I passed the field at Agincourt again just last week. It was St Crispin’s Day, and the life-sized tin men permanently entrenched around the edges of the field wobbled in a rainy gale while cows lunched nearby. I expected to see a bunch of coaches lined up at the visitors’ center, filled with Britons coming to relive a past glory of theirs: As students of Laurence Olivier and Kenneth Branagh will recall, Agincourt is the scene of Henry V’s long-shot victory on October 25, 1415, when a huge French army — the “flower of French aristocracy,” some historians call it — was defeated by a much smaller force of English archers who fought knee-deep in mud without their trousers because they were so incontinent. The re-enactment of the battle however had been moved to July because of the weather.
“Incontinent” takes on a poignant meaning when uttered in Europe about the prospect of a Republican victory in an American election. The nosegay brigade, the flowers of the Euro-press, are lined up to celebrate what must surely be a victory for the Democrats over the evil “Neo-Cons.” But the fields of Europe are covered with disappointment and unexpected defeat. And all the European media can do is hope for the best. As the Guardian’s editorialist put it, “This is a week for Americans to hold their nerve and do the deed.” Not exactly a St Crispin’s Day speech — but then, it’s a Guardian leader-writer. Those guys couldn’t do the deed no matter what they were holding.
Kerry’s stand-up routine really put the fear of a long-forgotten God in the hearts of European liberals, such as those toiling for the Süddeutsche Zeitung. And at Le Monde, les poulets are fretting that almost anything could derail their hopes, so they’re running through their pages shouting, “The price of gasoline is falling!” Rather than dwell on unpleasant possibilities, Le Figaro is covering the one victory that even a trillion knickerless Brits couldn’t steal: Hillary’s New York reelection campaign.
Meanwhile, at TF-1’s “Sept à huit,” a TV newsmagazine, producers were off in the tall grass of Kansas, hunting for scary conservatives. They ambushed state legislator Mary Pilcher Cook, who was campaigning for re-election against a woman who had flipped parties and was pelting voters with fraudulent campaign flyers — the one I earlier reported was a supporter of “nomadic stem cell research.” Pilcher Cook had already refused once to be interviewed by the program’s producer. He begged her to reconsider in order to satisfy “the Republican Party of Paris” that TF-1 isn’t “one-sided.” Right, so Pilcher Cook blew him off, but the producer jumped from the shrubs while she was talking to somebody in her district. The resulting two-sided report will be broadcast to a Barca-lounger full of Paris Republican Sunday evening. It might have been cheaper and easier for TF-1 if they had done what Le Nouvel Observateur did and just beg: “America! Punish the Republicans!”
But the best election take for nervous Europeans comes via Libération, thanks to a ranter named Matthew Bigg who is paid to report the news of the day for Reuters, but, what with Reuters being what it is and all, apparently doesn’t care what day: As Bigg calmly observes, the elections don’t matter because Katrina (storm, Gulf, struck New Orleans, big screw-up, remember?) has already exposed the viciousness America pours on the poor, and no matter who wins, the Great Satan will survive.
To make its carefully nuanced point, above their Bigg story, the paper runs an alarming photograph of what appears to be some people rummaging around in my closet. Probably English journalists stealing pants. Something tells me Katrina will continue to batter the Republican coast until the sun breaks on a Congress and White House controlled by Democrats — like the ones who run Louisiana.
— Denis Boyles is author of Vile France: Fear, Duplicity, Cowardice and Cheese.