The Global View

The world tunes in to the Democratic Convention: Takes from the non-U.S. media.

| Tue Jul. 27, 2004 3:00 AM EDT

With an estimated 15,000 journalists at the Democratic convention, the media coverage will no doubt be thorough. Every speaker will be analyzed, every delegate interrogated, every party attended. Sometimes, though, it's worth stepping back from all the commotion and gazing at the festivities from a distance. And how much more distance can you get than reading the foreign papers? Here are some of the early takes from abroad on the convention.

The Guardian calls attention to the people around the world who will take a close interest in the upcoming election:

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Like British party conferences, but on a far more extravagant scale, US conventions long ago became entirely presentational events aimed at television viewers back home rather than at party enthusiasts in the hall. Yet the whole world will be watching Boston this week none the less. It will be doing so because there has never been a US presidential election in which the interests and sympathies of the peoples of the world are more at stake than this one.

Indeed, with millions worldwide expected to watch the event, and over 2,500 foreign journalists at the convention, the festivities will take a decidedly international bent. Francis Kohn, a wire editor at Agence France Press, explained the global curiosity about Kerry to the Los Angeles Times: "It's like in America — you don't know very much about John Kerry. There is a hunger to know more about his personality and about what he would do."

Britain's Daily Telegraph comments on the curious difference between John Kerry, and opposition leaders in Britain. In the U.S., opposition leaders have a bigger hill to climb in their battle for visibility:

In Britain, the leader of the opposition is a position of stature, with a shadow cabinet, easy access to the airwaves and opportunity to tussle with the Prime Minister on the floor of the House of Commons.

In the United States, there is no formal leader of the opposition in the British sense, although Mr Kerry, as the presumptive presidential nominee, is now the Democrats' senior player.

German papers across the country are all alit with convention talk. The Tagesanzeiger, based in Zurich, makes the much-discussed and obvious point that Democrats are united in their deep revulsion towards President Bush. But the newspaper also pointed out that mere revulsion does not make for good policy, and stressed the importance of health and education programs.

Die Presse, a Vienna-based paper, notes provocatively that Europe should fear a Kerry victory, if only because, with Bush out of power, Europe will no longer have an excuse to duck its international responsibilities. The paper takes swipes at Europe's abstention from Iraq and Sudan, and derides the continent's lazy tendency to blame its isolationism on the "arrogant" Bush administration.

Meawhile, the Hindustan Times takes a break from the horse-race chatter and highlights an overlooked story: the rise to (relative) prominence of Indian-American Democrats.

"This is the first convention where a group of Indian Americans has been recognised and got a voice," Smita Shah, a civil-structural engineer from Chicago and founder of Spaan Technologies, told IANS. This is her third convention.

"We're one of the youngest ethnic communities. In 1996, there were just a handful of us as delegates. Now everyone's talking about the Indians at the convention. And we are not just people who raise money. It's people working in the party, people who believe their views are represented by it," she added.

Lastly, our friends up North write in to say that they are markedly unimpressed with John Kerry's musical tastes:

With the Democratic National Convention coming this week, the party faithful should be alarmed that the John Kerry campaign so far has blared three Springsteen tunes from the speakers, tried out several equally inappropriate songs from other artists and has recently been playing a Chuck Berry song about a guy who "never ever learned to read or write so well."

As much as the Democrats will try to look united on other issues, the party is in a dark place when it comes to campaign theme music. The disappearance of decent election music is a sad reality in this age of artistic angst.

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