Monday, June 09, 2008

A view from Berlin:
Two wannabees and one washout

Lots of reflection on U.S. politics from Germany today. According to Der Spiegel there is no distress about seeing the last of Bush:

US President George W. Bush will arrive in Europe this week amid a trans-Atlantic spat about American chickens. ... For 11 years, American chicken has been unwanted in Europe, banned because of the chlorine solution used to disinfect the birds in the US. ...But the issue is not likely to disrupt the business at hand: Bush's ride into the political sunset. Europe is more than happy to see him off.

In the same publication, Ralf Beste and Konstantin von Hammerstein reveal a German view of McCain, who they call "a choleric hardliner." Some of the anecdotes they record need to be heard on this side of the ocean.

His fits of rage are legendary. In February 2006, he and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier became embroiled in a heated argument in a backroom at the Hotel Bayerischer Hof in Munich. Steinmeier, a Social Democrat, had suggested that Russia be treated as a difficult but indispensable partner. McCain, one of Moscow's most vocal critics, exploded and began shouting at Steinmeier. To this day, none of the diplomats present at the meeting cares to repeat McCain's choice of words. "It wasn't in keeping with the rules of politeness."

McCain's outbursts have long been the subject of ridicule among Americans attending the Munich conference. Once, when the senator arrived late for a breakfast meeting, a fellow American said: "Who do you think he declared war on this time?" And when defense experts discussed a proposal to keep missiles and nuclear warheads stored in separate locations in the future, there were those in his entourage who joked that the purpose of separate storage was to prevent a fit of rage by a President McCain from triggering a nuclear attack.

On the other hand, the Germans have caught Obamamania. They want some of the spirit of the Democratic candidate's campaign.

The dream goes something like this: What if just a small fragment of the American presidential election primary were to spill over into Germany? The enthusiasm, for example, and the vitality, energy and drama that the world's oldest democracy has presented to the global public for months? And what if German politicians would exude just a smidgen of the youthfulness and spirit of optimism that Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, seems to have in abundance?

... "Germany is Obama country," says Karsten Voigt, Berlin's coordinator for German-American cooperation, while Constanze Stelzenmüller of the German Marshall Fund in Berlin jokes: "About the only other person capable of generating this much passion and adoration here in Germany is the Dalai Lama."

I literally don't remember the last time anything about this country inspired anyone elsewhere. Do you?

1 comment:

October said...

John McCain is as smart as he'll ever be. Scary, huh?

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