International journalists marvel at politics, American style
From Jonathan Mann
CNN International Correspondent
PHILADELPHIA (CNN) -- There is probably nothing in the world quite like a big, brassy, balloon-filled American political convention.
More than 15,000 members of the media turned out, including about 1,000 from other countries.
Their consensus about the spectacle? The people of the world may pay attention to whoever is president of the United States, but they wonder about the way the American people choose who that president will be.
"This is like Hollywood; this is only in America," said Thomas Gorguissin of Egypt's Islamic daily newspaper Al Wafd. "I can't imagine that even in Europe they would be doing anything like this."
Maybe because it wouldn't occur to other countries.
One unidentified Asian journalist who found himself at the four-day meeting that cost nearly $70 million asked a simple question: "How come you spend such a lot of money at this convention?"
American presidential hopefuls spend a lot of time getting here, too. In Britain, where the election campaign lasts just six weeks, journalists find that the one- or two-year campaign to the U.S. presidential vote exceeds the interest of the people back home.
"In other countries the election is very concentrated in time in particular," said Richard Wolffe of The Financial Times in London. "When did this election begin and end is the answer that people all want to hear."
An American who works as a columnist for a German newspaper -- where political conventions tend to feature serious debate rather than celebration -- just does his best to explain what the fuss is all about.
"It is fun, it is a pageant, it is Americans feeling good about their country and about their party, but ... shallow about it," said Peter Tautfest.
Even for some journalists who stayed at home, the convention had the look of something only distantly related to the true rough and tumble of real politics.
"And funnily enough our party conferences have gone the same way," said Michael White of The Guardian newspaper in Britain. "They are made safe for television, so safe that television doesn't want to watch them. So we kinda half recognize how you do it."