In author Jabari Asim's fictionalized St. Louis -- the 'Gateway City' first introduced in his short story collection 'A Taste of Honey' –- characters come to grips with the fallout of the civil rights era in surprising ways. We talk with Asim about the fictional world he created and examine the realities of how we deal with race in America today.
U.S. presidential elections garner almost as much media coverage in foreign countries as they do here. Most election watchers abroad acknowledge that whether the occupant of the White House is Republican or Democrat, differences in American foreign policy will be subtle. We get perspectives from journalists around the world.
- Cindy Shiner Editor, Allafrica.com
- David Trads Washington Bureau Chief, Berlingske newspaper; and Radio Host, GLOBUS-USA, Radio24/7
- Ashraf Khalil journalist; and author of "Liberation Square: Inside the Egyptian Revolution and the Rebirth of a Nation" (St. Martin's Press)
Photo Gallery: Election 2012 International Newspaper Home Pages###
From Doha, Qatar to Mexico City, newspapers around the world reported on the U.S. presidential election. Here’s a variety of website home pages published the day after the election. All images were captured at 11 a.m. EST on Nov. 7, 2012.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world.
MR. KOJO NNAMDILater in the broadcast, Food Wednesday, a farmer takes on a major chemical corporation over patented soybean seeds and the case goes all the way to the Supreme Court. But first, non-Americans sometimes joke that given the outsized impact the U.S. wields globally, they should get a vote in U.S. presidential elections. And citizens from around the world followed the American election closely. In some places, the race garnered as much front page coverage as in major papers here. And while President Obama was heavily favored in polls worldwide, the reality is that in terms of what might affect other countries, U.S. foreign policy, most non-Americans see little difference between the approach of Democrats and Republicans.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIJoining us to discuss this all is David Trads. He is Washington Bureau Chief of Berlingske newspaper. He's also the host of a Danish radio program covering American politics. David Trads, it's good to see you again.
MR. DAVID TRADSThanks a lot, Kojo.
NNAMDIAlso joining us by phone is Cindy Shiner. She's an editor at Allafrica.com, which aggregates news from African newspapers. She's been involved in covering Africa for 20 years. She joins us by phone from Boulder, Colo. Cindy Shiner, thank you for joining us.
MS. CINDY SHINERThanks for having me.
NNAMDIAnd Ashraf Khalil joins us by phone from Cairo. He's a journalist and author of "Liberation Square: Inside The Egyptian Revolution And The Rebirth Of A Nation." Ashraf Khalil, thank you for joining us.
MR. ASHRAF KHALILWell, I'm happy to be here.
NNAMDIWe start with David Trads. David, how much coverage did the U.S. election get in Europe?
TRADSIt got an enormous amount of coverage. It was almost as if there was an election going on in Europe. I would even say it was even more than when there is an election going on in Europe. Most papers in Europe had the U.S. election as a front page story yesterday and today, just as if there had been a major election in their own country. So it's a huge coverage of the U.S. election in Europe.
NNAMDIWe have a photo gallery at our website of headlines from around the world, at Kojoshow.org. David, most Europeans expected an Obama win and were surprised that it was even close. What did the headlines you've been looking at today say?
TRADSThey're very clear. I think there were two headlines today. One is a big sigh of relief that Obama won again, because most Europeans -- something like 80 percent of the Europeans wanted Obama to win again. And they couldn’t understand why it was even possible that Mitt Romney could eventually end up winning. That was one signal, the sigh of relief.
TRADSThe other one was a new sentiment of hope that some of the things that Obama promised the world that he would do back in 2008 might actually be able to happen because he won again.
NNAMDICindy Shiner, how much coverage has the American election gotten in African countries?
SHINEROh, it's gotten quite a bit of coverage all over the front pages of newspapers, but I do have to say that the coverage has been less enthusiastic than it was in 2008 when Obama was first elected.
NNAMDIHas there been an element of disappointment that despite President Obama's close connection through his father to Africa that he has perhaps not paid as much attention to Africa as people there feel he could or should have?
SHINERYes. There certainly is. And in some of the editorials that have come out they're calling for him to do more. They, you know, they're, on one hand they're asserting, okay, he had to deal with some issues at home and there was the Arab uprising, but maybe now he can turn his attention a bit more to Africa. There was quite a bit of celebration in his late father's ancestral hometown in Kenya. They had a celebration and, you know, were really happy that he was reelected, but at the same time, Kenya, as a whole, reacted in a much more subdued manner than it did before.
SHINERSo they are certainly looking for more from Obama over the next four years.
NNAMDIAllow me to invite our listeners to join this conversation, 800-433-8850. How do you think the world sees the U.S. election? Are you a native of another country? How do people in your own country view these elections in the United States? 800-433-8850. You can send email to Kojo@wamu.org. Send us a tweet @kojoshow or go to our website, Kojoshow.org and join the conversation there. Ashraf Khalil, how prominent has coverage of the U.S. elections been in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East?
KHALILWe've been steadily covered, but it has not been the top news story. There hasn't been (unintelligible) because I think the Egyptians are very internal focused right now. There's a host of uncertain issues, the constitution is still being written, there's not a parliament, President Morsi is in his first two (unintelligible) ...
NNAMDIWe're gonna try to have to see if we can get Ashraf Khalil on a better line and have him join the conversation later. For some reason today the reception is not very good. We're still, however, talking with David Trads, Washington Bureau Chief of Berlingske newspaper and host of a Danish radio program covering American politics and Cindy Shiner, an editor at Allafrica.com, which aggregates news from African newspapers. And Cindy Shiner has been involved in covering Africa for some 20 years now.
NNAMDIDavid, Obama's victory speech highlighted a theme that's run this election that the country rises and the country falls as one nation. Does that strike a responsive chord in other nations? Is that seen as a rejection, maybe, of the kind of individual accomplishment that Mitt Romney represented and that, well, frankly, America's also known for?
TRADSI think it's mostly seen, in Europe at least, as a way in which we can see that President Obama's domestic policies is very much in line with the domestic policies of most European countries. Because Europe, of course, you now, most countries in Europe have a left wing center government type with a very big welfare state. And nobody in Europe expects that Obama will change America into some Northern European welfare state, but they see the direction. They see that President Obama is moving towards the direction that looks more like Europe and they are quite happy with that.
NNAMDIEuropeans, by a vast majority, tend to favor Democrats. Can you talk a little bit about some of the policy issues where there are perceived differences?
TRADSWell, first of all, Europeans like Democrats, as I just said, because they look more like Europeans to begin with. They have a better idea of a more strong welfare state. They have a better idea of helping people who are in need than Republicans have. Most Europeans see Republicans as extremely right wing, not just right wing, but as extremely right wing, a policy of cutting taxes in a country, like the U.S. that has a tax rate that is almost half of what Europe's is, is perceived as being very extreme by most Europeans.
TRADSSo in most European countries, you'll only see somewhere between 10 and 20 percent who would actually support Mitt Romney or anybody who runs on the Republican ticket. I can actually say that Europe looks a lot like Washington, D.C. when it comes to the way that they vote.
NNAMDIIn the city of Washington, D.C., that's predominately Democratic, but here, in the United States, Obama is considered on the left. Where on the spectrum would he fall in Europe?
TRADSHe would not be considered left wing by any means in Europe. He would be considered center right. So he would be considered not just a moderate. He would be considered someone on the right side of politics, but not as extremely as most Europeans would perceive the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney. But definitely not on the left. Somewhere on the center right.
NNAMDIAllow me to go to the phones and talk with Johnny, in Washington, D.C. Johnny, you're on the air. Go ahead please.
JOHNNYYes. Kojo, I voted for Obama back in 2008 for one simple reason and I'll tell you he was different than the other president's on accounts of foreign policy, but I found it to be he's as bad as Bush, his predecessor, especially when it comes to Africa. Just wanted to let you know that I voted for Romney for that reason, knowing that Obama would be the winner, I had to make my own statement here that -- and I voted for Romney. I was very disappointed it was the president, especially his United Nation Ambassador Susan Rice was creating a lot of problems in Africa, quite frankly.
JOHNNYAnd I suspect...
NNAMDIUh-oh, we seemed to have lost Johnny for a second, but Cindy Shriner, I'd like you to comment on what you just heard Johnny say. He expressed disappointment and specifically pinpointed U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice. What, as far as you know, is the sentiment in Africa about the president and more specifically about Susan Rice?
SHINERWell, I can't really address Susan Rice, but certainly about President Obama. I think, you know, Africa is changing. It's moving more in the direction of the trade as opposed to aid. And there was a perception before that Democrats were, you know, more supportive of giving aid to Africa. And then now, as Africa is changing, they might look toward the Republicans as being more supportive of trade. And what the caller, what he had mentioned about former President Bush not having done much for Africa and didn't expect that Obama was gonna do much for Africa, actually, contrary to what a lot of people think, the Bush administration actually had some important policy towards Africa.
SHINERThere was the President's Emergency Plan For Aid Relief, the PEPFAR plan, which committed over 15 billion over five years to fight the HIV-Aids pandemic. Also President Bush was instrumental in getting President Charles Taylor to step down from Liberia in 2003. I think what Africans might be looking for is one of those really big moves. I mean, obviously the Obama administration has done things for Africa over the past four years, but I think what Africans are looking for is something really big, something that is really gonna show that they have the support that they want, something that's gonna be a major difference in their lives.
SHINERThe Obama administration has been supportive in the war on terror, especially giving military support in terms of fighting extremists in Northern Mali.
NNAMDII was about to bring that up because there's a great deal of concern, Cindy, about the rise of extremist groups in both Mali and Nigeria. What role would those countries and people in those countries, you think, like to see the U.S. play?
SHINERWell, up to this point, you know, it's been a supportive role. You know, and going back to what they're looking for, I mean, there's what the governments are looking for, there's what the average Nigerian, average Malian is looking for. Obviously, the people in Mali don't want conflict. The people in Nigeria don't either. The United States has not designated the Boko Haram extremist group in Nigeria as an international terrorist group, yet it, you know, has been giving support through the Nigerian government, as it has been doing to the economic community of West African states and their efforts to fight any kind of extremism.
SHINERBut, you know, what the average person is looking for is, how is my life going to be better? How am I going to be able to get more for what I sell? What is going to improve my life? So really, you know, they're really looking at boosting some trade.
NNAMDIDavid Trads, there were a number of glitches in the system in the country here last night. Many Americans waited in long lines to vote, hours after the polls were closed, in some places as many as five hours. is that a surprise to non-Americans, that the country that sees and promotes itself as a beacon of democracy has these kinds of issues?
TRADSIt is. It's something that is always strange in U.S. elections, that it's so difficult for a person to actually get to vote. First of all, you know, you need to register, whereas in Europe, you're already registered. So you don't have to do that. Secondly, it's easier to get off your job to get out to vote in Europe if you wanna do that. And thirdly, it's very difficult to understand why the system is so difficult, why you have to wait in line for such a long time, why the set up is so old-fashioned in many ways. You would think, like the president said yesterday in his acceptance speech, that this is something that needs to be fixed, but it's not the first time of course. So it's rather strange, I think, to look at this as a European, in this very highly developed country that it's still so difficult to actually get to vote.
NNAMDICindy Shiner, how do some of those issues, waiting in line at the polls, etcetera compare to elections in countries where you have followed in Africa?
SHINERWell, I think on the whole, from what I've seen so far of the -- the reaction is, you know, that country should -- African countries should look at the American example as an example for them to follow, you know, especially in a place like Kenya where post-election violence in 2007 and 2008 was so widespread.
SHINERAnd so they are looking towards the United States as an example and saying, well you know, okay, you waited in line a little bit. Big deal and, you know, don't complain so much. It's not that bad. I mean, look at what we have to go through when we are just trying to have an election. You know, we have very little resources. We've -- you know, sometimes there -- no voting materials even arrive, you know, but we still manage. So, you know, just get on with it. And it was a peaceful election and that was great. And this is something that we can aspire to.
NNAMDICindy Shiner's an editor at Allafrica.com which aggregates news from African newspapers. She's been covering Africa for 20 years. She joins us by phone from Boulder, Colorado. David Trads is Washington Bureau Chief of Berlingske newspaper. He's also the host of a Danish radio program that covers American politics. We're taking your calls at 800-433-8850. Here is Mohammad in Washington, D.C. Mohammad, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MOHAMMADYes, hi, Kojo. I just want to let you know the feeling in Jordan. I am from Jordan and my family has called me to congratulate me on the win of Obama. They were for Obama in '08 and they are for him now with a little bit of disappointment. And the disappointment was the stand completely with Israel against the cause of the Palestinians. And they're hoping that this time around, since there is no more elections, he will actually do the right thing as far as the Palestinians and all of the settlements that are being built in Palestine.
NNAMDIMohammad, I'm glad you called. How did they feel about the role of the president overall in the Arab Spring revolution?
MOHAMMADMany people believe that he is the first -- the speech in Cairo which really initiated the Arab Spring. So they gave him -- many people have given Obama the credit for really getting the people to think about Democracy and step out with no fear to demonstrate against dictators. They're really madly in love with Obama. They think that but they know at the same time the President of the United States cannot really act on his own. They know -- they understand that there are congress and senates and all of that.
MOHAMMADSo they're hoping again -- they're hoping now that since there is no more elections, he doesn't have nothing to worry about as far as the next election. He will move towards improving relations with the Muslims and American culture and the American world.
NNAMDIMohammad, thank you very much for your call. David Trads, Mohammad expresses a disappointment that is widespread in the Muslim world over the friendship of the U.S. and Israel and what they feel is a partisan approach on the part of successive U.S. presidents, Democrat and Republican. In Europe was there a sense that there was a big policy difference between these two candidates on foreign policy and between Republicans and Democrats in general?
TRADSI think, first of all, it's important to remember that Europeans were very much afraid that if Romney had won then the U.S. and the world would have returned to the confrontation that we saw in the 2000s during the Bush Administration. So that was something that Europeans were very much afraid of. So even though Romney didn't say, you know, that he would invade a country or that he would, you know, do an intervention somewhere else, then there was this scare in many people's minds that he might do it if he actually was sitting in the White House.
TRADSI just talked to the Danish foreign minister today, for instance, and he was saying that he was extremely relieved that President Obama is still there because that will make sure that we'll continue to have a more sensitive and more diplomatic tone to things going on in the Middle East. And that's what most European countries including the governments want.
NNAMDITalk about the same thing, if you will, Cindy Shiner. Is there a perception that there is a significant difference between Democrat and Republican or is it because of the particularity, if you will, of Barack Obama having a father from Kenya that makes a difference in the minds of Africans?
SHINERYes, I think it's more that. It's more the latter that he -- that his father comes from Kenya. And so there's an expectation that Africa will be higher on the agenda. You know, but at the same time I think that they see Africa as pretty low on the agenda when it -- across the board when it comes to Democrats or Republicans. Some might feel that a Republic administration might look towards boosting aid a bit more than a Democratic administration would. At the same time it kind of balances out that way because they figure that they would get a little bit more attention because of Barack Obama's ancestry.
NNAMDIHere is Russ in Fairfax, Va. who brings a perspective from Jamaica. Russ, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
RUSSYes, I wanted to chime in in terms of being a Jamaican. Certainly the reelection of President Obama continues to give us hope in terms of -- not just hope in change but the fact that America and the world, we are facing enormous challenges. And President Obama is truly the best person as a Jamaican. And reviewing the election procedures and all of the hot issues during the course of the election, America clearly is an example -- is the key example of the world as far as democracy. And I'm glad to see that we were able to come through this and move forward.
RUSSCertainly there are several challenges ahead and the president will have to dig down deep to work with the challenges...
NNAMDIAnd of course the challenge in part in Jamaica has to do with the U.S. relationship that has a great deal to do with drug interdiction from Jamaica and the case of "Dudus" Coke drew a lot of attention here in Washington D.C. Because as there was an attempt to extradite him from Jamaica to the United States there was a major lobbying firm in Washington hired apparently by the Jamaican government. Never the less you feel, Russ, that relationships between the Obama Administration and Jamaica are what would be better than a relationship with a Republican administration.
RUSSOh definitely. And that particular situation, I think the president had made a right decision as far as getting this guy extradited from Jamaica because we need to root out those kinds of problems, not only in Jamaica but throughout the Caribbean or any of the other third world countries. There are problems in third world countries.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. David, U.S. foreign policy has essentially been on hiatus during this presidential campaign, which seemed to last, well, forever. Would you, going through a serious financial crisis, like to have seen more leadership from the U.S.?
TRADSI think what Europe most of all would have liked to have seen was a little bit more focus on Europe because I think any continent, any big country would like that it plays a role in the big U.S. election because it's so important. So I think European leaders were a little bit disappointed that Europe wasn't really being discussed in the campaign.
NNAMDINot even in the debate.
TRADSNot even in the debate, except for, I think, one mentioned very briefly by Mitt Romney who mentioned Poland. So it's a little bit -- something that you hear European leaders being a little bit disappointed about with President Obama that his interest in Europe is not as big as they would like it to be. And I think that Europeans would really like a little bit more leadership -- not a little bit -- a lot more leadership by the Obama Administration from now on in solving the financial crisis that the U.S. has. Because everybody in Europe understands that the American economy is the one that needs to get in pace in order to solve the economic crisis in Europe as well.
NNAMDIToby, you're on the air, Toby in Washington. Go ahead, please.
TOBYYes, Kojo. Thank you for taking my call. I love your show, sir.
TOBYYes. But it is often said that when America sneezes the world catches a cold. I was -- after being in Africa and I'm a missionary -- being in Congo, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania and South Africa just recently I can say that Africa was very, very worried about President Obama's reelection. And it was a jubilation when he was reelected. And he is a standard bearer as far as Africa is concerned.
TOBYAnd with what some of the callers have said, I would say that Africa understands that they -- that Obama needed to do something before turning to Africa. So the reelection of the president is being taken very, very serious and very, very happily in Africa.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Toby. Cindy, members of the African union would like one of them to have a permanent seat on the U.S. Security Council. Any sign that President Obama would put that on his list of priorities, Cindy Shiner?
SHINERNothing that I have seen so far. This is something that they've been lobbying for for quite a while. But up to this point that does not seem to be, you know, a top priority.
NNAMDICindy Shiner's an editor at Allafrica.com which aggregates news from African newspapers. She's been involved in covering Africa for 20 years. Cindy Shiner, thank you for joining us.
NNAMDIDavid Trads is Washington Bureau Chief of Berlingske newspaper and the host of a Danish radio program covering American politics. David, good to see you again. Thank you for joining us.
NNAMDIWe're going to take a short break. When we come back, a farmer takes on a major chemical corporation over patented soy bean seeds and the case goes all the way to the Supreme Court. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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