• The World Is Watching: Americans – notoriously ignorant of other countries' politics – are often surprised by how much citizens of other countries know about the American political scene, not to mention the country's history. And in a presidential election year – one with both African-American and female candidates – interest is particularly high in many countries, as a Monitor roundup from several countries shows (see story). Reporters from around the globe have been traipsing around Iowa and New Hampshire, and media at home have been tracking exchanges.
Mariah Blake, who is based in Hamburg, Germany, reports that Germans have been transfixed by Democratic candidate Barack Obama. Some Germans, she notes, have found that they didn't know as much about Mr. Obama as they would like and are worried about his inexperience. But the candidate has also received his share of comparisons to John F. Kennedy, whose "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech in West Berlin in 1963 was seen as emblematic of Germany's deep solidarity with the United States in the post-World War II era.
Mariah notes that the enduring reverence for Kennedy in Germany gives this comparison a lot of historical weight. "Behind the rhetoric," she says, "is the hope that the strong but fraying ties to the United States will be mended.
In Paris, Robert Marquand met one man who had not heard of Obama until about five days ago – at which point he became an enthusiast, noting that he was "sympa" – or kind. And "everyone already knows Hillary," this man told Bob.
The Chinese are less captivated, with few following the campaign closely – at least for now. Bao Handan, an interpreter for the municipal government in Shenzhen, knew that a Mormon, a former mayor of New York, and Hillary Clinton are running.
• In the Shadows? President George W. Bush's visit to the Middle East, the first since he was elected in 2000, has the attention of Israelis and Palestinians, reports staff writer Ilene R. Prusher (see story). But with security extremely tight – many of the main roads in Jerusalem are closed to traffic – most people are watching the visit on their television sets at home. "There, where most people get cable or satellite TV, they can't help but notice that most international channels are focused 24/7 on the election primaries back in the US – including the standoff between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton," says Ilene. "The races have been making front-page news here, in both the Israeli and Palestinian press, with many papers explaining to their readers the popular political jargon: that back home, many Americans dub a president in his last year a 'lame-duck.' "
– Amelia Newcomb
Deputy World editor