Mitt Romney’s speech to the Republican party faithful on Thursday is being seen as the most important so far in his bid to be president.
But how is the rest of the world viewing the GOP convention and Romney as a possible future president?
Host Marco Werman talks with Laure Mandeville of the right-leaning paper Le Figaro and Swedish author Martin Gelin.
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Marco Werman: I’m Marco Werman and this is The World a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI, and WGBH Boston. Mitt Romney speech to the party faithful tonight is being seen as the most important so far in his bid to be President. It will undoubtedly be a rousing end to the Republican National Convention. So today, how the rest of the world is viewing the GOP and Romney as a possible future president. Laure Mandeville is Washington correspondent for France’s right leaning paper Le Figaro. We’ve also got with us Swedish journalist Martin Gelin. He’s just released a book called American Conservatives. Both of them are in Tampa covering the convention. Now, you’re both outsiders in a way to this political drama. The democrats are in Charlotte next week. What do you both make of these political conventions. I’ll start Laure.
Laure Mandeville: It’s my first political convention. So it’s quite exciting. I must say it’s interesting to have a sense of what people have in mind in conservative movement.
Werman: Martin Gelin. So conventions like this. You see it as political policy meet up or is it more just drama?
Martin Gelin: I think it’s a pretty good way to find out the mood of the conservative movement. For example, four years ago at the Republican Convention they had nominated John McCain who was considered a moderate conservative, but the general mood of the convention was much more populist and you could sort of get a sense of the way the party was moving further to the right four years ago. Even though McCain didn’t represent that.
Werman: What do you find distinctive about the right wing in America as opposed to the right wing in France, in Europe?
Mandeville: As a person like myself who’s from France, the modal in terms of anti-government approach and the necessity to boost the private sector is much more pronounced in the U.S. I mean, they want to go back to a sort of limited government and a Reagan type of program. That’s what I feel. You’re hearing things here all the time. I’ve just seen all these different speakers all talking about we have to do it on our own. Government is evil. It’s everything should be on our own forces. This is the DNA of our country. This is the American way. I mean, all that you would never hear in France. I mean, totally approach on this particular question. Concerning the question of immigration and I think there are similarities, actually, between the approaches, I think, of the conservatives in France and in the U.S. It is the question of how to try to slow it, if not stop it, and the abortion question is absolutely in striking difference. There’s no such debate in France.
Werman: Not even among conservatives?
Mandeville: No. There isn’t.
Werman: Now, Martin, you spent two years with conservatives here in the U.S. for your book American Conservatives, which is out in Sweden now. What had you concluded in that book and is all that consistent with what you’re seeing in Tampa?
Gelin: One of my conclusions is that the Republicans decided after the Bush years that they all pretty much agreed that W. Bush was a failure and they decided that his main problem was that he wasn’t conservative enough. So they have moved to more conservative position, especially when it comes to talking about small government and cutting welfare programs. So that’s been a sort of gradual process since 2008.
Werman: I mean, that’s what you said earlier is kind of what Laure was saying about the resurgence of the name of Ronald Reagan at the convention. What about the make up of the GOP? I mean, you look in the audience. I looked in the audience on t.v. of the people in the convention center and it has to be said it’s overwhelmingly white. What do you guys see when you look out on the sea of faces at the GOP convention?
Gelin: Yeah. It is a very white convention. They have tried to make it look less white by putting, for example, the Puerto Rican delegation at the center seat on the convention floor, but it’s hard to hide the fact that the Republican Party is increasingly the party of white Americans.
Mandeville: Yeah. It is actually a pretty white audience at the convention. I mean, you bump sometimes into a black delegate or a latino one, but basically yes. This is mainly a white audience.
Werman: I got to say at this American political convention, there’s little foreign policy on the agenda. Is it off-putting for either of you, Laure or Martin, that in a country that’s already got a reputation of being kind of insular that the rest of the world isn’t on the radar screen at this big kind of talk fest?
Gelin: Both John McCain and Condoleezza Rice sort of struggled in their speeches in order to attack Obama’s foreign policy and I think it reflects that Obama has been so far pretty successful on foreign policy. He has a much more aggressive foreign policy than a lot of people expected him to. So there’s not a lot of room for Republicans to attack him.
Werman: And Laure, what do you think? Is it just kind of odd as foreigner to be in this place that the world power and nobody’s talking about the rest of the world?
Mandeville: I think it’s really a reflection of what is going on in America where both in the Democratic Party and in the Republican Party there is this really obsessive focus on the reconstruction, on the nation-building, of America. I think American’s are fed up with rebuilding the world and fighting distant wars, but of course for us it’s bit frustrating to see this absence of foreign policy. Both Obama and the Republicans.
Werman: Well, we’ll see what else they say about foreign policy next week in Charlotte. The Democrats that is. Laure Mandeville is with the French newspaper Le Figaro. Swedish journalist Martin Gelin is the author of the just published American Conservatives. Thank you both very much indeed for your time and your thoughts.
Mandeville: Thank you.
Gelin: Thank you.
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