Originally published in Salon.com, March 7, 2008
Views of the Race From Across the Atlantic
American voters are not the only ones taking a closer look at the field of contenders for the presidency.
American voters are not the only ones taking a closer look at the field of contenders for the presidency. In the wake of Hillary Clinton’s primary wins Tuesday night, the European press is alight with fresh speculation. Here’s a brief look at what’s being said about the Democratic candidates in some of Europe.
The torrid affair between Barack Obama and the Germans seems to have ended before it could develop into David Hasselhoff-esque proportions. Only a couple of weeks ago, the cover of Der Spiegel, Germany’s best-read weekly newsmagazine, showed a princely Obama emerging out of darkness cloaked in what looked like stardust under a headline reading “The Messiah Factor: Barack Obama and the Yearning for a New America.” Now, in an article called “The Other Side of Barack Obama,” the paper is taking a second look. “Will the extraordinary love affair between the young Senator from Chicago and the Democratic voters last?” asks the article, “or was the spell broken on Tuesday night? Will the voters turn back to her? Or will his charm offensive once again display its power?”
Meanwhile an article for major German newspaper Deutsche Welle emphasizes that though Germans have taken a liking to Obama, Clinton remains quite popular as well. Even Christoph von Marschall, the German journalist who fanned flames of Teutonic Obama-mania with his recent biography “Der Schwarze Kennedy” (“The Black Kennedy”), had to admit that Clinton is also quite well liked. “‘Clinton’ is a good name in Germany and Europe,” he tells Deutsche Welle. “It’s not linked to all the scandals like it is in the U.S.”
Thursday the left-leaning French daily Liberation ran a story about the perceived unequal media treatment of Clinton and Obama. The article mentions various unattractive descriptions of Clinton in the American press as well as the frequent use of words like “vision,” “charisma” and “messiah” in articles about Obama. That American journalists are biased, says the writer, “is subtle, but proven.”
The right-wing newspaper Le Figaro also picked up on the Obama media backlash in a blog post titled, “Tina Fey: New York Moliere … and Architect of Clinton Victory?” According to the post, the American news media is so trifling and gullible that the Hollywood writers’ strike shut down the only mode of discourse capable of leveling criticism at Obama. “Without their satire,” the piece claims, “the Americans were deprived of this constant mirror of their attitudes and behavior.”
According to a poll run by British business news daily the Financial Times last month, Brits preferred Hillary 28 to 23 over Obama, even as Obama won out in Germany, Spain and Italy. Unsurprising, then, that the British press is largely depicting the results in Texas and Ohio as a comeback of enormous proportions. The Times, Rupert Murdoch’s center-right daily, ran an Op-Ed titled “They Must Go for Hillary Clinton” that tells Americans to “forget all the razzmatazz over Obama” and support Clinton, who the Times says is far better equipped to take on John McCain in the general election.
On the other hand, when the English don’t like someone, they have no compunctions about shamelessly eviscerating him or her in the press. An item in the left-leaning Daily Mirror, “Lay Your Money Down on Hillary … Because Bill’s Not Having Her Home,” informs its readers that bookies continue to give Hillary odds on the election, which “comes as a surprise because Bill is reluctant to lay Hillary these days.” Needless to say, the paper isn’t disclosing its sources. Likewise, the Sun, a right-wing daily that’s another of Murdoch’s many properties, ran a photo of Hillary with “Desperate Housewives” star Eva Longoria at a rally in Austin, Texas — next to the headline “Desperate Housewife … and Eva Longoria.”
According to a piece in the Financial Times, “Presidential Duel Holds Perils for Foreign Diplomats,” the stories about communications with the Canadian government revealing possible NAFTA doublespeak by the Democratic candidates were something of a cautionary warning for European diplomats concerned about U.S. protectionism under a new administration. While diplomats and politicians continue to take careful note of the candidates’ pronouncements on trade, the article says, they are wary of indiscretions that may damage the candidates’ campaigns, and those who have already received private assurances from both Clinton and Obama “have made sure to restrict the circulation of the memos detailing the responses.” The Financial Times says, “The fundamental dilemma remains: how to influence such a powerful and open country without being seen to do so. It is a task that diplomats in Washington will stick to, albeit more cautiously than before.”
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