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.

Rick Perry doesn't seem to be Obama's, Bernanke's, or, actually Karl Rove's favorite person right now. His contributions to the 2012 presidential race have so far included calling Bernanke treasonous, telling Obama to mind his own business, and declaring he's not so keen on the whole "evolution" thing. In other words: he's made a splash. How's it playing in the international media? We'd say the piece in Spain's El País is probably the most dynamic (and negative) depiction, but it's also just fascinating to see what aspects of the Texan governor the various papers focus on.

Germany: "U.S. candidate Rick Perry sees climate change as manipulation"

German daily Die Welt runs with that headline, also mentioning Perry in articles such as "With Heavenly Power"--an article calling Michele Bachmann the Tea Party's Joan of Arc. The writer, Ansgar Graw, mentions Perry as another believer in "this sacred [American] exceptionalism" espoused by the Tea Partiers. The paper also covers Perry's "prayer for America's salvation." There, Jens Wiegmann explains to German readers that "the former Air Force pilot is more than a typical Texan conservative, even though he was born there as a son of a rancher, studied there, is very religious and takes a position against homosexuality, abortion, and CO2 regulation and is pro-death penalty." Perry is also a political powerhouse, writes Wiegmann. "What could make him dangerous as Obama's opponent in the November 2012 presidential election is his renown as the leader of successful economic policy. Supposedly a third of all new jobs in the past two years have appeared in Texas."

"He could be a compromise between the moderate Romney and the right's icon Bachmann," writes Steffen Richter for Die Zeit, another German daily. That said, Richter also calls him an "archconservative," noting that "his policy distinguishes itself only negligibly from Michele Bachmann's." Carsten Luther elsewhere observes for Die Zeit that Perry "knows how to use his religion. ... The support of the Christian right has already once placed a governor from Texas in the office of the presidency," he says, speaking of Perry's prayer meeting, and "If Perry loses, then it will certainly not be because he is too religious."
 

France: Enter "the 'cowboy' from Texas"

"From an egotistically political point of view, Rick Perry, governor of Texas, could follow the downgrading story of American debt with delight," writes Sylvain Cypel in Le Monde, noting that such perceived failures for Obama help Republican candidates.

Initially a Democrat, Rick Perry became a radical conservative: pragmatic on certain subjects important to local businesses, he is also linked to Christian fundamentalists.  ... Each of the ot her candidates is considered as potentially 'divisive,' susceptible for various reasons to being rejected by part of the Republican camp. He alone is 'capable of uniting all the conservatives, he will change the course' in obtaining support without reticence and the party machine and its powerful populist right, according to his Iowan counterpart [i.e. the governor], Terry Branstad.

Cypel pushes back against this diagnosis a bit, though, by noting that at Perry's prayer meeting "the stands stayed partly empty. And of 27 Republican governor colleagues [Perry] invited, only one was present." Meanwhile, Adele Smith for Le Figaro refers to Perry in the opening sentence of her story on his entry as "the man who believes in God for resolving America's problems."
 
Spain: This guy even scares his friends
That's the message of the Spanish daily El País's subheading. The article, written by David Alandete, talks about Perry's aggressive posturing in the past few days over Bernanke and the Fed, and notes Karl Rove's rebuke. It also mentions The New York Times' Paul Krugman as saying the "Texan miracle" on employment is simply due to the fact that wages are so low. "The faith he doesn't have in government he has in God," Alandete writes. Perry also irritated the Bush clan by breaking deals and now has lost its support, he explains. Here's his conclusion:

Then, taking advantage of the rise of the Tea Party, Perry was reborn. His popularity was then at a minimum. ... He was defined as a devout Christian, as opposed to abortion, conservative in principle, not known for his political decisions. He even accused Bush of being too liberal on issues like government spending. And glared at his opponent.


Israel: Was the Bernanke criticism anti-Semitic?

Though the word out of public debate in the U.S. is that Perry's Bernanke criticism was not anti-Semitic, Haaretz reports on the matter just for confirmation purposes:
American Jewish leaders are expressing concern over declarations by Republican presidential candidates that emphasize the candidates' Christian faith and their devotion to religious values. Jewish leaders firmly reject suggestions, however, that an attack by candidate Rick Perry, the Texas governor, on Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke during a campaign speech in Iowa earlier this week was anti-Semitic in nature. Bernanke is Jewish.

In Arabic-language media: Jobs, religion, and apparently he's got American Jewish leaders worried

Al Hayat notices, similarly to many of the international write-ups, including Egyptian daily Al Ahram's,  that Perry's perceived advantage lies partly in his record on jobs. But Al Hayat, Like El País, relays to readers critics' arguments that the jobs in Texas come at the price of decent pay. Al Ahram's story notes that Perry has been emphasizing his Christianity. Meanwhile, Al Quds Al Arabi runs an article, apparently from Israel Today, which puts it like this: "Perry belongs to the evangelical movement and his positions on social issues are very conservative. No wonder, then, that Tea Party support for his candidacy is guaranteed. The question is, is this support the kiss of death."

CNN Arabic highlights the fact that Haaretz is reporting concern about Perry's emphasis on Christianity. For some reason this looks weird with CNN Arabic reporting on Haaretz reporting on American Jewish leaders, but perhaps that's just the way the international media works.

 

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.