Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama gained yet another endorsement from a politician on Tuesday – yes, not just any “Tuesday” but on SuperDuper Tuesday. What is more, the endorsement was pronounced right in the middle of the day when primary voters were supposed to head to their local polls to vote.
But that was because this time, as the newspaper Het Parool reports, the endorsement came from Dutch Finance Minister and senior Labor Party figure Wouter Bos, who called Obama “the most inspiring” of the various American candidates in the regular weekly appearance he makes on an evening program of Holland’s “RTL Z” channel. (Early evening program Central European Time, but six hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time: thus, endorsement pronounced around noon/early afternoon in the US, depending on where you are.)
Right, so there is probably barely a handful of Americans who would ordinarily even take notice. Intriguingly, though, there is scope here for the Republican Party “opposition research” machinery to cook up a nice smear against Obama, should they be clever enough to realize what is going on. For Wouter Bos is the sort of endorser that Obama ordinarily can quite do without – Bos and his Dutch Labor Party (Partij van de Arbeid, or PvdA), being of the European Left, are reliably to the left of anything even in mainstream Democratic Party politics. Think “to the left of Dennis Kucinich” (which itself may be a good candidate, by the way, to go into the dictionary of antonyms opposite that old classic, “to the right of Genghis Khan”).
After all, even Bos himself grasps these subtleties, as in that same TV appearance he admitted that Hillary Clinton would likely turn out to be the Democratic nominee*, because the presumptive Republican candidate John McCain would more easily be able to tar Obama with an “extreme left” image – a possibility, as I point out, that Bos himself was acting to make even more likely. (Admittedly, this “more likely” is probably only microscopic – then again, is it ever really safe ever to underestimate the capabilities of that Republican “oppo research” machine?) Anyway, it seems Bos just couldn’t help himself.
Actually, that is not even the ostensible point of Het Parool’s article. Officials in foreign governments are really not supposed to express candidate preferences for other countries’ elections, among other reasons because that can then make relations awkward (e.g. during state visits) if it turns out that the other side wins. Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende therefore felt called upon to slap Bos down – mildly; “The Dutch cabinet has no preference for an American presidential candidate. And that also applies to the members of the cabinet [of which Bos is a prominent one, of course],” he told the newspaper De Telegraaf soon afterwards.
* When referring to a female candidate, and keeping in mind the word’s French origin, shouldn’t the term “nominee” be properly spelt “nominée”? William Safire?