WASHINGTON — A flood of international news coverage of Canada's prime minister happily greeting Syrian refugees prompted commentators in the U.S. to draw comparisons Friday with the angry anti-refugee politics in their own country.
The story of Justin Trudeau greeting refugees at the airport was covered in numerous countries and was the top story around midday on the New York Times website, along with a video and similar items on Newsweek, the BBC, NBC, Paris Match, and the UK Guardian, Independent and Daily Mail.
A Washington Post piece suggested public attitudes in Canada and the U.S. aren't actually all that different on refugees. It cited polls that show a majority in both countries support resettling Syrians.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gives winter clothes to Syrian refugees 16 month-old Madeleine Jamkossian and her father Kevork. (Photo: Nathan Denette/CP)
One big difference, pointed out by several outlets, is the political tone — this on a week where the U.S. election debate was dominated by one candidate's plan to bar all Muslim visitors.
"Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Just Gave U.S. Politicians a Refreshing Lesson in Compassion," was the headline on the GQ website, which set the tone for some such commentary.
"U.S. politics right now feel like a clown show of ventriloquized garbage bags yelling dangerous nonsense about Muslims and the Second Amendment," the piece began.
"But just north of the border... Trudeau is showing just how far leadership traits like compassion and open-mindedness can go toward endearing yourself to your countrymen. Who would have thought?"
Contrast that with the conversation in the U.S. on Friday.
There were questions at the daily White House press briefing about Donald Trump's proposed Muslim-visitors ban. A presidential spokesman also fielded media questions about an apparent plan to organize a Qu'ran-burning protest Saturday in front of the White House.
A spokesman for Obama retorted by pointing to a poll that suggests Trump's plan is opposed by a clear majority of Americans: "What we are seeing here is a pretty cynical attempt on the part of one Republican politician to capitalize on people's fears and anxieties," Josh Earnest said. "And that's offensive."
Some left-wing commentators in the U.S. joked that they wished Trudeau might move south and enter politics in their country.
Few headlines were nearly as enthusiastic as the left-wing U.S. blog Daily KOS: "Prime Minister's reaction to refugees arriving in Canada will be a highlight in world history." It suggested this welcoming approach was likelier to win the hearts and minds of the Muslim public.
Other similarly minded commentators made a serious point.
There was a thank-you message on Twitter from actor Mia Farrow. A prominent activist with Black Lives Matter, Shaun King, tweeted: "Absolutely love the warmth, love, and compassion I see being shown toward weary Syrian refugees in Canada. #WelcomeToCanada is so powerful!"
Another comparison to U.S. politics came from progressive journalist Glenn Greenwald.
He posted a link to a UK Guardian story on Trudeau, and another to a U.S. CNN story with the headline, "(Chris) Christie on refugees: Not even 5-year-old orphans."
Greenwald tweeted: "Which mentality would you rather represent your country?"
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