Where’s the beef? Romney seen from abroad

Foreign press underwhelmed by a potential Romney presidency

Michael Fitzgerald By Michael Fitzgerald

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney (R) is joined by his wife Ann (2nd R), and vice presidential running mate Paul Ryan (L) is joined by his wife Janna after Romney’s acceptance speech during the final session of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, August 30, 2012. (Reuters/Rick Wilking)

The foreign press seems, by and large, to feel uneasy about Republicans, or at least Mitt Romney. That much seems clear looking at coverage of the Republican National Convention.

In Germany, whose love of fiscal responsibility makes it sound like a Republican paradise, Speigel Online’s Washington correspondent Gregor Peter Schmitz wrote what can only be called a horrified report from Tampa about Paul Ryan, suggesting that Ryan’s ideas provide “nothing less than a declaration of war on social solidarity in America.”

In fact, it sounded a lot like this Al Jazeera column written by an avowed liberal alternative journalist. “Ryan vs Ryan: A man divided against himself” pits Ryan’s own quotes against quotes from…Paul Ryan—contradictory statements stretching back years that seem to suggest Ryan cannot make up his mind on fiscal policy.

China Daily wrote from Tampa that while Romney is full of “verbal bluster” about China, if elected he will follow a course similar to that pursued by the Obama administration.

The Chinese aren’t alone in discounting what Romney says. The Economist, which prefers Republicans, wrote in its lead-up to this week’s convention that it found much to like in “the history of this uncharismatic but dogged man.” It then said:

But competence is worthless without direction and, frankly, character. Would that Candidate Romney had indeed presented himself as a solid chief executive who got things done. Instead he has appeared as a fawning PR man, apparently willing to do or say just about anything to get elected.

Most of the week’s drama came down to whether Romney could be turned into a real person, rather than a character clipped from a 1950s sitcom.

But, of course, the big moment came last night when Romney delivered his acceptance speech to the assembled crowd of delegates—and about 40 million people beyond the convention center. As you might expect, the reviews from overseas were tepid.

Down under, Australia’s The Conversation provided an unflattering but sober portrayal of Romney’s election strategy:

It has become clear that Mitt Romney does not intend on winning the presidency. He hopes President Barack Obama will lose it….

Even if the Romney campaign viewed the economy and his business experience differently, it probably would not drastically affect their strategy. From Tampa, it is fairly simple: a) raise a lot of money, b) spend it overwhelming in the eight swing states, and c) hope structural features – like the economy – turn in their favour.

The Conversation proves the uncertainty of the campaign ahead. Obviously, it states, a national unemployment rate hovering above eight percent does not seem to bode well for Obama. However, it cautions, the unemployment rate in many crucial swing states is well below eight percent. Romney’s strategy of linking Obama to poor economic growth is probably the Republican’s most likely path to the White House, but it is a lackluster agenda that could fall flat.

For the Daily Maverick in South Africa, former U.S. diplomat J Brooks Spector watched the speech at 430 AM local time with “a very strong cup of coffee.”  His conclusion?

Where Romney was clearly most effective was when he contrasted the hope for change when Barack Obama took office nearly four years ago with the concern and worry that is afoot now …it resonates deeply with a core American value that the country is the country of the future and the nation of infinite possibility; and it is an attack line that will be heard again, and again, and again over the next two months.

It wasn’t all gnashing of teeth and grinding of political platforms. The Daily Mail looked  at campaign buttons through the years.

Meanwhile, the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle took two unique sideways glances at American politics. One story scrutinizes the impact of Germany’s politicians restricting what journalists can write, something American politicians are just starting to do; the other reports on a general lack of enthusiasm across Africa for either U.S. presidential candidate.

For the record, it isn’t just U.S. presidential candidates who are getting heat in the press this week. Egypt’s Mohammed Morsi pledged 64 things he would do in his first 100 days. Someone counted. Now they’re tracking the president via the Morsi Meter. And Morsi is in trouble: in his first 40 days, he’s achieved three out of 64.

Time to start counting the pledges made by Romney, and soon enough, Obama.