Here we go again.
It’s an American election year which means a season to bash France, Europe and China as well as drawing attention to un-American skills by presidential hopefuls. Such as speaking in foreign tongues.
Mastering foreign languages is considered an asset in most parts of the world but clearly not in the United States, a fact highlighted by attack ads in the race for the nomination of a Republican candidate to run against President Barack Obama next November.
One television clip mocked Mitt Romney, the present frontrunner, for speaking French. Another featured Jon Huntsman, who dropped out of the contest this week, and suggested that his fluency in Mandarin meant that he subscribed to Chinese rather than American values.
Attempts to exploit ignorance, prejudice and xenophobia are nothing new in American election campaigns, but even by their standards, the Huntsman ad stood out. Created by supporters of rival candidate Ron Paul, the 72-second ad is entitled The Manchurian Candidate, after a novel (and movie) about the son of a prominent political family who is brainwashed by Communists.
The attack on Romney harked back to the presidential elections of 2004, when Republicans portrayed Democratic contender John Kerry as an out-of-touch elitist who not only spoke French fluently but also looked French. In an oft-repeated description, coined by a Wall Street Journal commentator, Kerry was called “a haughty, French-looking Massachusetts Democrat.”