As far as the Sydney Morning Herald is concerned, Al Gore’s concession to George W. Bush, brings “no joy … only a grim relief that this long election night is over.” The op-ed predicted that Bush’s Jan. 20 inauguration will contain the usual “American-style pageantry, and grand speeches about the best democracy in the world. But the myths have gone. The masks are off. The people have seen the underbelly of their politics, and they know.” The Age of Melbourne declared, “Despite the reputation of the US as the world’s greatest democracy, the institutions that shape government in that country … have all emerged with scar tissue.” The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung blamed the dumbed-down campaign: “The close election outcome and the political divide that runs through the country are clear indications that it is impossible to reduce the concerns and desires of today’s voters to a terse formula, except that the good times should just roll on.” An op-ed in Britain’s Daily Telegraph, a conservative paper that supports Bush, damned the president-elect with faint praise and a reflexive burst of anti-Americanism:
In that very public, rather indecorous live-on-CNN-way that America settles things such as a tied election, we have an outcome and a president-elect. It was messy while it lasted, but the republic emerges intact, if a little battered, and America has a new commander-in-chief who has a good chance of being a perfectly decent president.
The same piece dinged President Bill Clinton, claiming, “his legacy, apart from the notch in his belt from the cruise missile attack on an aspirin factory in Sudan, is summed up in a single word: ‘Monica,’ ” but elsewhere the papers lined up to eulogize the president. After praising his enthusiasm for tackling apparently intractable foreign crises, the Independent of London declared, “The ebullient Mr Clinton deserves to be remembered for more than just Monica.” The Clintons’ Irish trip occasioned tongue baths from both sides of the Northern Ireland question. The unionist Belfast Telegraph said Clinton “brought a sense of balance to American attitudes towards Northern Ireland. He has recognised that there are great British as well as Irish traditions among our divided people and that … the only way forward is to have a partnership of those traditions, working and governing side by side.” The nationalist Irish News, also of Belfast, commended Clinton for his “enormous efforts on behalf of all the people of Northern Ireland” and urged, “Let’s make Clinton dream come true.” The headline of the day came from the Irish Independent: “Lame duck president has final quack at peace process.”
The British papers were so lovesick over the Clintons that Hillary’s smooching of Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, until very recently reviled in Britain because of their perceived connections with IRA terrorists, provoked only muted outrage. The Sun called it “an astonishing show of affection” and pronounced, “Hillary’s display of intimacy was the clearest sign of how close the Clintons have grown to the Provo apologists during their two terms in the White House.” It added, archly, “[O]bservers believe Hillary, who has just been elected New York Senator, was aware of the value of the kisses for Irish-American voters back home.”
Citizen Alberto: On Tuesday, the Japanese government confirmed that ousted Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori holds Japanese citizenship and is therefore entitled to stay in Tokyo indefinitely. According to the Japan Times, the foreign minister refused to provide further details, citing “privacy issues.” In Peru, this was widely interpreted as coded confirmation of the long-circulated rumors that Fujimori was born in Japan, which would have made him ineligible for the Peruvian presidency. A Peruvian congressman told Spain’s Diario 16: “We [were ruled for] 10 years by a subject of the Japanese emperor. … We’re not chauvinists. We admire the Japanese, but it bothers us that they have lied to us for 10 years, and because of this lie justice won’t be served because Japan is going to defend him like a son.” La República of Peru, until recently one of the country’s few anti-Fujimori voices, said the problem wasn’t that the former president had dual citizenship—in a country of immigrants that is common—but rather the complicity of the Japanese government in hiding the full story, when in 1997 it refused journalists’ requests to see the official birth registry. An intemperate editorial claimed:
The Japanese government, proving that it still maintains the old imperial habits that drove them to behave like the Nazis of the East, used Fujimori as its beachhead in the [South American] continent. … Japan, which is a democratic country, mustn’t stain itself with acts of complicity with a fugitive who used double nationality as a shelter. Unless that democracy is run by the yakuza.
Terror taxes: The Basque terrorist group ETA has demanded a “revolution tax” from Bayern Munich and French national soccer star Bixente Lizarazu, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported Wednesday. Lizarazu, a Basque from the French border town of Hendaye, was told to “pay back the money you have received from the enemy territory of France and which was stolen from the Basque people and the citizens of the Basque country.” Although this first reported sports extortion involves a French-Basque, Diario 16 revealed that ETA has been planning to shake down Basque athletes, especially those from the Spanish part of the Basque country, since at least 1993. According to FAZ, in the past Basques have composed up to half the Spanish national soccer squad: “If the Basque players were now to refuse to play for Spain because of fears of extortion by ETA, national coach Jose Antonio Camacho would find it very difficult to put together a competitive team.” Argentina’s Clarin said that although ETA has previously threatened many Spanish-Basque entrepreneurs and companies with violent reprisals if they didn’t pay up, this is the first time the separatist group has threatened a French citizen not resident in Spain.