US embassy hosts ‘primary’ breakfast in The Hague
A festive breakfast on the day of the presidential elections in the United States has become something of a tradition in The Hague, but now, for the first time ever, the US ambassador to the Netherlands has organised one of these get-togethers on the morning after ‘Super Tuesday’. Hans Andringa reports.
US ambassador Roland Arnall arranged for this election breakfast to be held at the Royal Theatre, located opposite the embassy building in the Netherlands political ‘capital’, The Hague.
Besides the coffee, bread rolls, etc., which one might expect to find at a breakfast, the guests on this occasion were also met by numerous balloons, fliers, posters and other election paraphernalia as they entered the ‘breakfast room’. The crowd was marked by a distinct lack of US nationals and a predominance of ‘locals’ from the Netherlands; indeed some 50 members of the Dutch parliament had accepted the breakfast invitation.
The president – or chairperson – of the Lower House of Parliament, Gerdi Verbeet, grew up with the US elections and has always followed the ‘circus’. She hopes that Hillary Clinton will ultimately win the Democratic nomination, not because she is a woman but because she has much more experience than her opponent, Barack Obama. She says, “America needs an experienced politician as its president.” Ms Verbeet believes that Obama should spend a couple of years learning the job by serving as vice president under Hillary Clinton.
Mariko Peters is foreign and defence policy spokesperson for the opposition GreenLeft party, and is an Obama supporter. She says Barack Obama is the man for change. As far as foreign policy is concerned, she believes it won’t make much difference who ultimately gets the Democratic Party’s nomination. She bases this opinion on having read the plans of the candidates. They both talk about Iraq, but there’s absolutely nothing about Afghanistan (A country which is of considerable interest to the Dutch because of their military involvement in ISAF).
Mariko Peters can and intends to vote in the US presidential election, because she holds dual Dutch and US citizenship. However, she hasn’t registered to vote in the US elections. “I am going to get that sorted out,” she says between taking bites from a large bagel.
There’s a highpoint for Ambassador Roland Arnall when Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger addresses the breakfast guests via a video message: “Wonderful that you the people in Holland are so interested in the American elections.” He goes on to explain that, unfortunately, he couldn’t be with the guests in The Hague because he’s in Las Vegas for the premiere of the latest Rambo film. But he goes on to assure Ambassador Arnall that he’ll be back in Holland as soon as possible.
"These elections are very exciting", the ambassador tells his breakfast guests. He goes on to say that his country is on the move; seeking a different course. He notes how John McCain seemed to be a political write-off just a couple of months back; now it’s as if he has been reborn, and he adds how it was also said at one point that Obama couldn’t take on Hillary Clinton, while we’ve now seen Mrs Clinton having to fight to survive. As the ambassador points out, we’re living in historical times.
6 February 2008
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[Copyright Radio Netherlands]