President of the world.

What the foreign papers are saying.
Sept. 9 2004 2:35 PM

President of the World

Kerry's won the international vote, but can he win here?

The results of a global opinion poll on the U.S. elections grabbed international attention after their release on Wednesday. The verdict: Thirty of 35 countries polled chose Kerry over Bush, generally by huge margins. "Only one in five want to see Bush re-elected. Though he is not as well known, Kerry would win handily if the people of the world were to elect the US president," said Steven Kull, head of the University of Maryland program that co-sponsored the study.

Global anti-Bush sentiment is hardly a surprise, but the extent of his unpopularity with traditional U.S. allies still earned headlines globally. Le Monde reported the figures with a subhead noting that the "Spanish and French [are] the most hostile." A separate article discussed findings by the German Marshall Fund showing that 76 percent of Europeans disapprove of Bush's foreign policy—a rise of 20 percent in two years. Le Monde remarked dryly that "a great majority of Europeans (71%) would like to see the EU become a superpower on a par with the U.S., but this enthusiasm drops by half when it's explained that this would involve a higher level of military spending."

The poll numbers only added more fuel to the fire for the U.K. press, which has been following the U.S. election closely. The Times of London noted that "The US presidential race reached a new level of bitterness yesterday" after Dick Cheney suggested that a Kerry victory would increase the odds of another terrorist attack on the United States. In another Times article, still further polls confirmed Kerry's lock on the European vote, including one that showed "55 per cent of the French say that the US plays 'a negative role in the area of democracy.' " The Guardian ran its own informal poll between the candidates on Tuesday, reporting a margin for Kerry even larger than the Maryland study, with 78 percent support.

Most papers balanced their interest in the polling numbers with news of Kerry's lagging campaign. The Toronto Star was one of the few papers to note that none of the 35 countries polled was Arab. The Star reminded readers of an early Kerry gaffe, when he claimed that world leaders supported his plans to defeat Bush. When Kerry refused to name names, Bush's team produced ads mocking Kerry as an "international man of mystery."  Taking a different approach, an opinion in the French Le Nouvel Observateur saw Kerry's campaign in shambles in the face of the Republican "steamroller." "Kerry's oscillations on Iraq are symptomatic of his generally indecisive politics."

A comment in the Guardian by Sidney Blumenthal bore out the European numbers with a strongly pro-Kerry slant. The article found a new angle on Bush's success at the Republican Convention: "[T]he unvarying encomiums eerily echoed those of the brainwashed soldiers about the sleeper agent in The Manchurian Candidate." Blumenthal concluded by arguing that Bush's recent campaign trail success will falter as his military records are questioned. "Meanwhile in the White House, aides anxiously wonder how to explain the president's haunted past and his long years of hiding it and who will have the task of facing the cameras." Not everyone shared his optimism. The Telegraph took a different view in an Indiana Jones-inspired opinion piece titled "Kerry wields his scimitar, but Bush just reaches for his gun." According to the Telegraph, "a Bush cruise to victory looks far more likely than a narrow Kerry win."

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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