As a hopeless US politics junkie, I struggle with the knowledge that I am missing out on so much good election year political coverage while here in Paris. In-depth analysis of the Democratic primary battle, the daily back-and-forth between Obama and McCain, the Sunday morning commentaries...a lot of it has passed me by. Luckily, the French public (and media) is obsessed with this year's presidential race. With all the talk about the elections in the newspapers, on television, and around the dinner table, I've been able to at least partially get my fix.
The conversations have reached a fever-pitch this week with Obama's world tour and today's quick stopover in Paris. If the French are obsessed with the election, they are utterly, completely, unabashedly in love with Obama. As far as they're concerned, he's already the president. I spend a lot of time telling them not to get too excited. Given what's happened during our last two elections, it ain't over 'til it's over. Disappointment has become an old friend. But I get the distinct feeling that my words go in one ear and out the other. It's unfortunate, then, that they probably won't get a chance to hear him speak or see him in person like their counterparts in Berlin did yesterday (the irony of which was not lost on this reporter for L'Humanité). His stop in Paris calls only for a quick meeting with President Sarkozy.
Sometimes I wonder why the French are so excited at the prospect of Obama in the Maison Blanche. I wonder why they'd be so excited about any US presidential candidate, for that matter. What's in it for them? I can understand being interested in the race for curiosity's sake, but people here are engaged on an emotional level that rivals that of many Americans. I mean, I was excited to follow the French presidential election in 2007, but in the end, I didn't really care who won. It's not like the French President is going to come over to the US and start giving me student loan debt relief or anything. On the bright side, their excitement translates into my access to a good amount of campaign trail news. Even better, in Paris you can enjoy all the American election news you want without having to watch one single televised campaign ad. Ahhhh...political zen.