- By Hanna KozlowskaHanna Kozlowska is a fellow at Foreign Policy. She previously worked as a fixer, researcher and freelance contributor for the New York Times in Poland, and as the associate editor for Poland Today, an English-language magazine. Her work has also appeared in the Huffington Post and several Polish publications. She graduated from Swarthmore College where she was coeditor in chief of The Daily Gazette.
Donald Tusk is no Barack Obama. Earlier this week, the Polish prime minister posted a mysterious link to a YouTube video on his Twitter account. That clip featured a snippet of none other than Tusk singing The Beatles’ 1968 hit "Hey Jude."
As far as singing goes, Tusk doesn’t even hold a candle to his American counterpart, who famously pulled off a decent rendition of Al Green. Tusk is off-pitch and bursts out laughing toward the end, making for an embarrassing, if somewhat endearing performance:
So why is Tusk singing a song that Paul McCartney wrote for John Lennon’s son Julian to comfort him after the child’s parents divorced? Given Tusk’s recent political moves, the episode is a little confounding.
With Russian troops looming across Poland’s eastern border, Tusk has been playing up his hawkish side in recent weeks. He’s warned that Polish children may be unable to attend school if Russia is allowed to once more dominate Poland. He’s made appearances in front of images of F-16 fighter jets while addressing Polish and American troops. On Monday, he proposed that Europe form an energy union to reduce its dependence on Russia.
And the strong stance against Poland’s powerful neighbor seems to be paying off. Tusk and his Civic Platform party have recovered their standing in the polls ahead of next month’s European Union parliamentary elections.
After tweeting out the video, Tusk received some good-natured criticism on Twitter. One user pointed out that Tusk "must work on his accent," a comment the prime minister graciously retweeted, adding "I know," followed by a less-than-stately sad face emoticon.
As for why he posted the video, Tusk, who is known for his passion for running, offered a hint on Twitter: "I know, it’s better to run than to sing. But tomorrow you will understand why this Beatles’ song is stuck in my head."
On Tuesday, Tusk’s office released another "Hey Jude" video, this one a glossy production that celebrates Poland’s ten years in the European Union. Called "10 Light Years," the video chronicles the country’s progress since joining the EU in 2004. It begins with a television broadcast of well wishes on New Year’s Day 1991, during the early days of the country’s transition from communism. The toast offered to the country: "That our lives become normal and colorful."
Scenes from the humble beginnings of Polish capitalism are shown while McCartney croons, "Hey Jude, don’t make it bad." The song’s origin as an attempt to paper over another bitter divorce is apt.
When the track erupts in "take a sad song and make it better, better, better," the video jumps to scenes of the country’s 2004 accession into the European Union. Subsequent images of glossy high-rises, new bridges, wind turbines, slick aerial footage of picturesque Polish towns, and cheering crowds deliver a blunt message: Look at how much better things have gotten.
That video, teased by Tusk’s rendition of the song, is here:
"During these ten years we have gone through a chunk of difficult history," Tusk said during a press conference Tuesday. "Our GDP grew by 100 percent. It gives you an idea of how good our bet was" on joining the EU.
But if Tusk, whose party is staunchly pro-European, hoped to tout the benefits of EU membership, his efforts were slightly overshadowed by his poor attempt at singing. As of Wednesday afternoon, Tusk’s clumsy "Hey Jude" rendition had garnered 280,000 views, the glossy propaganda clip it was meant to promote a mere 100,000.
After reports emerged of the clip’s cost — more than $2 million — the PM’s office scrambled to explain that most of that had spent on purchasing broadcast time and that it had been financed primarily through EU funds. Nevertheless, the main opposition party, Law and Justice, filed a complaint to the national election committee claiming the video should be captioned as campaign material for Tusk’s party, according to Polish magazine Wprost.
Meanwhile, Adam Hofman, a spin doctor for the Law and Justice party, posted an alternative version of the clip. This time, Tusk’s laughing face is followed by images hoping to highlight the hardship facing industries such as mining and ship construction.
So perhaps after all these years Poland is still just fighting over its parents’ divorce.