- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 4, 2008


U.S. ambassadors around the world are trying to explain the longest and most expensive American presidential campaign to foreigners used to short campaigns in parliamentary systems or rigged votes in authoritarian regimes.

In the Philippines, Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney is planning two “Election Watch” parties, one in Manila and the other in Cebu. Because of time differences, the Tuesday night returns from the United States will come in Wednesday morning in the Philippines.

The election parties will feature live television cable feeds and voting machines so Filipinos can cast mock ballots.

In Venezuela, where President Hugo Chavez regularly rails against the United States, the U.S. Embassy posted PDF documents on its Web site to allow visitors to learn more about the Republican ticket of Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin and the Democratic ticket of Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Joe Biden. Another item explains the U.S. Electoral College.

Many embassies offered links to America.gov, the State Department’s information Web site. It even features a quiz with questions such as: How many Electoral College votes does it take to win? The answer is 270.

In Nigeria, Ambassador Robin Sanders recently hosted an election roundtable discussion with Beni Lar, a member of the Nigerian House of Representatives, Hajiya Inna Ciroma, national women’s leader of the People’s Democratic Party, and Hajiya Bilkisu, a well-known journalist.

The ambassador discussed the perpetual campaign of American presidential politics.

“It takes another four years for the next election to be held, so an early start in mobilizing the electorate, including raising campaign funds, will help,” she said.

Both Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain announced their presidential campaigns in February 2007, more than a year and eight months before Election Day. This is also expected to be the most expensive presidential campaign, costing more than $2.4 billion, according to an estimate by the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics.

In her election briefing, Ms. Sanders reminded her guests of the political wisdom of the late Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill, a longtime speaker of the House.

Quoting the legendary Massachusetts Democrat, she said, “‘All politics is local.’”

Meanwhile, Voice of America plans radio and television broadcasts in 45 languages on Election Day, including live programs from Kenya, the home of Mr. Obama’s father, and Vietnam, where Mr. McCain was a prisoner during the Vietnam War.


Czech Ambassador Petr Kolar was distraught when he heard of the flood damage to the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

His distress was shared in the Czech Republic, where many citizens have friends or relatives who migrated to the Midwestern city of 120,000 with 10 percent of the population claiming Czech heritage.

“There’s a very natural feeling from our people and our country that we should help our friends in need,” Mr. Kolar told reporters in Cedar Rapids last week when he visited the city to deliver more than $400,000 in aid to help restore the museum.

He also presented the city with a check for $44,700 to repair the St. Wenceslaus Church, named after the main patron saint of the Czech Republic. Mr. Kolar praised the residents of Cedar Rapids for their efforts to rebuild their city after the June floods, which devastated wide areas of Iowa.

“I am sad because of the flood and because of the terrible damage here,” he said, “but, at the same time, I’m proud of the people who are working so hard here.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or James Morrison [email protected]

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