What the world is thinking about the U.S. election

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Invited students attend an event to watch the televised U.S. presidential debate between Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump, at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, Japan October 20, 2016.  REUTERS/Issei Kato  - RTX2PMTH

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JUDY WOODRUFF: The president of the United States is often called the leader of the free world. And with just two weeks left in the campaign, it can be relatively safely said that many eyes overseas are keeping close tabs on the race for the White House.

Special correspondent Malcolm Brabant has been sampling opinion on his recent travels through Europe, and he sent us what he found.

DONALD TRUMP (R), Presidential Nominee: She’s playing chicken. Look, Putin…

CHRIS WALLACE, Moderator: Wait, but…

DONALD TRUMP: … from everything I see, has no respect for this person.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), Presidential Nominee: Well, that’s because he’d rather have a puppet as president of the United States.

DONALD TRUMP: No puppet. No puppet.

HILLARY CLINTON: And it’s pretty clear…

DONALD TRUMP: You’re the puppet.

HILLARY CLINTON: It’s pretty clear…

MALCOLM BRABANT: There’s little doubt that the world is watching the battle between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump with a combination of fascination and trepidation.

In Greece, the land that invented democracy, hostility towards Germany has replaced anti-Americanism during the financial crisis. But in a nation that is Europe’s frontier with the Islamic world, leading foreign analyst Thanos Dokos is concerned about the possibility of a Trump presidency.

THANOS DOKOS, Foreign Analyst: He will most likely be an isolationist president, which is never good news for the rest of the world.

MALCOLM BRABANT: American-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq divided Europe. But one of George W. Bush’s staunchest allies in the coalition of the willing was Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen. He went on to become the NATO secretary-general. And he’s dismissive of this November’s Republican candidate.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN, Former Prime Minister, Denmark: The American electorate have a choice between two very different candidates, one who made a clear statement that he doesn’t want the U.S. to be the world’s policeman, and another candidate who I know from four years of cooperation when she was secretary of state who has the will to lead the world.

MALCOLM BRABANT: What do you think of her as a potential leader?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Well, seen from a foreign policy perspective, I have full confidence that she will be engaged, she will take the lead. And that’s necessary, because we know from experience that, if the United States retreats, or is perceived to retreat, it will leave behind a vacuum, and that vacuum will be filled by the bad guys.

MALCOLM BRABANT: At the supposedly neutral United Nations in Geneva, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, has waded in with his take on the presidential contest.

ZEID BIN RA’AD ZEID AL-HUSSEIN, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights: If Donald Trump is elected, on the basis of what he has said already, and unless that changes, I think it’s, without any doubt, that he would be dangerous, from an international point of view.

MALCOLM BRABANT: Russia’s relations with the United States have descended towards Cold War levels as a result of its aggression in Ukraine and devastating attacks in Syria on behalf of President Assad, not to mention American claims that Russia hacked the Democratic Party’s computer system and accusations that Moscow is interfering in the election.

Donald Trump has said he could do business with Vladimir Putin, who was making conciliatory noises during this appearance.

PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russia (through translator): The American people will make the choice they consider necessary. No matter what the result is, we will work with any leader of the United States, whoever this president is, if, of course, the new U.S. leader wishes to work with our country.

MALCOLM BRABANT: But Putin said he was troubled by American reaction to allegations that Russia hacked Democratic Party e-mails.

PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN (through translator): About a decade ago, they wouldn’t mention Russia at all. They would say it wasn’t even worth talking about Russia, because it is such a third-rate regional power and not interesting at all. Now Russia is problem number one in the entire election campaign. All they do is keep talking about us.

MALCOLM BRABANT: But Trump does have vocal European supporters, like Morten Uhrskov. Uhrskov heads Danish Unity, one of several new right-wing parties fighting for voters’ support. He dislikes Trump’s character, but supports his policies, despite the tycoon’s lack of foreign affairs experience.

MORTEN UHRSKOV JENSEN, Party Leader, Danish Unity: He has said things there I don’t follow, like putting in doubt whether the Baltic countries should be defended. Of course they should, naturally. I’m a European. I’m concerned about Russia’s foreign policy, actually. So, yes, he has been incoherent, but bottom line is stop endless wars and use more on defense.

MALCOLM BRABANT: But isn’t the key, though, to being the commander in chief the fact that you have got a character that is worthy of that position? And many people would say that he doesn’t actually have the character. You don’t like his character, so how can you support him when he’s supposed to be the leader of the free world?

MORTEN UHRSKOV JENSEN: How could I support anyone other than Trump? I could not support Clinton, who wants to continue endless wars, as I said. And may I remind, he — you have Congress, you have the Supreme Court, you have the best advisers in the whole wide world.

Yes, I know he’s inexperienced in foreign policy, but he will not be a dictator. It’s ridiculous when I hear people say he can press the nuclear button, things like that. It’s ridiculous.

MALCOLM BRABANT: Britain four months ago, as Brexit supporters celebrated an unexpected victory. Trump’s backers will be hoping that the U.S. will deliver a similar surprise result.

NIGEL FARAGE, Former Party Leader, UKIP: If I was an American citizen, I wouldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton if you paid me.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MALCOLM BRABANT: The most influential foreign right-winger in Trump’s camp is Nigel Farage, former head of the U.K. Independence Party, UKIP, who convinced British voters to leave the European Union.

NIGEL FARAGE: I think that you have a fantastic opportunity here with this campaign. You can go out, you can beat the pollsters, you can beat the commentators, you can beat Washington. And you will do it by doing what we did for Brexit in Britain.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MALCOLM BRABANT: Greece is currently having a taste of an aggressive right-wing party. It’s called Golden Dawn. Here, one of its lawmakers lashed out at parliamentary opponent Liana Kanelli. Chain-smoking Kanelli has a reputation as one of Greece’s more colorful politicians, and she despairs of what America is becoming.

LIANA KANELLI, Member of Parliament, Communist Party: I mean, what the hell is the personality of someone voting for him? And on the other hand, I think there must be a lot of men like Clinton in the states, that they would like to have a lady in their life like Hillary. She can absorb any marital or other problem.

MALCOLM BRABANT: There’s a hoary old expression that, when America sneezes, people on this side of the Atlantic catch a cold. Many Europeans believe that the world was made a more dangerous place after George W. Bush’s military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Certainly, the current refugee crisis is seen as a partial legacy of those wars, because of the large numbers of Iraqis and Afghans seeking asylum alongside Syrians.

Regardless of history’s judgment of Barack Obama’s presidency, there’s a popular view that his administration has done much to improve America’s international reputation. But the coming election has generated levels of apprehension not experienced for decades.

For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Malcolm Brabant in Copenhagen.

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