Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The US election from your Helsinki Correspondent

Morning dawns over Helsinki railway station

It’s been a good day. I left the house in the dark just past 6 am, after putting up the previous post and just after California had been called for Obama giving him the majority of the electoral college. I stood at the bus stop listening to John McCain’s noble concession speech and watching the very first orange fuzz of dawn low down in the southeast. 20 minutes later I was on the bus heading in to Helsinki as Obama made his speech. The fact that he has been criticized through the campaign for being a good orator seemed all the more bizarre – it was a great speech, multi-layered with references to the Constitution and Dr King, reminding the world about what is special and good about the United States. It’s easy to be cynical and the realities of any administration will be disappointments, compromises and missed opportunities, but sitting on the bus, listening to the President Elect of the United States of America speak whilst a new day dawned over my town was a pretty magic moment. In fact it was so magical, I felt an urgent need to try to record it - to show my kids when they are older or something. So here is what the world looked like to my phone-camera as the U.S. rang out from Chicago to Helsinki and the rest of the globe.

Election morning Helsinki from Toby A. on Vimeo.

The party at one of the downtown hotels was fun; I arrived ten minutes after it had opened at 7 am and it was heaving. A bunch of my colleagues were already there quaffing coffees and munching the breakfast rolls. We all watched on one the myriad of TVs our mate Charly (who was actually a founding contributor to this blog) who was having a baptism of fire into the world of live punditry as the in-studio talking-head for Finland’s leading commercial TV network (pic right). Charly – they had the sound off dude, but you sure looked like a pro - next stop CNN, I reckon! The Finnish media was out in force and of course our ever-present and not-at-all-camera-shy foreign minister (left) was first to be interviewed talking about an exciting new period for transatlantic relations. The next excitement was provided by the President Halonen arriving with the American Ambassador (right below). Presidents of small and rather egalitarian countries like Finland still have to travel with a certain amount of razzmatazz, even if it is all rather minimal in comparison to the majesty of POTUS on the move (listen through if you have time). But I was tickled to notice that the president’s aide-de-camp, a major in full dress-uniform no less, was given her handbag to hold as she spoke to the TV crews. This is, I guess, the Finnish version of the nuclear button briefcase - just with slightly less apocalyptic potential.

H.E. Barbara Barrett, American Ambassador to Finland and H.E. Tarja Halonen, President of the Republic of Finland

I had a natter with a ‘senior American diplomat’ - which just sound so much more impressive than saying my mate who works at the Embassy - on what are the likely picks for secretary of state - go bipartisan and pick some like Luger or Hagel maybe? I like the idea I read somewhere of appointing Arnie as environment secretary. It looks like he'll get his arse kicked in California if he tries to stand again, so he might be looking for a new job and he did bring a state that is bigger than most countries into a cap and trade system.

Below is pic of Finland's foreign policy making elite; the president may be agreeing with the foreign minister that Obama asking Robert Gates to stay on as secretary of defense would never wash with the net-roots of Democratic Party. Or she might be saying: "if you ever beat me to the TV cameras again - I'll get my security detail to duff you up. I'm da' Prez! And don't you forget it Tory-boy..." I couldn't possibly speculate.

Congratulations to America - such a high turnout with minimal problems makes it a poster-boy for democracy once more.


Jonas said...

Thanks! Nice coverage :)

Jukka said...

excellent stuff!

Quizbo said...

cool coverage, and wow... cool video! Very nice combination of the speech audio and the early morning in Helsinki. Really adds an unexpected poignancy to the idea of people going about their normal lives in a world that has changed. Nice work.