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Lost in Translation

"Hillary Clinton shows forced enthusiasm for Barack Obama." That, loosely translated, was the headline this morning on one of Poland's leading newspapers. It was accompanied by one of those insane photographs of Hillary, grinning madly, looking as if it were time for the men in white coats to come and take her away to whatever is the Polish equivalent of Bedlam. I mention this not because it is relevant (Hillary? That's so, like, last Tuesday) but because it illustrates a fundamental principle of American politics and foreign policy: However over-simplified, however cartoon-like you imagine the American political campaign to be, it is ten times more simplified, ten times more cartoon-like, when it is reported abroad.

Thus does a single picture of Hillary grinning insanely stand in for a whole day's worth of convention politicking, a single headline encapsulate a hundred learned articles in the U.S. press. All of the nuances get lost in the time-zone lag (where is Denver, anyway? and what time is it there now?) and the language issues. This is no different in Poland, England, China, Timbuktu. Imagine translating an entire evening into a single sentence, or summing up an entire speech with a single photograph. If you can do that, then you understand the foreign coverage of the Democratic Convention!

Besides, we're still preoccupied with other things over here, like the Russian announcement that 19 U.S. poultry companies have been banned from Russia because they allegedly defy health regulations. And that 29 U.S. companies have been put on notice that they may soon be banned from Russia as well. That's real news, as far as we're concerned, it has real implications for free trade/foreign policy. What the Clintons feel about Joe Biden and Barack Obama seems decidedly less important. Particularly since all we know about it is what we've seen in a single photograph.

By Anne Applebaum  | August 28, 2008; 5:34 PM ET
Categories:  Applebaum  | Tags:  Anne Applebaum  
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Next: Which America Will Prevail: Old or New?


another reason we need grown ups -- and an entirely different party in control of the white house.

the biggest reason this country is now viewed as a big joke overseas: REPUBLICANS! from their antics and obsessions over Bill Clinton's sex life through the debacles, incompetencies, lies, deceptions, bullying and illegal war of Shrub Bush and Darth Cheney.

But hey, they and their best friends and all their generations of children and grandchildren will never ever have to worry about money. They might need to worry about being jailed for all their criminal activities, but their bahamian bank accounts are safe.

Posted by: No McCain No How No Way | August 28, 2008 6:10 PM | Report abuse

Poland does have an accurate take on Hillary's attitude, despite the humorous photograph. I just hope the Poles can keep their sense of humor when their barbarous Russian neighbors go all Stalin on them again.

Posted by: i love poland | August 28, 2008 6:27 PM | Report abuse

WHAT POLISH NEWSPAPER ARE YOU REFERRING TO? Looks to me that Mrs. Applebaum forgot to mention where she found this public information...... So unless she cites the source, her pseudo analysis worth nothing.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 28, 2008 6:35 PM | Report abuse

I think the Poles have much more to worry about such as having a Russian bear nearby.

Secretly, I think H. Clinton hopes that McCain wins the presidency so that see can have another chance to run for the Democratic nomination. She certainly faked it with Obama.

Posted by: Mé | August 28, 2008 6:37 PM | Report abuse

Translations have a tendency to either be off 100% or right on the money. This time the foreign reporters saw Hillary and Bill practically gnaw their tongues off while endorsing Obama. Even the Clintons understand Mr. Obamas complete and utter lack of qualifications for most ANY elective office much less the highest job in the land. Every time someone with "Great Ideas" but little experience is elected it sends this country right down the proverbial tubes. You may not like McCain, (ok, you live to hate anyone who dares to disagree with your discounted politics), but at least he's got a modicum of understanding of what he's talking about.

Posted by: robert | August 28, 2008 6:45 PM | Report abuse

We didn't give two HOOTS over Bills sex life! Never did. However, we did care that he had so little self control that he blatantly LIED to 300 million Americans and God knows how many foreign persons. Most holders of high elective office have an inflated ego but, when caught with their pants down they have the grace and sense to say "Oops, my bad" rather than trying to proclaim "Not me!"

Posted by: robert | August 28, 2008 7:01 PM | Report abuse

Lyndon LaRouche predicts McCain will install billionaire NYC Mayor Bloomberg to be his VP tomorrow. He will fulfill their agenda of privatizing U.S. government's programs, infrastructure and jobs for big profit$$$ as the depressing economy threatens their wealth.

The country is going into a major economic depression with over 5000 banks are already bankrupt today with more day by day.

Hillary was rid of because she would fix the economy by bringing back President FDR's economic Bretton Woods policy to fix current economic collapse. This policy caters to the 80% of the forgotten people and threatens the oligarghy's wealth and whose ultimate goal is to rid of all governments, peoples' sovereingties and Constitutions. To install fascism.

In total contrast, Hillary would have fixed the bad economy by using President FDR's Bretton Woods system and is why she was rid of as the most qualified candidate.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 28, 2008 7:55 PM | Report abuse

and verse-visa, ennit? we are so isolated here i doubt half the people who read this paper think Czechoslovakia still exists! what? oh, right, that was johnny "insane" mccain who thinks that. you think poland gets a bad translation, we read english and we still get crap from the MSM. btw, C-SPAN rocks!

Posted by: preAmerikkkan | August 28, 2008 8:18 PM | Report abuse


That cannot be your most flattering picture...

anyway, I was curious what happened to the article you wrote the other day about European attitudes about Michelle Obama. That's the one where you did the b* tchy little hatchet job on Hillary, and now the entire article is gone.

P.S. You might look okay, but you've got to do something with that hair. Either shave it all off or get it styled. Something.

Posted by: TheManKeepingYouDown | August 28, 2008 9:50 PM | Report abuse

Isn't is too bad that we do not appear as important to the rest of the world as we think we are? (The US could be, if and when America's actual policies work to the benefit of the rest of the world, notably, the poorer portions, if and when Americans exemplify the humility of the wise powerful partner ever aware of the dignity notably of those who have hardly anything but. You get the drift?

As it is, it is so difficult to discipher America. One day they seem on top of the world: rich and growing richer, powerful and growing more so, and then you look again and it is suffering from a dismal economy, deeply indebted, enmeshed in conflicts largely of its own making, etc. Can you blame the Polish if they see in the Hillary photo you described the face of America? (In fairness, Hillary has little to do with that.)

But really, what we don't know is how much of the world really hope and pray America will mature and succeed. Oh, yes, how much hope depends on that for the realization of their own dreams of freedom, democracy, development, and peace!

When the American government lose its way, it does not only fail American citizens, it does too the world. (Ditto when American mass media stray.)This is the price of being the most, on many counts, powerful nation in the world.

Posted by: AJdlReyes CA | August 28, 2008 9:53 PM | Report abuse

"It was accompanied by one of those insane photographs of Hillary, grinning madly, looking as if it were time for the men in white coats to come and take her away to whatever is the Polish equivalent of Bedlam."


Posted by: spring rain | August 28, 2008 10:29 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps media in other country would make stories like this their primary headline if the US traditional media hadn't been so obsesses with this non-story here.

What's been lost in translation is the real stories of our democracy obscured by the absurd filters of "journalists" overly involved in meta commentary and making their own impressions of the facts more important than reporting on the facts themselves.

Posted by: Jeffrey | August 28, 2008 10:43 PM | Report abuse

the reporting from my corner of the world took all its trivialising cues from the US media.

Posted by: foreigner | August 28, 2008 11:16 PM | Report abuse


What are you hiding behind that pressed smile? Does it suggest that you don't really know what your doing and the morning constitutionals that produce this column are getting tougher on your colon? Maybe Jeffrey's right, and your position would be better filled with a reporter reporting on something, instead of someone gazing at their navel and telling us how interesting it is.

Posted by: Chris | August 29, 2008 12:26 AM | Report abuse

Is our coverage of foreign politics any different? Hew many people posting here know the name of Poland's prime minister? I don't.

Posted by: Daniel | August 29, 2008 2:52 AM | Report abuse

No American politician any of us could think of can correct the charicature of the United States abroad. In Europe this has been a problem for more than 200 years.

Posted by: honisoit | August 29, 2008 8:36 AM | Report abuse

Obama can't make news or draw a crowd any more.

Since people have gotten familiar with his empty resume and suit.

So you have to go half way around the world to find some unknown nobody to trash Hillary.

This isn't a journalist - this is check out counter tabloid trash.

She and this isn't even a story. How incredibly pathetic.

Desparate for any headline after the huge flop in Denver last night when the White Boysc Club puppet fell WAAAAY short. No mention of Martin Luther King, Jr. Oh, yeah, because it's teh White DC Geriatric Boys Club that got him where he is - not Martin Luther King, Jr.

And, he'd hate to alienate the Small Town Bitter White Folk who have higher standards than the likes of him and his cocktail napkin resume. He can forget the demographic - because Small Town Bitter White Folk have those higher standards - and they're clinging to them.

Small Town Bitter White Folk elect Presidents with resumes - not DC White Boys Club Friends when eat their own.


Posted by: Terry | August 29, 2008 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Secretly, I think Cindy McCain hopes Ralph Nader wins.

Posted by: matt camp | August 29, 2008 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Uht oh - Looks like this dumb writer can't translate. That in America everyone is talking about how Hillary and Bill were magnificent in their speeches and praise of Black History and Black Heros, Women's History and Heros.

How Obama didn''t even mention Black History or Martin Luther King, Jr.

He's so egotistical and so calculated in his politics - thinking he has the black vote in the bag - that he dissed them.

Wow. Fantatstic.



Just look around him - the Geriatric White Haired Troll Boys Club that stole lied and trashed to get him here. That's who rules his world. He owes them everything.

The Rovian Democrat Rats.

The Rat Pack : Kerry, Daschle, Leahy, Dodd, Pelosi, Richardson, Kennedy, Rockafeller, wannabe Richardson and more.

Super Tuesday evening Power Thugs. They don't know what Democracy is - they STOLE THIS NOMINATION AS SURE AS GW SITTING SO SMUG IN FLORIDA.




Posted by: Anonymous | August 29, 2008 9:06 AM | Report abuse

Yes lets pray to God that John McCain is elected so he can address these concerns about Russia and Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. His judgement on Russia was spot on. He know the sleeping bear might some day wake up. America needs a man with real experience who knows the costs of war and how hard we must fight to defend freedom in a hostile world. Someone who will take the fight to Al Qaeda, who understands the value of life and will stand up for family values and personal responsibility unlike the Democrat celebrity candidate.

Posted by: Jinx | August 29, 2008 9:13 AM | Report abuse

Looks to me like we have a case of "seeing how it feels when the shoe is on the other foot." Look, we do this everyday to other cultures and countries—even our own people (ie: nightly news). It even forms our public perception and our foreign policy. What is so surprising Ms. Applebaum? Surely you will follow-up this article with one explaining "this is no different in Poland, England, China, Timbuktu AND THE U.S." This is no revelation. And for those who are aware of what's really going on (this piece shows you are not very), this article grossly understates some potentially interesting points.

Posted by: Anon | August 29, 2008 9:17 AM | Report abuse

If you're really interested in who's around Barak Mr. "Anonymous", those people are nothing, Google Zbignew Brzezinski and his relationship to Barak and other US presidents and his philosophy. You'll see what we're in store for.

Posted by: Me | August 29, 2008 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Applebaum is married to a polish diplomat, so everyhting she says reeks of conflict of interest, or worse.

Ignore the concern troll she is. A typical GOP parrot, all she has left are fake attacks from "unnamed" newspapers. What a farce parading as a journalist.

Posted by: Jon Chinn | August 29, 2008 9:38 AM | Report abuse

gee anne, still finding a way to bash hillary? Love how you are confirming the stereotype about women tearing down other women to make a name for themself

Posted by: amazed | August 29, 2008 9:49 AM | Report abuse

Jinx: What planet do you live on? To speak of family values and personal responsibility as somehow related to McCain but not Obama is the height of ignorance. Even worse, you seem unaware that McCain is a Bushie when it comes to foreign policy. Are you sure that you want the disasters of the past eight years to be repeated? You are not a thinker but a Republican parrot who lives in a cage and looks forward only to the next cracker or the oohs and ahhs of its owner saying good girl, Polly, for repeating what I say.

Posted by: moran in va. | August 29, 2008 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Is it not now perfectly clear with the gravity of the Russia incursion that the world is constantly in an unstable situation of near world conflict? Indeed unfortunately things will get far more acute as the Earth’s natural resources deplete and especially those we depend upon to preserve human life itself.
Therefore in order to prevent an eventual World War 111 where there will be few survivors this time, world politicians have to now seriously consider the formation of a world government that people like Einstein fully subscribed to whilst he was alive.
In this respect one can predict within reasonable certainty now that during the next two generations a global conflict will occur. Using common sense one can see that with the vast depletion of non-renewable natural resources over the next 50-years meeting head-on with between 9 billion and 12.5 billion humans, global conflict is more-or-less guaranteed.
The best thing therefore that Obama or McCain can do after one of them is elected the next president of the United States is to start the vital process of creating such an global overseeing institution. Indeed this is the greatest need in this present century, for if not, we will possibly never enter into the next century, as all human life will be extinct. We are therefore now in the century of either the preservation or elimination of the human experience. In this respect if Obama really does believe in his own words and ‘Let me change the world’, he could not find any better way to do this.

Dr David Hill
World Innovation Foundation Charity
Bern, Switzerland

Posted by: david hill | August 29, 2008 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Anne, those ad hominem (ad feminam?)attacks like from TheManKeepingYouDown are so juvenile and irrelevant that I'm surprised they get printed. On the other hand, such nonsense gives your readers a clue as to intelligence of the writer.

Posted by: moran | August 29, 2008 10:12 AM | Report abuse

"How long is the Beast allowed to have authority in Revelations? "

Revelations Chapter 13 tells us that it is 42 months...

... Almost a four-year term of a Presidency...

According to The Book of Revelations the anti-Christ is:

"...a man, in his 40's, of MUSLIM descent, who will deceive the nations with persuasive language, and have a MASSIVE Christ-like appeal....the prophecy says that people will flock to him and he will promise false hope and world peace, and when he is in power, he will destroy everything..."

Do we recognize this description?


Even if you don't believe in the Bible or it's teachings, how can we ignore the fact that this man has such close ties to the Muslim faith and it's beliefs?
And that the Pastor from his church preached hate against America?--No matter how much he may denounce him now, this was his spiritual leader for many years.


In a recent news broadcast, Barack Obama made this statement with pride, 'We are no longer a Christian nation; we are now a nation of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, . .." To think our forefathers fought and died for the right for our nation to be a Christian nation--then to have this man say with pride that we are no longer that.

How far has this nation come from what our founding fathers intended it to be!

Posted by: Shayna Arnold | August 29, 2008 10:17 AM | Report abuse

"Hillary Clinton shows forced enthusiasm for Barack Obama."

With this one line, the Polish press have stated the truth of the matter.
I think the Poles are the only ones who have gotten it right.

Posted by: anonymous | August 29, 2008 10:45 AM | Report abuse

The Poles got it right, there was nothing sincere about the Clinton's endorsement only their desire to stay relevant within the Democratic party, with Hillary's eye on the next election. If she or Bill had been negative or refused to endorse Bama, and he loses the election then they would have been blamed. I do take exception to the comment that "....a single headline encapsulate a hundred learned articles in the U.S. press". Learned articles? You must be kidding? The main stream press is so far in the tank for Bama that we have reporters, drooling over this guy and reporters like Chris Mathews stating that 'he gets shivers down his spine when Bama speaks'.

Posted by: LouV | August 29, 2008 11:16 AM | Report abuse

The Poles got it right, there was nothing sincere about the Clinton's endorsement only their desire to stay relevant within the Democratic party, with Hillary's eye on the next election. If she or Bill had been negative or refused to endorse Bama, and he loses the election then they would have been blamed. I do take exception to the comment that "....a single headline encapsulate a hundred learned articles in the U.S. press". Learned articles? You must be kidding? The main stream press is so far in the tank for Bama that we have reporters, drooling over this guy and reporters like Chris Mathews stating that 'he gets shivers down his spine when Bama speaks'.

Posted by: LouV | August 29, 2008 11:19 AM | Report abuse

as a photographer and journalist I would argue that the cited Hillary picture actually is telling more then 100 articels in the Post can. Thats what pictures do. That might seem unfair and simplistic to some but thats the power of images.
The power of words is to explain interpret and criticise and praise. And thats done in Poland as well as in the US (just not by one headline of course)

Arguably in most European countries newspaper have actually a better chance of doing this as there is a helatier newspaper tradition then in the states.

Posted by: Doktor | August 29, 2008 11:59 AM | Report abuse

At least Polish readers got a picture, which, it is said, is worth 1000 words. In an Argentine newspaper (Página/12, for those who care) I read that Senator Biden had been caught, back in '88, plagiarizing "an obscure
English philosopher." I do not know if this is is a promotion or a demotion for former British Labour leader Neal Kinnock.

Posted by: Luis Carlos Aribe | August 29, 2008 1:06 PM | Report abuse

If foreign countries have a simplified view of the US, so has the US a simplified view of the rest of the world: while there are countries called England, Poland and China, you won't find a country called Timbuktu on the map - it is a city, not a country.

Posted by: Canou | August 29, 2008 2:03 PM | Report abuse

That article is nonsense - has the writer even read the UK's Guardian or the BBC's Justin Webb - the UK's coverage is pretty faithful to events (and we don't refer to the UK just as 'England' - that's simplifying the complexity of the country, like simply calling the US 'Texas' or 'New York'). And Hillary's speech did seem pretty forced. The Poles seem to be right there.

Posted by: Mark UK | August 29, 2008 2:43 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if you are as disconcerted by the caricatures of President Bush that pose as news in Europe. The majority of Europeans believe that the US armed Saddam, for example. Rather than doing any original reporting, European papers usually regurgitate liberal gossip from the NYT, and are poorly equipped to distinguish between opinion and fact.

Posted by: PJ | August 29, 2008 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Who will Hillary vote for?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 29, 2008 4:44 PM | Report abuse

McCain chooses a gentle fisherwoman from the woods of Alaska, to stand by his side and act in his stead when he topples from age and infirmity.

From the outside, it appears as if conservatives may be in shock, if CNBC’s analysts opinions are an indication.

“This is utter madness, absolutely insane,” said political analyst Greg Valliere, who then ran down McCain’s age and all of his health problems. “This woman makes Dan Quayle look reasonable.”

On the issue of a debate with Biden, Valliere said, “[the] stature gap is significant here.”

When asked about Valliere’s assessment, CNBC’s chief Washington correspondent John Harwood responds, “[it's] basically nightmare scenario for the Republican ticket.”

Posted by: Garvin Periwinkle | August 29, 2008 6:15 PM | Report abuse

One thing is for sure, in the Missouri southern states fear of electing Obama because he plans to put the black people into power over the whites is the real issues he faces here. I was blown away the other day when a black social worker refused to travel to a small town south of Springfield, Missouri. Her statement that she wanted to see her husband that night, left chills in my mind. Are we that backwards still? It truly made me ill. And I fully believe that is one issue he will have to address before he gets elected.
But, then do we want a newbee to act as president when McCain screws up, or for her to talk to foreign countries on our behalf?
NO!Besides, Biden will eat her up alive in the debates.
McCain is doing what Barack didn't, asking a female to be his sidekick.
Which shows McCain can not be in charge because he reacts only to what Barack doesn't do ....Is that a leader? I think not. Nor, is badmouthing, smearing Barack, that's his plan to get us into war with Russia....more of the same insane.

Posted by: wanda watkins | August 29, 2008 10:29 PM | Report abuse

Would all this remarks be expressed by the same people if she was a Democrat picked by Obama? Or do Democrats only hate Republican Women?(Who are better looking than Dem women))

Posted by: Lodie | August 29, 2008 11:45 PM | Report abuse

According to my friends and relatives who are European and live in Germany,England and France this election is NOT over shadowed by Russuan activities but are all have stated to us for years how the carryings on in Washington affect their lives and concerns. How much research did this reporter do?

Posted by: Eileen | August 31, 2008 8:42 AM | Report abuse

According to my friends and relatives who are European and live in Germany,England and France this election is NOT over shadowed by Russuan activities but are all have stated to us for years how the carryings on in Washington affect their lives and concerns. How much research did this reporter do?

Posted by: Eileen | August 31, 2008 8:43 AM | Report abuse

Instead of a black coronation of Barack by Lewis, we heard of the military weakness of Republicans. America already knows Obama is the embodiment of the MLK dream. By not making the convention tilt toward King he won many slightly prejudiced voters from the Wright fiasco. McCain did not help his cause with the Palin pick and now becomes the underdog. Women angry at Obama, will be angrier at McCain's pick once the public is educated. McCain will get out Evangelicals with his pick, but will turn everyone else away.

Posted by: Jimbo | August 31, 2008 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Women will just love Palin giving a $10,000 payback to the guy who replaced the fired commissioner she is being investigated about, after him leaving for being too handy with the office staff. The fired commissioner with a year of exemplary service got nothing. Wow, won't Cindy be happy to hear about this, Palin gave coin to a masher.

Posted by: Jimbo | August 31, 2008 2:41 PM | Report abuse

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