"I never thought I could get the Norwegian government interested in the Mississippi primary," quips Wegger Chr. Strommen, Norway's Ambassador to the U.S. "There isn't one Norwegian in Mississippi."
Instead, the diplomat says he's found an endless thirst for information at home about America's seemingly endless primary process. "It's fantastic publicity for the United States. You wouldn't believe the interest in Norway and in Europe in the election." Strommen told an audience at Seattle's Nordic Heritage Museum that Norwegians are gobbling up political arcana such as how voting patterns in metropolitan King County differ from those of rural counties in eastern Washington. And they relate to candidates fielding questions in farm kitchens in wintry Iowa, while sipping coffee and nibbling cookies. "It's a little like our Scandinavian model."
"You are actually very good at democracy," the ambassador says. "You actually let everyone have an opinion. 'McCain is an idiot.' 'Hillary can't be President.' 'Obama is inexperienced.' There's something very impressive about that."
"I'm not sure you should have an election like this every year," he adds with a knowing smile. "But for the rest of the world, it portrays the United States in a very good angle."
Strommen, 48, took over as Norwegian envoy last October. He's an international lawyer, former deputy foreign minister, and served as Norway's ambassador to the United Nations for six years.
He says he's "asked every day" which candidate Norway would prefer as President. His predictable diplomatic response? "I'm not going to tell you that. I would lose my job."