Of Special Ties and Low-Profile Dogs

Day one of the 2004 Democratic National Convention is now past, and if there is a common theme to coverage in the Danish press, it’s Bill Clinton. Clinton, and to a lesser extent Hillary, continue to command fascination from audiences beyond America’s borders, so the Danish dailies lead their international coverage (although it’s never the top story of the day, sorry to have to disappoint you) with pictures of Clinton and translated quotes about how, for example, “John Kerry is a good man, who knows how to steer a ship through troubled waters” (from Politiken’s Clinton Works for a Kerry Victory).

But that’s generally the same in them all; that’s boring. Let’s turn instead to the more-diverse side-articles, such as crack Berlingske Tidende political writer Paul Høi’s first-hand encounters with security in Boston-town (We’re Off to Boston, My Friend).

“It begins already in the airplane,” Høi reports in this “convention diary” – that stifling security. He has the misfortune to be assigned a seat in a row with an emergency exit-door, and so is handed an extra set of instructions about what to do, is told by the stewardess to read it and watched as he does so, and then is quizzed on what he has just read.

Høi had also drawn the assignment to cover the Democratic convention in 2000, in Los Angeles, and there was certainly security laid on there, but nothing like what he observes now. One hundred observation cameras outside the FleetCenter; the near-by subway station closed down, together with the highway downtown; Coast Guard cutters patrolling the harbor with their infra-red nightsights and divers; and helicopters and even F-16s circling watchfully overhead. And of course security dogs; Høi watches as a (female) delegate approaches a squad of three security-men with their bomb-sniffing hounds and gushes “They’re sweet! What are their names?” The response: “We can’t tell you that, ma’am. We’re trying to give the dogs a low profile.”

What with all the security, movement of any kind in the city is very difficult indeed. “This is hell,” Høi’s taxi-driver grouses one day. “I almost just want to go back where I came from.” “Where is that?” “Haiti. We got worse roads, and there are highway-robbers all over the place, but things still move along faster down there.”


The heavy security naturally extends to the Kerry family mansion, located in Boston’s high-class Beacon Hill neighborhood, where Høi finds numerous four-wheel-drive vehicles on watch, black or dark-blue, their motors always running, manned by personnel “so voluminous that they [also] should carry a yellow license-plate.” He writes about how, at first, the Kerry neighbors were a bit annoyed about not even being allowed to have their groceries loaded from their car in front of their house. But they’ve gotten over all that now and forged a tight relationship with their guardians, sending out cookies and even whole meals to them. A few of the Beacon Hill ladies have even had specially-designed convention neckties made for them: in gold, silver, blue, green, and red (not separate ties; they’re the same ties, apparently displaying all these colors). “I suppose I should wear it at least once,” one anonymous agent remarked to the Boston Globe.

Finally, in case any one needs reminding of the fact, Høi recalls that both airplanes that slammed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York originated from Boston’s Logan Airport, after security checks on their passengers that he describes as having been “more than usually liberal.” “Liberal”? Meaning “faulty,” yes? Does Høi realize what he is doing, choosing words like that?


I hate to concentrate too much on one writer, but it seems that Paul Høi has already been rather busy in Boston, as he couples his “convention diary” of personal observations with an excellent treatment of the topic we touched upon in yesterday’s post, namely the foreigners in attendance, provocatively titled What Does Europe Need to Do to Get Kerry Elected? This time it’s not French representatives that are the star of the piece, but rather some visitors from Britain’s governing Labour Party. One of them, Martin Salter, says straight-out “I consider George W. Bush as a complete and absolute threat to world civilization, and the sooner he is kicked out the door, the better.” As Salter goes on to point out, he is hardly alone in this attitude among his fellow countrymen, who polls show favor Kerry by a margin of five-to-one (although, he admits, opinion is even more lopsided in countries such as Germany and France).

The thing is, as we saw yesterday in the determination of the Frenchmen in Boston to just keep their Frenchieness to themselves as much as possible, this sort of support from outside is a mixed blessing at best. And Høi does an excellent job of showing just why that is: Americans bridle at the idea of foreigners seeming to dictate to them who their president should be. He quotes that conservative radio paladin, Rush Limbaugh (heard by at least 20 million Americans each day): “Europeans don’t like Bush because they don’t like a strong America. That’s the truth, my friends. Bush is too strong for them. He won’t bow down and kiss their feet or try to come to a consensus with a band of elite, old-money-aristocrat European socialists who are only interested in dictating to us.” (“Old-money-aristocrat European socialists”? Whew – how about if, before we allow someone to pontificate about Europe and Europeans, we ask him or her first to demonstrate that he can locate these countries on a map?)

Høi ultimately concludes that, as rabidly anti-Bush as these Brits or any other visiting foreigners care to be, they’re only wasting their breath and flirting with the prospect of indeed becoming counter-productive in this way. As he quotes the commentator Sunder Katwala in The Observer (that’s a leading British newspaper), there are really only three foreigners who could influence the course of this presidential election:

  • Osama bin Laden, who supposedly could ensure Bush’s re-election with some sort of pre-election terror attack. The worrying thing is, we can assume that that’s what he wants to do; “Bush is good for the Islamic cause,” maintains Katwala.
  • Jacques Chirac, who could throw the entire body of Republican voters into deep confusion by endorsing Bush for re-election.
  • And then (more seriously, folks) there’s Tony Blair, whose standing among Americans is such that he could greatly further the cause of either candidate with his endorsement. But Blair is taking care to remain studiously neutral – no matter what his Labour Party associates are getting themselves into now over in Boston.


Other than that, another article that caught my attention in the Danish press – in what you’ll recognize is likewise a humorous vein – is Anders Legarth Schmidt’s piece in Politiken, Michael Moore Invites Bush to the Movies. Yes, now that Fahrenheit 9/11 is opening (tomorrow, in fact) at the “Crawford Peace House” movie theater just down the road a spell from Bush’s Texas ranch, Moore has written the President a letter (posted on his website; in English, of course) about how glad he would be to see him there. After all, “you’ve got the funniest lines in the film!”

Finally, for those who might need reminding along these lines, Politiken features articles both about the forty-eight Nobel Prize winners who collectively endorsed Kerry for President in an open letter last month, and the twenty-six ex-diplomats and -military officers who acted similarly a few weeks before that (Diplomats and Officers: Vote Bush Out).

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