The world puzzles over the Democratic convention.

What the foreign papers are saying.
July 30 2004 11:57 AM

Boston Bakes Beans

The world puzzles over the Democratic convention.

Internationals observers viewed this week's Democratic National Convention in Boston with a mixture of bemusement and trepidation. They, along with viewers in the United States, waited to see what gauntlets the Kerry-Edwards ticket would throw down to the Bush campaigners as the election enters its most heated phase.

Most observers split their time between analyzing U.S. domestic politics and trying to give their readership a portrait of John Kerry and John Edwards. Le Monde noted that the pageantry of the convention was carefully targeted: "By the choice of speakers and the musical interludes, the session was aimed particularly at African Americans, more generally at minorities, and also at the South." A dispatch in Le Figaro also remarked how John Edwards captivated his audience during Wednesday's speech, winning "a grander ovation than former President Clinton received." The Scotsman called Kerry's closing oratory a "barn-storming keynote speech" and quoted it extensively.

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Other papers looked for the local angle, trying to gauge how the election will impact U.S. relations with their countries. The Times of India noted with pride the number of desis, or people of Indian origin, involved with the Kerry campaign. Meanwhile, the Israeli press focused heavily on one sentence in John Edwards' speech in which he promised his campaign's support for a safe Israel. An article in the Jerusalem Post considered whether the line was deliberately rushed, citing a U.S. representative who believed "Edwards deliberately delivered the Israel line quickly since some of the more leftist delegates in the crowd may not have welcomed the reference." A separate Post op-ed took issue with this perceived wariness of Israel: "The Democratic Party would have us believe that there is something wrong in having the whole world oppose you. But the Jews have long known that there is honor in it as long as you are right and they are wrong."

The most common reaction abroad, however, was to use the convention as a way to get in a few whacks at Bush, one of the world's least beloved leaders. Two Guardian editorials led the charge. An op-ed by the paper's economics editor despaired of the "almighty mess" Bush has made of the U.S. economy and opined that a Kerry defeat wouldn't be so bad, if only for karmic justice. "If they lose they will at least have the consolation of seeing Bush cleaning up his own vomit." The other Guardian piece, by Naomi Klein, bewailed the ability of the U.S. "distraction-in-chief" to turn rational opponents into anti-Republican hate-mongers: "It's not that the president is dumb, which I already knew, it's that he makes us dumb." Instead, she's in the "Anybody But Bush" camp, since "only with a bore such as Kerry at the helm will we finally be able to put an end to the presidential pathologising and focus on the issues again." An op-ed in the Canadian daily Globe and Mail took a different path to the same point: "Political parties are inherently stupid, shallow institutions and it's never clearer than at conventions."

A few papers got into the politics behind the politics. An op-ed in the Australian argued that the Democratic Party is united, but not around John Kerry: "No, the Democratic Party is united instead by its deep hunger to see the back of President George W. Bush." The piece went on to praise Kerry's war record but condemn his lack of charm and concluded by reminding us that, in America, it's not so much what you say as how you say it. "Ronald Reagan delivered some of the most inane, pathetic speeches in substance of all time, but people warmed to them and to him. Clinton could make reading a laundry list sound like the Gettysburg Address and Carter could make the Gettysburg Address sound like a laundry list."

Ed Finn is the director of the Center for Science and the Imagination and an assistant professor in the School of Arts, Media and Engineering and the Department of English at Arizona State University.

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