- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 11, 2016

American voters aren’t the only ones scratching their heads over a topsy-turvy presidential race featuring two unpopular candidates. The foreign press appears to be stumped, too, critiquing Republican nominee Donald Trump’s latest debate performance as “belligerent” and bemoaning the past few days as a “low point” in U.S. politics.

Mr. Trump’s grins and grimaces dotted front pages from Seoul to Madrid on Tuesday, as the mogul declared open war on Republican leaders who abandoned his presidential bid in the wake of leaked 2005 tapes in which he lewdly described his attempts to seduce a married woman and leverage star power to get away with anything — including grabbing women’s private parts.

Headlines from the El Pais newspaper in Spain said Mr. Trump had declared “la guerra” — war — on Republicans who had abandoned him, while Der Spiegel in Germany accused him of waging psychological combat, or “psychokrieg,” on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by stalking around her during the second debate Sunday.

Yet for Europeans there is something familiar about Mr. Trump, a populist whose “America First” mantra evokes comparisons to France’s Marine Le Pen and other nationalist leaders who have tapped into the plight of poorer, rural voters who say they have been left behind by lax immigration rules and hurt by global trade deals.

“The Trump phenomenon, on one hand, is weird and strange by some standards, but it also is remarkably similar to certain movements they’re familiar with,” said Alexander Stille, a journalism professor at Columbia University who traveled within France and Italy in August.

Way down in the polls, Mr. Trump is trying to move beyond the “hot mic” leak that featured lewd remarks and elicited comparisons to former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the playboy who rode populist fervor until accusations of sexual exploits with younger women and corruption ruined his political career.

“It’s a legitimate comparison in a number of ways, in that they both are anti-system candidates, they’re businessmen in politics,” Mr. Stille said.

Many in Europe see Mrs. Clinton as a more stable force, he said, because she’s a known quantity and, unlike Mr. Trump, has been loyal to the NATO alliance.

Yet El Pais, out of Madrid, endeavored to explain Mr. Trump’s persistent appeal at home in a front-page story on Tuesday headlined, in Spanish, “The death of white America.”

It offered a look the front line of despair in an impoverished part of West Virginia — or “Virginia Occidental,” as its dateline read — where coal miners are skeptical of Mrs. Clinton’s energy policy.

Other outlets kept their focus on Mr. Trump’s trail of turmoil. The front page of the United Kingdom’s Guardian newspaper on Tuesday featured a collage of Mr. Trump making six different faces at Sunday night’s debate, alongside a banner headline that said senior Republicans were abandoning him after a “belligerent display.”

Yet that was the point of the exercise, said Nigel Farage, the U.K. Independence Party leader best known for leading the British exit (“Brexit”) from the European Union — a long-shot campaign that has been compared to Mr. Trump’s outsider run.

In remarks to Sky News, Mr. Farage said Mr. Trump was just trying to be himself — a “big, silverback gorilla, prowling the studio.”

Mr. Trump still has a chance to take the White House, he said, despite a “horrendous 48 hours” in the wake of Friday’s release of the ribald tape from the “Access Hollywood” tabloid TV program.

“It was real back-to-the-wall stuff. He’s come out of this well. He’ll be leaving here a happy man tonight,” Mr. Farage told a Sky reporter, weighing in from the debate venue in St. Louis.

Meanwhile, Sen. Bernard Sanders, who lost to Mrs. Clinton in the Democratic primary, made his own trans-Atlantic foray this week by crafting a video message for his brother, Larry, who lives in the United Kingdom and is the Green Party’s nominee to replace David Cameron as a member of Parliament for Witney and West Oxfordshire.

In a video pitch, Mr. Sanders acknowledges that he doesn’t know a “heck of a lot about British politics,” but he knows that his brother is “a very, very caring human being who wants to see the government represent all of the people.”

“Not just the people on top,” he said.

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