Foreign media bewildered by length, repetition of U.S. campaign
January 13th, 2012
02:35 PM ET
3 years ago

Foreign media bewildered by length, repetition of U.S. campaign

Washington (CNN) – Jun Takao fully understands the Iowa caucuses, the New Hampshire primary and the complicated fight for convention delegates. But the veteran Japanese journalist and Washington bureau chief does not comprehend one thing about American presidential elections.

"What's interesting for the audience (about) listening to the debate dozens of times?" he asked. "Sometimes it's total repetition."

Listen to Takao's other thoughts and the latest from the campaign trail in our podcast here. Or keep reading for more.


Takao runs the Washington bureau for NHK, the translated initials for the Japan Broadcasting Corporation. The public broadcaster is one of the country's most prominent television networks and has made a stunning commitment to the 2012 American campaign – with 30 crews covering the race.

"Japan considers (itself) the biggest friend of America," he explained, "So every four years, we pay a lot of (attention)."

Interest is high. But, Takao adds, so is confusion.

"This process is pretty long and it's pretty difficult for Japanese to understand," the spectacled man said with a frustrated smile. "We spend a year to educate the Japanese audience on what's going on."

Japan's government is a parliamentary system where party leaders chose the prime minister and there is no national vote. In recent years a string of prime ministers have served for relatively brief terms, with the Japanese public often getting to know a new leader only after they are named as the head of government.

"So this process of debating with each other or discussing in diners, this process is totally unique for us," Takao pointed out.

But the length of the campaign and the repetition of stump speeches in the U.S. baffles many in his audience. "Sometimes it's difficult," he said, "Why do Americans pay so much attention to this process? One candidate says… (the same thing) again and again."

The bewilderment goes from campaign bus tours to the number and lengths of debates. So far, Republicans have held 15 candidate debates, which ties the previous record from 2008. And five more network debates are scheduled in the weeks ahead.

"It's my profession, so I try following the two-hour debate each time," Takao noted, "but I don't know how it could be interesting for the regular audience in the United States. It's one of the mysterious parts (of the campaign) for me."

Another challenge? Takao says some campaigns will not credential foreign media, not even a powerhouse like NHK. This was a problem at Mitt Romney headquarters in both Iowa and New Hampshire.

"We wanted to cover the victory announcement… live," he said," but they didn't let us in." Takao described long efforts to try and obtain credentials that ultimately failed.

In the end, the NHK correspondent had to wait until after the speeches ended and Romney had left. When the doors opened and people were leaving, the NHK team ran in and shot a quick stand-up.

"Hopefully someday they'll notice about NHK and pay attention to the Japanese audience," he said.

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- CNN's Dan Szematowicz and Emma Lacey-Bordeaux contributed to this report.


Filed under: American Sauce • Iowa • New Hampshire
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. ja

    most of the campaigning is about oversized ego,and a method of jacking of money, perry paul, huntsman, gringich don't stand a chance in hell of winning, paul to old, perry not very bright, gingrich to much baggage, now who are the other two or three

    January 13, 2012 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  2. Rudy NYC

    That's too funny. They have turned the Republican race into a hit reality show.

    January 13, 2012 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  3. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    They are also bewildered by the QUALITY of the nominees; by the atrocities that spew out of their mouths; by the easily disproven lies. These so-called contenders are living in a mental isolationist bubble that discounts the existence of any other intelligent life on the planet besides the United States. They've even gone as far as to beat up on a cadidate for speaking more than one language.
    The world is laughing at them,and by extension at us(remember Cain and his Ubiszakizakistan (sp)?).
    The GOP reveres and upholds ignorance, intolerance, divisiveness, and liesm and the merely ridiculous.

    January 13, 2012 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  4. mirrorlogic

    I try to tell my foreign friends it's a basic math formula:

    Number of Candidates X Number of Republican Debates X Number of free televised minutes to Obama Bash X Number of paid Commercials to the media = Total Number of Campaign Days

    January 13, 2012 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    I too am bewildered by this flaccid field of clown car candidates.

    January 13, 2012 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  6. Gurgi

    @mama4obama, way to fit the liberal stereotype of not having any character, credibility or intelligence. And attributing your own crassness to others. Not a word of your post was in the article. If you and other liberals don't want to be stereotyped and want to be taken seriously, then don't fit the stereotype.

    January 13, 2012 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |