By Pamela Sampson
July 30, 2004 | Paris -- Europe's deep disdain for President Bush seems to be the engine behind John Kerry's growing appeal here, even though he is still an unknown quantity in Paris, London and Berlin.
Antipathy to Bush has translated into enthusiasm for the Democratic presidential nominee, whose speech Thursday at his party's convention in Boston was broadcast in much of Europe.
Daniel Thouw of Berlin, who has been observing the U.S. election campaign on Web sites and television, said he does not know where Kerry stands on many issues, but still thinks he would make a better president than Bush.
“I know, for example, that Ronald Reagan's son spoke for him, and so did Bill Clinton,” said the 28-year-old graphic designer. “Everyone is better than Bush.”
Alfred Gusenbauer, the chairman of Austria's opposition Socialist Party, said Friday he thinks a Kerry victory “would lead America back into the international community of nations.”
Gusenbauer said he considers Kerry “a very respectable presidential candidate,” reflecting broad support for the senator in Austria, which scorned the United States for going to war in Iraq despite the grave misgivings of many European countries, especially France and Germany.
Some analysts cautioned against viewing Kerry as a magic candidate with the power to heal the trans-Atlantic alliance.
Bruno Tertrais, a senior research fellow at the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris, said Kerry's rhetoric -- such as his convention pledge to continue the “global war on terror” -- was uncomfortably similar to Bush's.
Many Europeans believe Bush has made terrorism an even greater threat by expanding the war against al-Qaida into a “global” one that included enemies like Saddam Hussein, Tertrais said.
“The French and the Europeans should not expect a Kerry president to change everything,” said Tertrais. “I would caution about expectations on both sides.”
In Britain, some commentators think Kerry has one main asset -- he's not George W. Bush.
“It is not just a narrow majority of American voters who, according to current polls, want Mr. Bush to be defeated in November,” The Guardian said in an editorial on the convention. “It is an overwhelming majority of the citizens of other lands, those of this country very much included.”
Some note that a Kerry victory could be awkward for Prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush's staunchest supporter on the war in Iraq.
All major British newspapers and TV networks gave the Democratic convention heavy coverage. And some commentators said Kerry's failings are beside the point.
“He lacks vision, he inspires nobody -- and let's face it, it doesn't matter,” ran the headline on an op-ed piece about Kerry in The Times.
Doris Bartel, a physical therapist from the eastern German city of Strausberg, said she was impressed by Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry.
Heinz Kerry “seems very resolute and strong. In Germany, it's very different,” Bartel said. “The wife doesn't step out into the public. It's an American mentality.”