(The following passage is excerpted from the first chapter of Exposed, entitled "Soft Power, Hard Edge.")
June 25, 2004, was an election day that most Americans neither noticed nor heard about. On that day, two hundred million Europeans went to the polls in the EU's twenty-five member countries to elect their representatives to the European Parliament.
I watched the returns flickering in that night on a bank of hastily assembled television screens in the parliament's elegant, wood-paneled legislative chamber. From Portugal in the west to Latvia in the east, this was the biggest transnational democratic experiment in history. Candidates and their aides from throughout Europe, along with hundreds of reporters and their camera crews from around the world, milled about as tensions rose through the night. There was not, however, an American news anchor to be found, nor more than a handful of American reporters—though the parliamentarians elected that day would become key players in an institution that would soon present major challenges to whomever was elected president five months later in the United States. But while Americans were for the most part oblivious, some were watching closely. Those included officials of the American Electrical Alliance, who knew, like Mike Kirschener, that they would have to prepare their membership for the changes that were coming for their industry. Lobbyists with the American Chemical Council, representing the U.S. chemical industry, were watching, for they were discovering that they had to spend more time worrying about legislation emanating from Brussels than they did from Washington, D.C. Executives with some of America's top cosmetics companies could see that, despite their best efforts, European laws would soon challenge what was in their beauty products. Diplomats from the U.S. mission to the European Union were watching; they'd been trying to orchestrate end runs around rising EU authority for the past three years. A posse of public relations experts from Burson-Marsteller, Hill & Knowlton, and other expert opinion shapers and manipulators, representing dozens of U.S. companies, was watching, for the results would determine whom among Europe's 756 legislators they would be courting, and the challenges ahead for their corporate clientele. They, if few others, knew that the consequences of what happened that day would come rippling back across the Atlantic to pull back the curtain on fundamental principles of the American economy.