Thanks to time zones and deadlines, the international press has been slow to respond to President George W. Bush's victory over Sen. John Kerry. Print editions of most of Wednesday's papers went to bed long before the average television exit-poll-watcher in the United States, leaving them with stale headlines that attempted to fudge the at-that-point-unclear outcome. The Daily Telegraph led with as noncommittal a headline as it could, given the early vote-count results: " America's Fate on Knife Edge."
But global pundits were ready to voice their views even before Kerry conceded defeat Wednesday morning, and many papers have posted later analyses on their Web sites. A Toronto Star columnist wrote, "In-between the writing of this column and its being printed, its subject matter—the U.S. election, naturally—will have become out of date." He was right on that count, but he blew it by venturing a somewhat more daring guess—that there would likely not be a result but, "more probably, [it] will have been removed from the hands of American voters into those of the political lawyers." Like many, he was betting on a repeat of the 2000 election aftermath and, despite the hordes of lawyers at the ready, he was wrong.
Another commentator, writing in the Daily Telegraph, took advantage of "this hiatus between my copy deadline and the election result" to debunk some widely held European notions about the election. For instance, the American expat wrote, Europeans have forgotten that anti-Americanism and anti-Bush sentiment predate the war in Iraq. "Anyone whose historical memory goes back more than 10 minutes should recall the extraordinary effusion of hatred that spewed from sections of the opinion-forming class as a consequence of America being attacked" on Sept. 11, 2001.
Much has been written about the global desire to see Kerry oust Bush and the international poll, coordinated by newspapers in 10 countries, that found most of those surveyed couldn't fathom why America would re-elect the president. Thus, the editorial in Germany's Berliner Zeitungthat said, "Germany, Europe and the entire world long for the end of the Bush era," was unlikely to surprise many observers. But a columnist in France's L'Express must have turned a few heads with these words:
We cannot ask the American Administration, be it Democrat or Republican, to share the leadership of the world with a divided, feeble and pusillanimous Europe. And even less, with a Europe which has no wish to exercise leadership, no army, no diplomacy, no development strategy... and not even a clear notion of its own interests.
(Translations from the German and French courtesy of BBC Monitoring.)
Around the world, commentators have been speculating about the global implications of a second Bush term. The Economic Times of India ran an extensive Q & A exploring what Bush's re-election means for India in general and its economy in particular. The bottom line: Bush has been good for India, and four more years will enable the Indian economy to flourish. Israel's Ha'aretz questioned what the result means for the Arab-Israeli stalemate. "Analysts agreed Wednesday that a new Bush administration would, indeed, drop the hammer on Israel, but not enough to put a significant cramp in [Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon's policy style," the paper wrote. The Daily Star of Lebanon published an analysis that said, "Consistently second only to Ariel Sharon in terms of unpopularity among Arabs, U.S. President George W. Bush's re-election victory was greeted in the Arab world with a sense of disillusionment and foreboding." The paper quoted a sociologist from the American University of Beirut who said, "Just like 9/11 became a watershed in American foreign policy, this election seems to me another watershed that might be much more ominous."
Commentaries, leaders, and assessments will continue to flow forth from around the world in the coming days. As the world settles in for four more years, however, readers of this column are surely wondering—as are the British Guardian readers who participated in the paper's "Letters to Clark County" campaign—how did the good people of Clark County, Ohio, vote? A quick look at CNN's breakdown of the votes in Ohio shows that Bush beat Kerry by a margin of 51 percent to 49 percent.
So much for the influence of well-meaning Brits who hoped to cure America of its Bush-loving ways. Or, in the words of one young man named Matt who posted a comment on the Guardian's newsblog: "Just wanted to thank the Guardian for helping deliver Ohio to Bush. Cheers!"