Europe: About that S word…

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October 21, 2008 @ 23:27 UTC

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Countries:
Ethiopia
Candidates:
Barack Obama, John McCain
Issues:
Economy & Trade, International Relations, Government & Politics
 

The latest line of attack from John McCain's campaign seems to revolve around that S word - you know as in “Obama is a Socialist”. It is often followed by the obligatory E (for Europe) word as McCain said himself: “”At least in Europe, the socialist leaders who so admire my opponent are upfront about their objectives.”

So what do Europeans think of the latest comment from the Republican presidential candidate?

Guillemette Faure, a French blogger at rue89 is amused but not surprised:

C’est le dernier gros mot de la campagne. « Au moins en Europe, les dirigeants socialistes qui admirent tellement mon adversaire affichent franchement leurs objectifs », a dit John McCain en meeting. Notez les deux attaques en une : Obama est socialiste + Obama est soutenu par l’étranger [..] Obama a trouvé la parade : « Warren Buffet (le milliardaire) a appelé à voter pour moi, Colin Powell aussi et John McCain pense que j’adhère au socialisme”.

It is the latest dirty word of the campaign: “At least in Europe, the socialist leaders who so admire my opponent are upfront about their objectives” said McCain in a meeting. Note the two-in-one line of attack: Obama is a socialist and he is supported by the foreigners. [..] Obama found the counter-argument though: “Warren Buffet, the billionaire, has called to vote for me, as well as Colin Powell and John McCain thinks I adhere to socialism.”

Alex Engwete (Ethiopia) explains that the confusion between communism and socialism is frequent in the US:

Beaucoup de gens ici croient que le socialisme équivaut au système communiste. Hier, dans le café éthiopien de mon quartier à Washington DC, je me suis époumoné à expliquer à quelques clients les faits suivants (sans grand succès d’ailleurs) : 1) Sarkozy n’est pas socialiste, encore moins communiste ; 2) Le communisme suppose l’appropriation des moyens de production par l’Etat…

Many people here equate socialism to the communist system. Yesterday, I was in an Ethiopian coffee place in DC, and I explained till I was blue in the face to a few clients (without much success) that 1) Sarkozy is by no means a socialist, not to mention a communist 2) Communism entails the appropriation of means of production by the government…

Nathalie Mattheiem, blogger at americana, thinks that the new found love for the S word is a sign that the T word (for terrorist) did not quite stick and concludes that the S word may not do much good for McCain either:

un signe, peut-être que l’accusation de “copinage avec un terroriste” ne donne pas le résultat escompté contre Barack Obama? [..] En pleine crise économique, les Américains (dont le revenu moyen tourne autour de 45 000 dollars) seront-ils réellement scandalisés par une proposition qui vise à baisser l’impôts pour la majorité d’entre eux, tout en ramenant aux taux des années Clinton la taxation du 1,5% des ménages qui déclarent un revenu supérieur à un quart de million de dollars?

A sign that maybe the accusation of “paling with a terrorist” did not provoke the desired result against Obama ? In the midst of an economic crisis, Americans (whose average income is around $45,000) may not be too offended by a proposal tax reduction for most of them while bringing back the taxation levels for households with more than 1/4 of a million dollars salary to the Clinton years level of 1.5%?

Mattheiem notes later:

“un candidat qui a pu “plaisanter” que la richesse commence à 5 millions de dollars n’a sans doute pas une vue précise de l’Amérique “moyenne”.

A candidate who can “joke” that one would start to be considered rich with an income of 5 millions dollars may not have the most accurate picture of what the average American earns.

Claire, blogging from Germany at cheeseburger and sauerkraut, would like to clarify the myth about Europe and socialism:

Germany, contrary to what many seem to believe, is NOT a socialist country. I have no idea why this myth continues to exist:
1. There is no universal health care in Germany. The government requires health insurance but does not pay it. The government does not pay for my health insurance, or that of my father-in-law, friends, etc. Rather, I pay 50% of my health care and my employer pays the other 50%. I can provide my pay stub as evidence. The government only pays for the health insurance of the unemployed.
2. The government does not own the means of production in Germany. Germany is a free market economy.
3. There are certain regulations, such as on banks and energy. This is to ensure that consumers do not get ripped off.
4. Freedom of speech and press are protected with in the German constitution.

Finally, Alexandre Vatimbella at Le centrisme (France), explains that both McCain and Obama would not really fit in with either the left or right wing parties in France:

Reste que, malgré les effets de manche et les sermons de tribune, John McCain et, surtout, Barack Obama sont deux vrais centristes [..] en France, Barack Obama n’aurait ni sa carte au Parti socialiste (dont les responsables se méfient de lui comme de tous les candidats démocrates pas assez à gauche selon eux, exception sans doute de George McGovern en 1972, balayé par Richard Nixon), ni à l’UMP (dont les responsables, ont la fâcheuse tendance de supporter les Démocrates plutôt que les Républicains pourtant nettement plus proches de leurs idées politiques).

Nevertheless, despite the pandering and the public sermons, John McCain and Barack Obama, are two true moderates [..] in France, Barack Obama would not have been accepted in the socialist party (whose leaders are weary of all Democrat candidates, not enough to the left according to them, except for McGovern in 1972, defeated by Richard Nixon) nor in the UMP (French ruling conservative party) whose leaders have the odd habit of supporting the Democrats instead of Republicans, despite being closer to the republican ideology.

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