Republicans bash continent, European right hails McCain
By Frank Fuhrig and Chris Cermak Sep 4, 2008, 12:20 GMT
Republican Vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, with Republican Presidential Candidate John McCain and her family, acknowledges supporters on the floor of the Republican National Convention at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA, 3 September, 2008. EPA/TANNEN MAURY
St Paul, Minnesota - Republicans celebrating their national convention have hammered Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama for his 'celebrity' tour of Europe this summer - while Europe's conservatives were in attendance to proclaim their admiration for Republican Party candidate John McCain.
Republican speakers at this week's presidential nominating pageant have delighted in ridiculing Europe as a pro-Obama home of stifling welfare states.
Obama visited the Middle East and Europe in July, meeting with the leaders of Britain, France and Germany and holding a rousing speech before an estimated 200,000 people in Berlin. Polls have shown Obama would win in a landslide if the US election was up to Europeans.
McCain would 'rather spend his time creating 200,000 jobs in America than speaking to 200,000 Germans in Berlin,' Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman quipped Wednesday.
Meanwhile, officials from the European People's Party (EPP), a centre-right coalition of national conservative parties from across Europe, were in St Paul to endorse McCain.
Former Belgian prime minister Wilfried Martens, who has served as EPP president since 1992, led the delegation. 'Despite the wave of Obama-mania in Europe, the EPP is one of the few European voices that have openly supported John McCain,' he said.
Part of their affection for McCain comes from his long involvement in the International Republican Institute, a democracy-building group. 'We got to know him as someone who is very strongly interested in trans-Atlantic relations,' Martens said.
George W Bush, US president since 2001, is remarkably unpopular in Western Europe, which 'of course is why there is so much hype around Obama,' Martens said. But the Illinois senator, with only four years in office, 'lacks the experience of John McCain.'
Already prior to the convention, Obama's Berlin speech had been derided by McCain and Republicans in commercials that painted Obama as the 'biggest celebrity in the world' and mocked Europeans for fawning over the Democratic candidate.
McCain made his own trip to Europe shortly after capturing the nomination in March. He met with continental leaders but gave no public speeches.
EPP officials cite McCain's position on climate change, which proposes an energy policy that includes renewables, as another hopeful sign for his relations with European allies, if elected.
McCain, who will accept the party's nomination Thursday night, has in the past promised a renewed focus on US allies, promising not to follow the go-it-alone strategy of the Bush administration if he wins the November 4 election and becomes president.
But his Republican colleagues on Wednesday made a forceful argument to continue the battle against terrorism, spoke little of allies and pledged to remain firm on issues that have irked many Europeans - including preventing Guantanamo Bay detainees from gaining access to US federal courts.
Former New York mayor Rudi Giuliani provoked a chorus of boos from the crowd when he spoke of Obama's support for the United Nations Security Council handling the crisis in Georgia. Giuliani ridiculed Obama's position, noting that Russia has a Security Council veto.
Former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said: 'Barack Obama's excellent adventure to Europe took his campaign for change to hundreds of thousands of people who don't even vote or pay taxes here. But let me hasten to say, it's not what he took there that concerns me. It's what he brought back - lot's of European ideas that give the government the chance to grab even more of our liberty.'
Mitt Romney, a former venture capitalist and presidential candidate, framed Democrats as offering the opposite - 'higher taxes, bigger government' - and compared them to a rather depressing picture of the continent across the Atlantic.
'It's the same path Europe took a few decades ago. It leads to moribund growth and double-digit unemployment,' Romney said.