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German Press Review: Too Aristocratic?

German editorials on Tuesday looked at the Democratic Convention, which opened in Boston on Monday. They also continued to discuss the crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan and looked at Germany's job security debate.

The business daily Handelsblatt said Kerry has so far relied too heavily on anti-Bush sentiment to propel him into the White House. In other words, he has been guilty of wishful thinking and is now paying the price for failing to address earlier the weaknesses of his campaign, whether it be his image or the substance of his policies. Many Americans think the senator from Massachusetts is rather stand-offish and inaccessible. He still lacks that pithy message with which he can sell himself to the American people. Bill Clinton won in 1992 by stressing the economy and Ronald Reagan triumphed in 1980 by oozing optimism, an antidote to the lethargy of the Carter era, the paper concluded.

The Fuldaer Zeitung said the neck-and-neck opinion polls show that many Americans are still rather sceptical of Kerry. His unbending, aristocratic manner may strike Europeans as congenial, or, at the very least, as a sign of integrity, but Americans from the mid-West and the South will be put off by it. This is something the Republicans are exploiting, according to the daily. They are cleverly papering over Bush's elitist Texan billionaire background, and omitting to mention that Kerry comes from humble origins. In a country where firearms can be readily bought over the counter, the paper explained, the owner of a cowboy hat and a gun is more likely to be thought a man of the people than a somewhat gauche lawyer who plays the guitar.

Next we turn to the conflict in the western region of Darfur, which has so far claimed an estimated 30,000 lives and forced more than one million to flee their homes. On Monday, EU foreign ministers said they would push for UN sanctions against Sudan if it does not move to end the conflict. The Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung said the ministers, together with their counterpart from the United States, have made a good start. But they have very little time to prevent the United Nations from failing once again to halt an unimaginable catastrophe.v

The big domestic topic in Germany is a piece of legislation which is jealously guarded by the trade unions. Under German law, employees enjoy generous protection from dismissal, though the law was amended from Jan.1 to make it easier for smaller companies to shed staff. Friedrich Merz, a high-profile opposition Christian Democrat has created a furore by proposing that the legislation be done away with altogether as a means of encouraging employers to create more jobs. The Westdeutsche Zeitung was unimpressed by Merz's argument and his choice of Switzerland as evidence of its validity. It cited two other countries which, it said, disprove his claim. Sweden and the Netherlands have laws against dismissal that even tougher than Germany's, the paper said. But their unemployment figures are even lower.