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It's On! World Watches As Clinton-Trump Showdown Kicks Off

SF street art showing Clinton and Trump as The Shining's twins
SF street art showing Clinton and Trump as The Shining's twins
Worldcrunch

PARIS — This month's Republican and Democratic national conventions put an end to whatever doubts may have persisted about the parties' respective presidential candidate choices. There were grumblings to be sure — from Ted Cruz and the "Anyone but Trump" crowd at the Cleveland convention, to the "Bernie or Bust" folks among the Democrats in Philadelphia. But what's done is now done: From now until November, it's Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton.

Worldcrunch continues to follow foreign coverage of the U.S. presidential campaign, from all languages and corners of the globe — as the match-up is officially launched between the brash billionaire with zero political experience and the quintessential Washington insider who served as first lady, senator and secretary of state.

As their nominations were sealed, each candidate got some official endorsements from abroad: Trump picked up a nod this week from controversial conservative Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Clinton got a thumbs-up from Jean-Claude Junker, the president of the European Commission.

What many foreign observers seem to agree on, however, is that in the face of historically high disapproval ratings of both candidates, the winner of the Trump vs. Clinton contest will ultimately be whoever is less unpopular among so many would-be voters.

The lesser of two evils

Increasingly, the rest of the world is waking up to the fact that Trump may wind up in the White House. Vittorio Zucconi, the longtime Washington-based analyst for Italian daily La Repubblica, writes Friday that after dueling conventions, there is little doubt that Clinton is the more "presidential" of the two candidates. "But this obvious gap between the two candidates does not mean that Clinton has the victory tucked in her white pants suit," Zucconi writes. "The paradox of this electoral season is that ... the incoherent vanity of Trump, his unpreparedness ... could play to his advantage. In the face of our collective anxiety and a mixed-up world, irrationality could be the winning card for someone who doesn't know what he wants other than the impulse to change things at any cost."

An editorial late last month in Barcelona's el Periódico was entitled "Hillary Clinton, despite it all." In the democratic primaries, the article notes, Clinton beat her closest rival, Bernie Sanders, soundly. "And yet she has failed to generate enthusiasm among her party affiliates, even when she has a chance of being the first woman to win the White House." If she does win, according to el Periódico, it'll be because people fear the prospect of a Trump presidency, not because of any real love they have for Clinton.

In the Catalan city's other leading daily, La Vanguardía, writer Juan M. Hernández Puértolas asks the question of whether Clinton might also benefit from her "many homelands." Leaders like George W. Bush (Texas) and Ronald Reagan (California) are synonymous with just one place, while Clinton has strong links to a number of different places, Hernández Puértolas points out. Raised in Illinois and educated in New England, the candidate also lived in the "deep south" — in Arkansas — for many years, in Washington D.C. and New York.

Clinton's chances could also depend on how the U.S. stock market performs in the coming months, according to France's Les Echos, a business paper. History suggests, in more cases than not, that the candidate from the incumbent party wins if, during the three months before the election, the S&P 500 Index is up. If not, the opposition candidate wins. The trend has held true for 19 of the 22 elections held since 1928, the daily points out. The last exception to "the rule" was in 1980.

If the former first lady does win, she'll make history as the first woman elected president of the U.S. This potential "milestone" made it to Friday's front page of German daily Rheinische Post, which features Clinton in a revised, all-female version of Mount Rushmore alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Theresa May and IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde.

But that would set another precedent as well: America would have its first "first gentleman" — and an ex-president at that. Journalist Frédéric Autran writes in the French newspaper Libération that Bill Clinton's presence in the White House could be "cumbersome" for Hillary. "Specialists agree that Bill Clinton, who spoke Tuesday night at the democratic convention in Philadelphia, would certainly — but behind the scenes — play a major role in his wife's administration, something that wouldn't be without risks," the articles notes.

Gotta stop Trump

And if Trump comes out ahead? The same Libération ran this ominous front page on July 23, warning there were only "A Hundred Days Left To Stop Him."

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Libération, July 23

More than a few observers see the prospect in a decidedly negative light, nowhere more so, perhaps, than in Latin America, where the candidate's promise to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, and his description of Mexican migrants as "rapists and murderers" hasn't earned him many friends.

The Republican candidate's July 21 acceptance expand=1] speech, at the Republican national convention in Cleveland, Ohio, did little to tame those fears. In an essay published in Colombia's El Tiempo, Panamanian singer and activist Rubén Blades wrote that Trump's address reminded him of "Benito Mussolini and the fascist rhetoric of the 1930s."

Across the Atlantic, Portugal's Publico also took issue with the businessman's fiery speech. In a recent editorial, the daily said that Trump's decision "to opt for an obsessively apocalyptic discourse" represents a break from campaign tradition.The article acknowledges, however, that the approach has so far proven effective for Trump, allowing him to push aside his many Republican challengers. "One by one, he beat 16 opponents, including three senators, two governors and Bush," Publico pointed out.

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Ideas

"Collateral Benefit": Could Putin's Launching A Failed War Make The World Better?

Consider the inverse of "collateral damage." Envision Russia's defeat and the triumph of a democratic coalition offers reflection on the most weighty sense of costs and benefits.

Photo of a doll representing Russian President Vladimir Putin

Demonstrators holding a doll with a picture of Russian President Putin

Dominique Moïsi

-Analysis-

PARIS — The concept of collateral damage has developed in the course of so-called "asymmetrical” wars, fought between opponents considered unequal.

The U.S. drone which targeted rebel fighters in Afghanistan, and annihilated an entire family gathered for a wedding, appears to be the perfect example of collateral damage: a doubtful military gain, and a certain political cost. One might also consider the American bombing of Normandy towns around June 6, 1944 as collateral damage.

But is it possible to reverse the expression, and speak of "collateral benefits"? When applied to an armed conflict, the expression may seem shocking.

No one benefits from a war, which leaves in its trace a trail of dead, wounded and displaced people, destroyed cities or children brutally torn from their parents.

And yet the notion of "collateral benefits" is particularly applicable to the war that has been raging in Ukraine for almost a year.

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