Ever wonder what our nation looks like to folks from afar? In this feature, Home News From Afar, we look at how a uniquely American story--the kind of news we have trouble explaining even to ourselves--is being told overseas.
Since Donald Trump started decorating every news cycle with another oddity in his quest for Republican presidential candidacy, we at The Atlantic Wire have had to institute "Trumpdates." This has been our way of dealing with the steady flow of quirkiness. The polls suggesting Trump is in fact the current frontrunner among Republican hopefuls seem to take everyone by surprise. But what do those outside the United States make of this development? What does this Trump business look like to a Frenchman, or a Brit, or a Saudi? Luckily, college language courses and Google Translate can get you surprisingly far on occasion. Here are some of our favorite bits of of international opinion on Trump's political rise. As a reason for his candidacy, Trump has said, "the world is laughing at us." With only a few exceptions, and if you change that to first person singular, this is true.
Germans: Seriously? Ansgar Graw at German paper Die Welt is bewildered by Trump's assertion that he once "screwed" Muammar Qaddafi in a land rental deal. "Do Americans really want a president that openly brags of having, as a businessman, cheated foreign heads of state?" Graw asks. He ends with a note of cynicism regarding Trump's motives for considering a run: "The speculation will undoubtedly be good for [book sales and broadcast ratings]," he writes. Meanwhile, Christoph von Marschall at Die Zeit explains to readers that Trump is the color candidate of the race, choosing to go after Obama's origins "instead of stressing his experience as a businessman." He tells the Die Zeit audience that commentators see Trump as evidence of the weakness of the Republican field to date.
French Are Appalled "There are terrifying things going on in American politics at present," writes Fabrice Rousselot, French publication Libération's New York correspondent, calling Trump "the property tycoon whose red hair is approximately as famous as the orange color he displays at each of his public appearances." Rousselot, disgusted, recounts the birtherism element of Trump's candidacy: "He has not presented a single idea and is at the moment content to attack the president in reprising the nauseating argument that the latter is not a real American and was not born in Hawaii. This despite the birth certificate that everyone has been able to see for quite a while."
British Alternately Evaluate and Giggle Tim Stanley is, according to his Telegraph bio, "a research fellow in American History at Royal Holloway College," and he thinks ""Trump is striking a cleverly populist note that is aimed at middle-income conservatives." He could get "a sizeable chunk" of Palin's old support, Stanley says. Alex Singleton, also at The Telegraph, certainly seems to hope this doesn't happen. "I hate to attack someone as fascinating as Donald Trump," he writes, "but this is one billionaire who should be kept out of the White House at all costs." Why? "Well, for all his money-making abilities, he seems economically illiterate. He frequently offers succour to protectionists," explains Singleton, and that would be bad for Britain, which is used to dealing with the economically difficult "President Obama, with his Left-wing supporters," but expects rather better treatment from "the supposedly enterprise-friendly Republicans. Can't the Grand Old Party find someone better?"
Lucy Jones just wants Trump to find a decent hairdresser:
... there's one issue we can no longer ignore: his insistence on strapping a gopher's bottom to his head every day. Seriously: what is going on here? If you look closely, the ginger wisps are arranged like an apple strudel, carefully latticed to give the impression of hirsutism. It clearly takes time and energy. This is a man who looks in the mirror and says: "Looking fresh, The Donald. Go make another million bucks." It suggests he is abnormally deluded.
An Incredulous Saudi Writing for the Saudi paper Al Riyadh, Mamdouh Muhaini compares Trump to Palin, seemingly astounded that someone so entirely lacking in political experience or interest could again gain so much momentum, despite Palin having played poorly as a vice-presidential contender at the polls in 2008. It's not just that Trump is rich, Muhaini says. "Many of the rich, like Bill Gates or Warren Buffett, support beneficial work for the world and humanity. Trump, by contrast ... is a picture of the inane, conceited wealthy and a limelight-seeker," writes Muhaini, admitting he had originally admired Trump upon reading his life story before revising his opinion. Trump, predicts Muhaini, will be "the largest contributor to President Obama's success in attaining a second term." A photo of Palin and one of Trump, hair flying upwards in the wind at a ridiculous angle, accompanies the piece.
For a Change of Pace: a Positive South Korean Opinion Going off an admittedly shaky Google translation of a blog post at the Chosun Ilbo, one of South Korea's major dailies, it appears one Jang Tae-pyeong blog finds Trump a good candidate for shaking things up in the "senescent" United States, "reviving the momentum for the coming of hope." That probably isn't the best translation, but it certainly sounds like it's saying something positive.
China: Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop? The state-run Xinhua news agency often runs English versions of their stories on American politics (see the condemnation of the U.S. on human rights). As of yet, though, Xinhua doesn't seem to have issued such a story on Trump.