Anger, It Plays in Europe Too European Political Parties Have Sent Scouts to Study Strange but Instructive US Campaigns

Article excerpt

FRENCH leaders, who armed with brie and baguette are battling to preserve their nation from an American invasion of rap music and cheap hamburgers seem to have acquired a sudden taste for one Yankee tradition: nasty politics.

Apparently, so have British and other European leaders. Seeing their own elections coming, they have sent scouts on the United States' campaign trail, trying to discover what can be learned from how - and why - the winners won.

A team from the British Labour Party was spotted in California analyzing the impact of negative TV advertisements in the race for state governor. The Conservatives, aware that Prime Minister John Major is in electoral trouble, asked their agents in Washington to report what President Clinton was doing to restore his credibility.

Meanwhile, Paris newspapers say political strategists have taken an unusual interest in US campaign techniques. They sought to deconstruct Americans' disenchantment with politics, as French voters feel the same.

Transatlantic trafficking in campaign methods can be risky. In the 1992 presidential contest, Mr. Major sent a team of party strategists to the US to advise George Bush on how the Conservatives won that year's British general election. The coolness ever since between Downing Street and the White House is directly traceable to Major's readiness to help the man Clinton defeated.

There are limits to how far European politicians can apply US campaign techniques. Spending on TV and other forms of campaign publicity is strictly regulated. But this has not stopped papers from chronicling the perceived excesses of the US political process.

The London Financial Times reported: "The sad and indelible memory of all the contested campaigns is that money and negativism have been identified as the keys to electoral success. …