The French Love Kerry

Discussion in 'Politics' started by sitarro, Mar 16, 2004.

  1. sitarro

    sitarro Gold Member Supporting Member

    Nov 17, 2003
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    +1,002 Going Wild For Senator Kerry In Election Fever


    By MICHAEL MANVILLE Special to the Sun

    PARIS — It could be the flawless French he learned while at boarding school in Switzerland. Or that he summered in his youth at a picturesque village on the rocky shores of Brittany. Or his pledge to take America’s allies more seriously and pursue an inclusive foreign policy.

    Or maybe it’s the simple fact that he’s not President Bush.

    Whatever the reason, the French are going wild for John Kerry.

    His face graces the covers of magazines and newspapers on Paris newsstands. He’s the subject of radio phone-in and television talk shows. Journalists chase down distant relatives and long-forgotten acquaintances in search of anecdotes.

    If November’s presidential election were being held here, there’s no doubt that Mr. Kerry, the Massachusetts senator and Democratic candidate, would win by a landslide.

    “People are going crazy. My phone is ringing from morning to night because everybody wants to know about Kerry,” said the head of the France chapter of Democrats Abroad, Constance Borde. “I’m even getting calls from French people asking if they can contribute to the campaign, and of course I have to tell them no.This is something I’ve never seen happening.”

    It seems hard to imagine the French being enthusiastic about anything American these days. Under Mr. Bush, relations between France and America have been at their lowest ebb in decades, with the two nations trading jabs for more than a year over French opposition to the war in Iraq.

    While Americans were muttering about “cheese-eating surrender monkeys,” the French were crying foul over “American imperialism” and burning Mr.Bush in effigy on the streets of Paris.

    “There is no question the Bush administration is unpopular in France, as it is across Europe,” said the director of the French Center on the United States, Guillaume Parmentier.“Bush himself is deeply unpopular. He is perceived as being non-presidential; even his demeanor makes Europeans uneasy.”

    But in Mr. Kerry, the French seem to have found an American they can embrace.

    On the streets of Paris, his candidacy is being welcomed with open arms.

    “He is very much admired in France,” said a municipal office worker, Patrick Forestier, as he strolled with his lunch through the Latin Quarter. “It seems like he will be more sympathetic to Europe… .And of course anyone who is opposed to Bush will be popular with us.”

    A shop worker on Boulevard St-Germain, Dominique Van Oudenhove, said Mr. Kerry seems the perfect antidote to four years of Mr. Bush.

    “It is so important to have a president who knows Europe, whose spirit is open to its people and culture. Bush is so closed to the world.With Kerry there is a hope that we can start getting along with the United States again,” she said.

    Mrs. Borde said the French see in Mr. Kerry the kind of leader they are more accustomed to.

    “He is the closest thing that you will have to a French politician, with a certain diplomacy, a certain elegance,” she said.“He is more like a leader would be in Europe,” Mr. Parmentier said. Asked in what way, he laughed and replied: “Well, he doesn’t look Texan.”

    Instead, he looks like the kind of American the French have always appreciated — urbane, well traveled, and sophisticated. Mr. Kerry’s connection with France dates back to his youth, when he spent summers with a flock of cousins in St-Briac-sur-Mer, a summer resort town where his maternal grandfather had built an estate.

    James Grant Forbes, an international lawyer and banker,settled there with his wife, Margaret Winthrop, in 1908. The couple raised 11 children, including Mr. Kerry’s mother.

    Their rambling cliffside property, called “Les Essarts,” was destroyed when Nazi troops occupied St-Briac, but Mr. Kerry’s grandfather rebuilt the estate and it became a regular summer haunt of far-flung relatives.

    One of Mr. Kerry’s cousins, 58-yearold Brice Lalonde, is a former French environment minister and now mayor of St-Briac.In an article in L’Express under the headline “My cousin JFK,” Mr. Lalonde recently wrote of how Mr. Kerry always took charge of his cousins’ activities when he visited the estate.

    “He was the one who organized the games, who led the gang,” wrote Mr. Lalonde, whose car sports a “Kerry For President” bumper sticker.

    Still, Mr. Kerry has not returned to St-Briac in 20 years. At the height of American-French tensions last year, he skipped a family reunion that saw more than 200 relatives gather at the estate.

    In fact, some here are looking to downplay his European connections, fearful that they may harm him in the campaign and give ammunition to the Republicans. One Bush administration official has commented that Mr. Kerry “looks French.”

    Mr. Lalonde has repeatedly told reporters Mr. Kerry is a quintessential American with a deep sense of patriotism.“To cut off all suggestion,well-meaning or ill-meaning depending on what side of the Atlantic it comes from, John Kerry is in no way a Frenchman, even if he knows France,” Mr. Lalonde wrote.

    Mrs. Borde said she believes Mr. Kerry’s past will be more of an asset than a drawback.“I think this could play in his favor,” she said. “Ordinary Americans are beginning to understand what damage has been done to our international reputation and they’re getting worried about it.”

    Some observers here wonder if the French are not in for a disappointment if Mr. Kerry becomes president.

    Mr. Parmentier said French fans tend to forget the fact that Mr. Kerry supported the war in Iraq and that he isn’t likely to drastically change American foreign policy.

    “His attitude is very different, so the atmosphere will probably be better,” he said. “But there is a limit to what he can do.” In an opinion piece published last week in Le Figaro, Bruno Tertrais, an analyst with France’s Foundation for Strategic Research, warned that the French are “dreaming” if they expect Mr. Kerry will give them “an America they can love.”

    Writing that the French are expecting a victory for Mr. Kerry will mean an end to “neo-conservatives and fundamentalists, to military super-strength and attempts to reshape the world,”Mr. Tertrais said he wanted to “shatter some illusions.”

    He wrote that American political culture was so changed by the September 11 attacks that the Democrats would be no less likely than the Republicans to exercise American military power.

    “Bush or Kerry, the next occupant of the White House will still be a war president,” he wrote.

    And as for rebuilding U.S.-French relations, Mr.Tertrais held out little hope that Mr. Kerry would be any different from his predecessor.

    “The transatlantic crisis of 2003 is still too fresh for any American president, no matter who he is, to reach out his hand too visibly to our country.”

    The French aren’t the only Europeans laying claim to a connection with John Kerry. In the tiny Czech village of Horni Benesov — the birthplace of Mr. Kerry’s paternal grandfather — residents are hoping to one day host a presidential visit. “I believe he will become the American president. He seems a very reasonable, very likeable person,” the town’s mayor, Josef Klech, told Reuters recently. “He has said he has an interest in coming here if he visits the Czech Republic. This can put our small town on the world map.”

    Mr. Kerry’s grandfather was Fritz Kohn, an ethnic German Jew born in Horni Benesov, a former mining town near the Polish border. A brewer in a land known for its fine beers, Khon moved to America at the turn of the last century, converted to Catholicism, and changed his name to Frederick Kerry. Mr. Kerry was unaware of his grandfather’s roots until a genealogist dug up the news last summer.

    I know this is long but I thought it said a lot about John F. Kerry-Heinz .
  2. Lefty Wilbury

    Lefty Wilbury Active Member

    Nov 4, 2003
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    i wanna make a bumber sticker that says: F*ck the french! vote republican!

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