Watching the drama from Sweden

It's not just Washington tracking the federal funding dysfunction, Steve Kelman reports.

locked doors

After waking up my first morning on a visit to Sweden, I was greeted with news of the government shutdown in the United States, the lead story on both the major local channels.

 The first words of the morning news anchor on Sweden's TV4 were: "'They did it,' says Barack Obama on his Twitter page." On TV1, the first words: "Now it's a fact – the U.S. has fallen off the budget cliff." (This beat out a story about a new international study which found that Sweden is the best country in which to be old.)  Since it is six hours later in Sweden than the United States, these 6:30 a.m. (Swedish time) broadcasts were 12:30 a.m. eastern time, only 30 minutes after the shutdown officially began. Both networks had live reports from their Washington correspondents reporting in the night darkness, with the Capitol in the background.

Interestingly, both networks emphasized the effect of the shutdown on government employees who would be laid off. The TV1 reporter noted that he had interviewed civil servants earlier in the day outside the Capitol, and they had (surprise!) told him how angry they were that they were being made into political pawns. TV4 had an interview on the 6:30 am news with a Wall Street trader (in English) saying that this was no big deal for the markets or the economy. However, by the 8 a.m. broadcast, this had been replaced with an interview with a Swedish trader (in Swedish) saying that if this lasted for more than a few days, it would be a big problem for the stock market. This was followed by a reminder about the debt ceiling debate coming in only a few weeks.

The largest serious newspaper in Sweden, the liberal Dagens Nyheter, ran an analysis by their Washington correspondent that took President Obama's side. "The main responsibility lies with the Republican faction that aggressively has put its political prestige on stepping all out on the gas pedal," the analysis says. In connection with the debt ceiling, the article continued, "The more radical Tea Party Republicans will probably demand new 'negotiations' about President Obama's healthcare reform, a law that has already been adopted and examined by the courts." 

Interestingly, the other major serious newspaper, the more conservative Svenska Dagbladet, had no shutdown-related article – their lead foreign news story was "Historic government in Norway" -- though they did have a small piece headlined, "Netanyahu presses Obama."

I will continue to follow all this from Sweden.

NEXT STORY: Senate kicks CR back to House

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