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writing for godot

A sigh of relief from France

Written by Alan Austin   
Wednesday, 07 November 2012 22:28
Europeans are amazed Obama won the presidential election. Leaders presiding over disastrous economies here are simply thrown out: Nicolas Sarkozy in France, Gordon Brown in Britain, Spain’s José Luis Zapatero, Ireland’s Brian Cowen and Portugal’s José Sócrates. The Greeks now have their fifth PM since 2009.

Surprised and delighted. But also dismayed at certain troubling aspects of the campaign.

The overwhelming response across Europe has been elation. French President François Hollande offered Obama his “warmest congratulations” as did most other leaders.

Hollande summed up why the re-election is so welcome. Obama, he said, “is fully engaged on the international scene and well aware of current global challenges: peace, economy and the environment.”

The economy is the principal reason Europeans are relieved. A dossier spécial in le Monde Diplomatique feared that a Republican victory would have weakened Europe’s ideological resolve. Obama’s defeat “would be immediately interpreted as a failure of progressive strategies of Keynesian stimulus and health care reform.”

Obama’s interventionist stimulus program, the prestigious daily claimed, helped him win. “He showed that federal aid can contribute to economic growth.”

The Republican strategy of “making this election a referendum on how the President had managed the economy” was “parfaitement sensée” – perfectly sensible. “Le problème”, however, was that they “did not appear more credible in this area”.

Close second to the economy as a reason to celebrate Obama’s win is global security.

“Un soupir de soulagement” – a sigh of relief – was the response of Le Figaro’s Jean-Jacques Mevel. That and “fingers crossed for the future”.

“There is concern about the precedent that a second-term US president is more interventionist in foreign policy”, Mevel noted. “The second term is likely to be more aggressive.”

But this was more portent than warning. “The US is tired of divisions over Euroland’s inability to end the interminable Greek ordeal.”

Le Monde expressed concern over tensions likely to continue with Israel after PM Netanyahu backed Mitt Romney.

Laurent Zecchini’s report from Jerusalem pondered “whether Obama will be tempted to take revenge, and if so, how”. He quoted an Israeli diplomat troubled by Netanyahu’s “bet on the wrong horse”. Israel’s “capital at the White House has been squandered”.

Not surprisingly, Netanyahu was quick to applaud Obama’s win and promise collaboration to “ensure the vital interests of the security of the United States and Israel”.

While the economy, global relations and the environment were causes for celebration, two election issues trouble Europeans.

Jacob Weisberg at was dismayed that personal moral and religious concerns such as contraception and abortion featured so prominently. “It is curious these are considered more important than anything else by some people. More important than employment or public debt.”

“The fact that you are pro-choice or pro-life is nobody else's business”, claimed Jacky Terrasson in “Matters of private choice should not be at the heart of the debate. These should not be arguments to garner votes.”

US specialist at le Nouvel Observateur Soufian Alsabbagh agreed. “Talking about rape and abortion in terms used by Mitt Romney’s team is unacceptable for a segment of the population, including centrist voters.”

Philippe-Joseph Salazar also expressed bemusement at the priority afforded religion in the election campaign. He noted Romney’s concession speech: “I will pray for him [Obama] and our great nation.”

“Seen from France this is so comical”, the philosopher observed.

Commentators were also disturbed by the extent of “les mensonges flagrants – blatant lies – of the Republicans during the campaign”. In Europe this is usually punished with shaming in the media and banishment from public life.

“Romney stacks lie upon lie”, wrote Jacky Terrasson in Cécile Dehesdin at was shocked to see Romney “mentir si éhontement” – shamelessly lying.

Pierre-Yves Dugua at Le Figaro referred to Romney false allegations that Obama planned to slash military spending “by hundreds of billions of dollars” and disarm America. “Military spending under Obama has increased slightly,” he noted. “Democracy cannot come from waging this war of lies.”

How can a party so seemingly committed to Biblical values be so disdainful of teaching regarding bearing false witness? This seems the imponderable question.

Do Europe’s responses hold challenges for democracy in the US? And in other nations with parallel political processes and similar media, such as Australia and Great Britain? In all three countries both these phenomena alien and disturbing to the rest of the developed world – religion-based morality and frequent lying – seem embedded in the political right.

Why have so-called Conservative parties embraced “stacking lie upon lie”? What is the role of the media in calling to account? Does having sections of the press which also routinely distort and fabricate encourage mendacity?

Will this significant election loss by the Republicans prompt a rethink in this area? your social media marketing partner


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+1 # RICHARDKANEpa 2012-11-08 16:38
You had so many points as to understate the uniqueness of economic hard times not getting in the way of a reelection campaign here and abroad.
+2 # kandotom 2012-11-09 00:35
As my French cousin (from Chambery) said when Obama was first elected 4 years ago:
After the Americans drive their economy into the ditch, of course they elect a black man to clean up the mess. Figures.

Mean, but pretty perceptive.

More seriously: the choice between the two candidates and - more important - the two parties was obvious. Most Europeans are poorly informed but their instincts guide them to the correct preference (Obama). In America, on the other hand, half the population is sane and the other half is driven either by rational greed or by irrational fear and hate.

The problem, on the rabid Right, is not always ignorance. They read a lot and are they are quite busy Googling everything. The problem is that they know the wrong things. As Mark Twain said of someone: “That fellah knows a lot, but most of what he knows ain’t so.”

J’espere que vous allez continuer a contribuer a Reader Supported News, et que nous pourrons discuter ces questions. Notre specialite est la relation entre l’Europe et les Etats Unis,

Tom Kando, PhD
Professeur de Sociologie
+1 # Alan Austin 2012-11-09 09:50
Yes, Tom, I agree with these observations - yours and your cousin in the Rhône-Alpes. Thanks for posting.

My interest, naturally, is relations between France and the rest of the world.

Country interests roughly in order: Australia, USA, China, Indonesia, rest of Asia, rest of the world.

Et oui, j'espère contribuer ici encore.

So we shall talk again, I trust.

A bientôt, Tom.
+2 # Alan Austin 2012-11-09 04:36
Agree, Richard.
Perhaps the election outcome is a sign that voters do not regard economic issues as being the main factors in deciding which way to vote.
My hunch - difficult to prove either way - is that the pattern of lies by one side was a significant factor.
It would be great if this were the case.
0 # seniorcitizen 2012-11-11 22:08
Alan, you have a very good point. The lies told by the Republicans were obvious and were pointed out by fact checkers. It was one reason that I did not trust Mitt Romney with anything that he told us. Refusing to show tax returns was also one of the reasons of distrust. It is amazing that this was noted in other countries.
0 # Alan Austin 2012-11-11 23:26
Yes, Seniorcitizen, this was certainly noted in other countries. It was a prominent feature of the Republican campaign throughout - and a highly disquieting one.

Even more disturbing is the outcome of the election where 48% of the American voters still voted for Mr Romney.

How is it that so many just don't care about such blatant lying? It's not like it was incidental behaviour.

Rachel Maddow highlighted it back in March, then in July, again in September and again in October. (Google Rachel Maddow Romney lies)

Even Fox News called him out on his fabrications. (Google Fox News Romney lies)

If American citizens don’t believe a word Romney says, what chance is there foreign trading partners, military allies, or enemies seeking contracts/allia nces/accords/tr eaties would ever believe anything he says?

How is it Mr Romney gained so much popular support there?
+1 # RICHARDKANEpa 2012-11-10 12:01
Peace Won and Islamaphobia lost in every case. So maybe foreign policy economic waist was more important than the economy or considered more a cause than the press claims.
0 # kyzipster 2012-11-22 09:26
According to polls, a slight majority in the US understand that Obama inherited an economic disaster that rivaled the Great Depression and that there was only so much he could do to help us recover. Most probably understand that we're lucky to have not seen double the unemployment.

All things considered, Obama did an amazing job of stewarding the country through this disaster left to us after 30 years of Ayn Rand/Reagonomic s horse chit.
0 # Alan Austin 2012-11-22 10:43
Thanks, Kyzipster.

Yes, I agree with this.

Your country certainly seems to be doing much better than most countries here in Europe in recovering from the disastrous downturn of 2008-09.

But there are still enormous challenges ahead.

Will be interesting to see how President Obama achieves a reunification of the nation following the divisive election campaign.
0 # kyzipster 2012-11-22 12:13
This election was no different than most in recent memory. The divisive culture war was created by and for the conservative agenda, nothing but an expansion of their racist Southern Strategy.

I like to think that Obama's fairly easy victory means that the country is beginning to unify on the side of facts, the culture war is unraveling and the GOP really has nothing else to offer. Any mention of tax cuts and even more deregulation makes them the butt of jokes. They will have to change course or face a continued decline. The Republican base is only 20 something percent of the electorate.

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