Thursday, December 14, 2006

Royal trip to America, a travel guide.

During the Socialist Congress in Portugal last week, Segolene Royal announced her intention to travel to the United States within the next few months.
PORTO (AFP) - The French Socialist party's presidential candidate Segolene Royal will visit the United States "before the end of January", she said during a socialist congress in Portugal.

Royal said she had asked Howard Dean, head of the Democrat Party, "to set up my first trip to the United States", while attending a bilateral meeting at a two-day congress of European socialists in the city of Oporto.

She underlined that she wished to bring up a plan for "joint research units" between French and US researchers as she was concerned by the "hemorrhage of young French researchers to the United States".

Royal had postponed the trip, originally planned for December 13 and 14, saying she needed to finalise the programme.

How will this turn out compared to her last foreign voyage, which included Nazi comments, right-wing criticism, and more condemnation of her inexperience? Luckily for Royal, the US is a slightly more stable place to travel, and instead of finding politicians making Nazi analogies she will find Freedom Fries. But there are a few things that Royal could do to win solid political points without any unintended embarassments.

1. Don't travel with Howard Dean. For better or for worse, Howard Dean is seen as a blustery and far-left politician by most Americans, and her appearance with him will only reinforce the American attitude that the French are hopelessly far-left and out of touch with the "real world".

2. Use an interpreter. If you speak through an interpreter, you are to be understood. You might not get as much press coverage as the charming English speaking Benjamin Netanyahu or Hamid Karzai, but there is nothing worse than being made a laughing stock because of the quality of your speech. A "Hello" and "Thank You" are plenty.

3. Don't Disagree without Vision. If you travel in America, you'll get the feeling that most people think the French do a lot of talking, but when it comes to actually doing something, only the US is willing to take risks (hmm, WWI, WWII, Cold War). Whether or not that is justified is beyond the point, if you wish to criticize the Iraq policy for instance, you should present your vision of what you would like to see happen in the region, and how France would like to help the US achieve that. Make no mistake, the French offer to lead the Lebanon peacekeeping force but then offer only 200 soldiers was not taken lightly. Match words with action.

4. Talk about Iran. To score easy political points among Washington's leaders and American Jewish groups, you can do nothing better than talk about Iran and their nuclear program, and the gathering threat that is emerging.

5. Be careful with globalization. Several reports have said that you plan to talk about confronting globalization, but if you do, there is a very fine line to tread. Americans are for the most part strong capitalists and free traders. However, the newly elected Democratic Congress is leading a protectionist wave that has swept the nation with fears of offshoring and cheap goods from China. That being said, the US isn't about to build a wall around it as has some of Europe, so it is best to speak in constructive and not critical terms.

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