"What's happening to John Kerry?"
Columnist J. Jesus Esquivel spoke for the most of the international online media when he asked that question in this week's edition of Proceso (in Spanish), a leading Mexican newsweekly.
Kerry, Esquivel said, "is the hope of the world to put a stop to the imperialist ideas and belligerent crusades of the Bush government." Opinion polls show people in many countries agree with Esquivel, supporting Kerry by margins of up to two to one. Yet in U.S. opinion polls, Kerry is lagging behind President Bush just days before their first face-to-face debate in Miami on Thursday.
Transcript: Jefferson Morley discussed the international media view of Sen. John Kerry.
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World Opinion Archive
The Democratic challenger, say most international commentators, is trailing because he has failed to articulate his differences with Bush over the war in Iraq. Disagreement arises over what is to blame: the candidate, the American voters or the nightmarish combination of car bombings, kidnappings, beheadings and botched U.S. policies in Iraq.
Some of the leading newspapers of Europe blame the Massachusetts senator personally for his electoral struggles. In a Sept. 12 editorial, "Kerry adrift," the Spanish newspaper El Pais (in Spanish, by subscription), declared that "Kerry, the favorite candidate outside the USA, is incapable today of 'selling' to public opinion a program on the war or, even worse, on the post-war."
"Bush, whose presidency bears the profound imprint of 9/11, has a policy against terrorism: war and more war," said the Spanish editors. "Crazy and pernicious for much of European opinion, but comprehensible. Meanwhile no one knows what Kerry is offering."
In Paris, the advocates of multilateralism at Le Monde (in French) agree: "Kerry has to date shown himself unable to present a coherent criticism of the current president's policy."
The blame is not Kerry's alone, says Henk Hofland, a Dutch columnist quoted by Radio Netherlands. Bush's Iraq policy is indeed "a mess," according to Hofland, but almost no one in either America or Europe is saying how the worldwide problem that Iraq has now become should be handled.
"Europe isn't saying so and, with only six weeks to go before the election, John Kerry isn't either." His bottom line: "Historical blunders in the making."
But to many pundits in the Middle East, Kerry cannot distinguish himself from Bush because, in fact, his policies are not all that different.
Kerry, according to columnist Mahmoud Rimawi, writing for the London-based daily Dar Al-Hayat, is "either unknown to the Arab public or not a very trusted figure due to his pro-Israeli positions, which are almost identical to the Republican views."
Linda Colley of the Guardian in London attributes Kerry's failure to connect with voters to "the long, disreputable tradition of anti-intellectualism in American politics."
Gerard Baker, a columnist for the Times of London and a rare defender of Bush in the international press corps, says such arguments amount to the assertion that "Americans are stupid."
In a piece reprinted in the Australian , Baker says, "for a stupid people, the Americans have done some clever things over the years."