Ever wonder what our nation looks like to folks from afar? Here we look at how a uniquely American story--the kind of news we have trouble explaining even to ourselves--is being told overseas. Want to see a particular topic covered here? Let us know.
Right now even conservative bastion National Review is running an article entitled "Just Say 'No!' to Newt" on its homepage (reason: "he snarls more than he smiles," he "cannot say 'America'" correctly, he overuses the word "frankly," and there's that women thing). If Americans are finding Gingrich's candidacy more of a curiosity than anything else, what do foreigners think of the spectacle?
"Honestly, that the Republicans have really fallen low and that it is always possible to reinvent oneself on this side of the Atlantic," writes Fabrice Rousselot for French paper Libération, as its New York correspondent. "One had thought to be done with a man who was one of the most detested figures of American politics in recent history." Another Libération writer, Lorraine Millot, told readers earlier this week that though Newt was the first "heavyweight" to enter, "he is far from fitting the mould of the perfect candidate." As she explained to her French audience:
Aged 67 years, Gingrich has both experience and notoriety ... To correct his retro image, Gingrich intends to announce his candidacy via Facebook and Twitter, where already 1.3 million follow him. But Gingrich launches with a major handicap for the Republican electorate (the subject made the first page of the New York Times yesterday): he is on his third marriage and was even cheating on his wife at the time he was denouncing Clinton's deficiencies of conduct.
Antonio Caño for Spanish El País also mentions Callista, whom Gingrich started seeing before he had divorced his second wife. The best thing Caño can say about Gingrich is that he "has, without doubt, the experience and the recognition that is lacking in all the names that have circulated so far. Has the charisma needed to attract the moderate sector of his party and conservative enough to win the support of the radical majority that currently dominates Republicanism."
A report by the Sing Tao Daily, reprinted on Sina.com, paints a bleaker picture, telling readers that Gingrich faces tough competition. Then again, on first glance the Sing Tao Daily seems to have an odd idea of the Republican field: "the expected war in the party nomination will include many strong opponents, including the conservative former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman, former Massachusetts former Governor Mitt Romney and Minnesota Governor Bo Lundi, and others." (In case you're wondering who on earth "Bo Lundi" is, it appears to be a Chinese transliteration of "Pawlenty." Apparently "Pawlenty," transliterated, is too obscure for Google to recognize and change back to the original.) The current consensus right now in the States seems to be, on the contrary, that the GOP field is relatively weak and plenty don't think Palin will run.
Back to Gingrich. Here's Federico Rampini for the Italian La Repubblica with another less-than-flattering portrait: "Burned in 1996, when his intransigence as a right-wing leader in Congress led to legislative paralysis and paved the way for re-election of Clinton, Gingrich has remade a political virginity thanks to visibility on Fox." And the final zinger, courtesy of pan-Arab daily Al Hayat's Jihad el-Khazen. In reviewing Republican potentials, he barely spares Gingrich a paragraph: "I see him as not fit for office, as he is an infamous opportunist and he claimed that Obama, because of his African father, had an 'Kenyan anti-colonialist worldview.'"
Heather Horn is fluent in written German and French, and proficient in written Arabic. All other languages are muddled through with the help of Google Translate.