s threat to the Land of the Free:
“Let’s be realistic: Russia is the only nation in the world that can destroy the United States,” said Viktor Kremenyuk, deputy director of the Institute of the USA and Canada at the Russian Academy of Sciences. “Just for this simple fact, Russia is a foe.”
Well, maybe, um, Romney isn’t so off base.