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Western Press Review: Fixation On Tomorrow's U.S. Election

Prague, 6 November 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Tomorrow's U.S. presidential election pitting Democratic vice president Al Gore against Republican Texas governor George W. Bush dominates editorial pages on both sides of the Atlantic.


The New York Times says the election has been "compelling" but it highlights the need for reforming how campaigns are financed.

The paper says today, the last day of the campaign, "concludes, for the public, a compelling competition of ideas and personalities. A year ago, both men were aware of the tough challenge that awaited them in capturing the nomination, uniting their parties and slugging their way state by state through the fall. But few predicted their fight would bring out so many ambivalent feelings among the voters, with so many states in contention at the end. A great deal depends now on the last-minute decisions of swing voters, the effectiveness of major drives to get out the vote, and the final barrage of slashing attack ads paid for by this election's record fund-raising."

The editorial continues: "One thing about this race has turned out to be depressingly predictable. It has demonstrated the need for the sweeping campaign finance reform that Mr. Gore has promised to deliver if elected. The amount of 'soft money' -- the huge unregulated campaign donations raised from corporations, labor and wealthy individuals -- is coming in at more than $500 million this year, twice what was spent by the parties in 1996."

The New York Times, which has endorsed Gore, concludes: "If Americans dwell on the depth of Mr. Gore's preparation for the office he seeks, tomorrow should be a bright day for him and the nation."


The Wall Street Journal Europe, which favors Bush, in a commentary by Paul Gigot says: "If Al Gore loses tomorrow, one battle line of Democratic recrimination is already clear. Mr. Gore will blame Bill Clinton, the president will blame Mr. Gore, and they'll both be right. Everyone has known since impeachment that Mr. Gore's campaign task was to separate himself from Mr. Clinton's unpopularity as a person, while associating himself with his popular New Democrat policies." But the Wall Street Journal remarks: "Mr. Gore has managed to do the opposite. Americans still tar him by association with Mr. Clinton's problems of credibility and ethics. But they also worry that he's a pre-Clinton liberal who'd revive the era of big government. The Bush campaign wasn't this optimistic."


In London, Sion Simon comments in the Daily Telegraph: "The outcome of the Bush-Gore contest is peculiarly uninteresting because they are so evenly equipped with mediocrity. It has become conventional to contrast 'the jerk' (Gore) with 'the moron' (Bush), but even that characterization overstates their endowments. Mr. Gore is not a proper jerk. On occasion he can be quite presidential, and sometimes comes across as a decent bloke. What both men really lack is the elusive charisma of sincerity and empathy. It's always been a difference between the star politicians and the run of the mill. But it's more important now than ever."


Across the channel, Thomas Piketty comments in the Paris daily Liberation that the choice is obvious. He writes: "How is it possible that the American voter hesitates between Al Gore and George W. Bush? Seen from Europe the choice is easy to make. On one side, Gore wants American prosperity to benefit the whole population. He proposes, for example, to use the budget surplus to improve the health insurance of the poorest and preserve the future of the retirement (social security) system. On the other side, Bush chooses to lower taxes as much as possible, particularly taxes paid by the richest. What can explain Bush's hope of getting 50 percent of the vote with such a program?"


The French business daily La Tribune adds: "This was an election campaign that did not avoid mud-slinging personal attacks. If on the other side of the Atlantic, the natural law applies that voters are mobilized to the extent they are motivated by the quality of the debate, then the verdict will be tough."


The Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel, in a commentary by Robert von Rimscha, remarks: "Gore was a good vice president. But he looks lost without Clinton. Each one of his speeches proves just how removed the man from Tennessee is. How little he measures up against his boss. This is more than just a shortage of charm. Gore lacks the antenna that makes politicians capable of politicking. If he calls on Clinton for help, the shadows of the scandal will swiftly follow. If he tries to do it on his own, he himself is the greatest obstacle. The Democrat will not be able to extricate himself from this predicament. Americans tomorrow will choose between two whose weaknesses are more visible than their strengths. It will be close."


The Stuttgarter Zeitung comments: "America rules the world more than ever. Of course, the superpower has not succeeded in imposing peace on the Middle East. Saddam Hussein remains in control in Baghdad. And Slobodan Milosevic was not overthrown by the American but by his own people. Nevertheless, Bill Clinton's successor will be able calmly to continue realizing the American dream. Regardless of whether Al Gore or George W. Bush emerges this week as the victor of the presidential elections, both will proceed to further Americanize the world, since they are backed up by an unbelievable success story. Twenty years ago, it wasn't just the U.S. auto industry that was fighting for its survival. America seemed to have gambled away its future." The paper concludes: "Today, however, America is setting the standard around the globe politically, militarily, technologically and in terms of civilization."


In Italy, the Milan daily Corriere della Sera comments: "On the eve of the elections in the U.S., Europe raves over Al Gore since until now it has had neither the time nor the courage to be enthusiastic about Bush. Europeans like Gore, and Bush worries them because the Democratic vice president has the experience for strategic continuity, while the Republican could raise the issue of a revision of the Atlantic relationship. While Europe hopes for a calming victory for Gore, we can only wish that [the Continent] has not miscalculated."


The Rome daily la Repubblica, in a commentary by Bernardo Valli, remarks in a similar vein: "[In the race] between George W. Bush and Al Gore, Europeans -- as silent voters -- favor the latter. [This is] not so much because Gore is a Democrat and belongs more to the political left...Eight years ago, when Bill Clinton faced the elder Bush, Europeans favored the Republicans [because] Bush had considerably more world experience than the young governor from distant Arkansas...[Al Gore] basically [represents] the continuity of Clinton policies as applied to China and the Balkans and -- at the moment -- in the Middle East, despite a repeated lack of success there. Bush doesn't say he won't intervene to maintain peace, but he thinks the U.S. military should be contributing to creating democracy somewhere else other than Bosnia or Kosovo."


Finally the Madrid daily El Mundo comments: "Gore and Bush are not the same and do not represent the same interests. In a declaration to El Mundo, Dick Cheney, the Republican candidate for vice president assured yesterday that Bush 'is more trustworthy for Europe as an ally and a partner.'" But, El Mundo continues, "When looking at [Bush's] program, this is not true. For their international policy, ethical values and the model of society that they defend, the Gore-Lieberman tandem is more suitable for European interests than the Bush-Cheney team. For Europe it would be better if the Democrats win."