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World Opinion Roundup by Jefferson Morley

Can the Brits Swing Ohio?

U.S. Presidential Race Has the World's Attention

By Jefferson Morley
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 19, 2004; 9:00 AM

In Abu Dhabi, they're reading about the key swing states.

In Mexico City, they're gaming the electoral college vote (in Spanish).

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In Beijing, a China Daily online survey shows 60 percent of respondents favor Sen. John F. Kerry's North Korea policy over President Bush's.

Around the world, online pundits and readers are obsessing about the U.S. presidential election as if it were their own. With polls showing Bush unpopular in most countries, the mounting interest reflects a feeling that U.S. voters are not merely choosing between Bush and Kerry, but deciding what kind of country America will be in the world's eyes.

For U.S. voters this unprecedented interest may feel meddlesome.

Last week, for example, the Guardian of Great Britain launched a campaign to help defeat Bush in the battleground state of Ohio.

"In the spirit of the Declaration of Independence's pledge to show 'a decent respect to the opinions of mankind,' " the liberal London daily declared, "we have come up with a unique way for non-Americans to express your views on the policies and candidates in this election to some of the people best placed to decide its outcome."

The paper's Clark County Project targets voters in one swing county in Ohio. The newspaper supplies readers with the names and addresses of voters and urges them to write letters opposing Bush.

Novelist and historian Antonia Fraser contributed an unctuous letter that might not resonate in all central Ohio precincts.

"If you back Kerry, you will be voting against a savage militaristic foreign policy of pre-emptive killing which has stained the great name of the U.S. so hideously in recent times. .... I say 'the great name' of the US because I believe that to be profoundly true. Although resolutely against the Iraq war, I remain equally resolutely philamerican, almost every movement towards liberty in the past having its roots or its refuge in the US," she says.

In the spirit of the Declaration of Independence, more than a few Americans tell the British interlopers to get lost. "As I recall we kicked your asses out of our country back in 1776," writes one Bush supporter. "We do not require input from losers and idiots on who we vote for in our own country."

Even Kerry supporters are annoyed.

"Nothing will do more to undermine the Democratic cause in Ohio than having patronising Brits wander around Clark County telling people how to vote," writes another reader. "Please, be rational, and move slowly away from [this] self-defeating hubris."

Most of the world is more respectful of the independence of American voters.

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