THE SECOND PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE HAS MANY IN FRANCE ON EDGE. Chirac is on a state visit to China. There are still two French journalist kidnap victims being held by Iraqi insurgents. And last night and this morning, there was a rocket attack aganst the Sheraton in Baghdad; deadly bombings at beach resorts in Sinai; and a bombing outside of the Indonesian Embassy in Paris.
But a chief editor of a major French media conglomerate at the conference I am attending says that the U.S. presidential race remains the top story and issue of concern.
Interestingly, most of the speakers here, the European ones, had largely acqiesced to the likelihood of a Bush victory next month. Some even gave the problems with Bush uniquely positive spin. Their argument runs that because of Bush, Franco-German relations have never been better.
At Le Memorial de Caen (visit if you ever have the chance), in fact, Gerhard Schroeder recently met with French President Jacques Chirac in a commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of the D-Day invasion on the Normandy beaches here. The presence of the German Chancellor at this particular historical punctuation point was wildly controversial but in the end a huge success.
I have heard from many residents how they really respect Schroeder for coming to Normandy and for owning up to the atrocities committed by Germans. They now take odd pride in the fact that Chirac and the Chancellor meet every two to three weeks.
I was here two years ago — then with Richard Perle, Edward Luttwak, and others — and the venom those in this war-ravaged region felt against Germany far outweighed negative feelings towards the U.S.
Attitudes have definitely shifted. If there had been a part of France that was dependably supportive of America, it would be Normandy. Everywhere, there are posters, models, books, and other parapernalia depicting Jeep-driving, candy-carrying, helmeted-but-smiling American GIs. But the resentment of Bush & Co. here has become palpable.
The bottom line is that many of the more constuctively optimistic folks here think Bush will keep the Germans and French working together, while a Kerry victory will sour relations between Paris and Berlin.
I have been telling French pessimists at this conference to look at the huge swing in the projected electoral vote outcome at Electoral-Vote.com, which after new poll results shows Kerry beating Bush 280 to 239. Just three days ago, Bush had a projected 300 electoral votes. Kerry’s gains in near-parity states have been impressive, but his lead is very thin and fragile.
I will be watching the debates at 3 a.m. here French time and publishing my review of whether Bush stifles Kerry’s surge or not shortly after.
This will be the second installment in a three-part series of articles I am doing for UPI (after the editor read my first debate review at The Washington Note). You can read my comments on the first debate here; and the VP debate which includes a link to the UPI article here.
On other fronts, do check out Bruce Ackerman‘s very interesting article noting that the oath that Don Rumsfeld made civilians reviewing the military tribunals convened at Guantanamo Bay was not an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States.
Is it me? Or does Don Rumsfeld have a really, really hard time behaving as if the rule of law matters?
— Steve Clemons