BY JOE LEARY
SPECIAL TO THE BIR
The United States is the most powerful, resourceful nation in the world, so what goes on here is of intense interest to all other countries. especially Ireland.
In fact, there is so much attention paid to American elections in English-speaking Ireland that two organizations conducted polls of its citizens to determine who they would choose (if they could) between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.
The results are quite interesting.
In the Gallup International Irish poll, reported on the Irish Central News website, the Irish would vote for Obama over Romney by 96 percent to 4 percent. The Irish Times newspaper survey showed it 79-5 for the president with 16 percent having no opinion.
As a general rule, the Irish media, print and broadcast, report on events in the United States far more than the American media mention news from Ireland. This is particularly true with our elections.
Newspaper and television coverage of the three debates was extensive – even front page news in Dublin. In Belfast, with the British press, the coverage was less so. Events like Missouri senatorial candidate Todd Akin’s comments on the distant likelihood of pregnancy resulting from “legitimate rape” because a woman’s body can somehow prevent it, or the more recent Indiana senatorial candidate Richard Mourdock’s belief that a pregnancy resulting from rape is “God’s will” have received major press coverage. Sara Palin’s malicioius, over the top racial comment regarding “shuck and jive” was well reported in Ireland.
In today’s hi-tech atmosphere, what goes on in Missouri or Indiana or Alaska is immediately available to the world. Well more than 50 percent of all citizens in developed countries carry cell phones that instantly record still pictures and videos complete with sound.
Romney’s comments dismissing 47 per cent of the American people who don’t pay taxes as unworthy of his attention would never have been public 20 years ago. And the average Irishman or woman is also well aware of Obama’s poor performance in the first debate where he tried to appear presidential and above it all but came off as an unwillingness to engage Romney.
Ireland’s population is estimated to be some 4.5 million; it remains a very small country, with fewer people than Massachuusetts and New York City. It is difficult if not impossible for the average Irish citizen to appreciate the size and complexity of the United States. To be sure, there are very few Americans who understand it all, but we have a better chance of doing so by living here, studying here, and travelling here to appreciate some of our major issues.
What the Irish and many Europeans see is an America that is a very large country thousands of miles away with a hugely powerful military that can sometimes be a bit of a bully. President Bush’s invasion of Iraq mistakenly looking for weapons of mass destruction with only Great Britain as our major ally offers a good example of that assessment. Even American success in winning Olympic medals can bring out some of the same feelings that many Bostonians have about the New York Yankees.
The Irish and most Europeans seem to want to continue the same friendly relations that have begun under President Obama, and they are watching us carefully. When the Irish wake up on Wed., Nov. 7, among the very first things they will do is check on our election results.