International Papers

Hail, Caesar

President Clinton’s State of the Union address was greeted around the world this week as the possible harbinger of another miraculous comeback. The Hong Kong Standard said Thursday that “if Mr. Clinton’s was a bravura performance in the face of so much adversity, it was also because he had facts and figures to back his claim that the United States was not only strong but also brimming with confidence. … It seemed somehow as if the personal confidence he brought to the White House had been transferred to the nation itself.” Those still wondering whether to impeach him “might well think carefully now before committing themselves to an obviously unpopular cause.”

In Japan, the daily Asahi Shimbun said Thursday that his speech went right to the heart of American values. Clinton came across as “a president concerned with the daily lives of working men and women,” over whom impeachment appears to cast no shadow. “His effort to regain prestige and recover the cohesion of an administration damaged by the impeachment process must have been at least temporarily successful,” the paper said, adding that it is likely that he will continue to conduct an aggressive foreign policy. In Israel, the Jerusalem Post took his pledge to “work for the day when Iraq has a government worthy of its people” as a signal that he will try to depose Saddam Hussein.

In Italy, the Turin paper La Stampa carried a front-page editorial Thursday comparing Clinton to Julius Caesar. Under the headline “The Return of Super Bill,” commentator Gabriele Romagnoli wrote, “Caesar climbed the steps of the Capitol, entered the hall of his judges, looked everyone in the face (including a few Brutuses), and then, great showman that he is, smiled; and in a 77 minute one man show he conquered the theatre (98 ovations) and the public (6 percent rise in his popularity).” It concluded, “Such a Caesar can survive the Ides of March. Especially because in saying that ‘the State of the Union is in excellent health’ he certainly wasn’t committing perjury.”

But the Rome paper La Repubblica focused, in an editorial Thursday, on the power of Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan, whom it depicted as being, like Hillary Clinton, a second “surrogate president.” Under the headline “Duel in Washington,” the editorial said that Greenspan, by publicly ridiculing the president’s plan for investing $700 billion in the Social Security system, had effectively rejected the key point of his State of the Union address. “The affair demonstrates that the much admired ‘Clinton model’ has up to now had a secret manager, Greenspan, who is to all intents and purposes the principal architect of that inflation-free economic boom which the president has used as a shield against the criticisms linked to ‘Sexgate,’ ” the paper said.

In Paris, Le Monde said Clinton “staked his all” in his address, challenging the Republicans to work with a president they want to topple, or else enter the November 2000 elections under the banner of an “impeachment party” that abandoned a popular program to satisfy its rancor.

In Russia, Izvestia commented Thursday on a U.S.-Russian territorial dispute in the Bering Strait, the subject of negotiations that ended inconclusively in Seattle last weekend. The border, barely 49 kilometers long, was so short that it was difficult to find on maps, the paper said, but it has created considerable problems in bilateral relations and looks set to generate drawn-out political battles. The chief Russian delegate at the Seattle talks said their only achievement had been a phrase in the final communiqué mentioning “the need to search for a compromise solution to this problem.” On the other hand, the paper said that recognition of the importance of compromise was better than open confrontation, especially in a region regarded by both sides as vital to their interests and where troops were kept in a state of high combat readiness.

In the matter of corruption and the Olympic Games, the Sydney Morning Herald claimed an exclusive Saturday with a front-page lead story claiming that Sydney only won the right to host the 2000 Olympics by offering $50,000 inducements to two African members of the International Olympic Committee just hours before the vote. The Herald quoted the president of the Australian Olympic Committee, John Coates, as saying he had offered the money at a dinner in Monte Carlo to the National Olympic Committees of Kenya and Uganda, through their respective IOC members, Charles Mukora and Maj. Gen. Francis Nyangweso. “My view was it might encourage them to consider their votes for Sydney,” Coates said. He reportedly denied that the money was a bribe and said it went toward helping sport in Kenya and Uganda. The paper said that the revelation is certain to draw Sydney into the bribes furor, which has already caused two IOC delegates to resign over the scandal surrounding Salt Lake City, Utah’s successful bid for the 2002 Winter Olympics.