International Papers

The Fun Resumes 

The “near-miraculous victory” (the Independent of London Thursday) of Sen. John McCain in the Republican primary in Michigan got the world excited again about the American presidential race. “We cannot help but wish John McCain luck,” said the Guardian of London in an editorial, “not because we agree with him, but for daring to prove that in politics there is no such thing as a foregone conclusion.” The paper said the best and worst of American politics has been on show this week. The McCain crusade has aroused genuine public excitement and made politics live. But “the ugly side of America’s electoral method has also been visible. The brief contest in Michigan turned into a mudbath as both Senator McCain and his opponent, Texas governor George W. Bush, fought a viciously dirty campaign.” In a news report, the Guardian said that, with the victory of McCain, the Democratic front-runner, Vice President Al Gore, had woken up to his worst nightmare.

The Independent reported Thursday that the Republicans are now fighting over the legacy of President Ronald Reagan. “The party establishment believed that this election would be about transcending their differences, uniting on a candidate and finding a new way to present the party as a national force,” it said. “Instead it risks turning into open civil war over the legacy of Ronald Reagan, the most successful Republican in modern history.”

The Times of London’s editorial said that Bush “must now know that Mr McCain will not be beaten that easily or cheaply. He may not be possible to defeat at all.” McCain stole Bush’s electoral thunder by forcing him to cosy up to sections of the party he had previously sought to avoid, such as the Christian right, the Times said. “He now looks like a very orthodox Republican politician.” The Daily Telegraph said Bush is still on course. “If Mr Bush has been hampered by an impression of smugness and intellectual flaccidity, his rival has demonstrated his famously short temper, most noticeably in the wake of defeat in South Carolina,” it said in an editorial. “The likelihood remains that Mr McCain, the outsider in the nomination race, will be unable to maintain his early lead.”

Die Welt of Germany’s Washington correspondent said McCain’s double victory in Michigan and Arizona proved that his success in New Hampshire was no one-day wonder. La Repubblica of Rome said it saved him from political shipwreck and relaunched him as the symbol of the election. Corriere della Sera of Milan said it made Bush tremble and lauded the “strength and fragility” of Cindy McCain who “has already won,” whatever may happen to her husband. La Stampa of Turin commented that America has rediscovered politics.

Canada’s conservative National Post said in an editorial that McCain “has now destroyed the Bush aura of invincibility without quite gaining a similar charisma himself.” This presents a dilemma for the Republican Party. “There is a danger that a protracted and uncertain struggle could reduce the party to a small-core support unable to take on the Democrats with any prospect of success.” Bush should now compete with McCain for the votes of independents. “It is a rule of politics that parties shrink if they fail to grow. Republicans are in danger of developing a siege mentality when they should have a missionary one.”

The Toronto Globe and Mail said Bush and McCain were the Punch and Judy of American politics—”First they attack each other; then they attack each other for attacking each other.” It contrasted the fun of their contest with the dullness of the Democratic campaign. “While the Democratic contenders have their quirks, including Mr. Gore’s habit of claiming credit for everything from inventing the Internet to inspiring the male hero in Love Story, there isn’t the same clash of oil and water that invigorates the Republican contest.” But it said that, if McCain is forced to drop out, his independent supporters may switch to Sen. Bill Bradley, which “might, just might, inject new life into the Democratic race. But it can’t hope to match the fun of the Bush-McCain wrangle.”

The Times of London reported Wednesday on its front page that Peter Mandelson, Britain’s Northern Ireland Secretary, has privately appealed to Irish republican supporters in the United States to keep faith with the crisis-stricken Northern Ireland peace process, after the disclosure that Americans sympathetic to the Irish Republican Army have dramatically increased their fund raising in the past year. Friends of Sinn Fein (the political wing of the IRA) raised almost $400,000 in the six months to last May, bringing the total collected to $3.5 million since 1995, when President Bill Clinton first gave approval for Sinn Fein to seek funds in the United States on condition the money was spent on politics and not guns.

The Daily Mail of London Thursday published an article by its U.S. correspondent, Daniel Jeffreys, about attending a fund-raiser in New York for “a new and more sinister group” called Clan Na Gael, “which US intelligence sources confirm is now the main fund-raising body for Irish-American republicans.” Jeffreys wrote, “It was a truly sickening and chilling experience. I was sitting in a darkened restaurant when Dorothy Robinson [one of the leaders of Clan Na Gael] stood up and proposed a toast to those who killed Lord Mountbatten [the British wartime naval commander and cousin of Queen Elizabeth II murdered by the IRA in 1979]. Her request was met with thunderous applause by 250 guests at a special fund-raising dinner, many of whom were prominent Irish American lawyers and other professionals.”