Friday, February 25


Sidney Blumenthal's take on Bush's attempt to charm Europeans post-election: Lost in Europe.

President Bush has reached a dead end in his foreign policy, but he has failed to recognise his quandary. His belief that the polite reception he received in Europe is a vindication of his previous adventures is a vestige of fantasy.
As the strains of Beethoven's Sixth Symphony, the Pastoral, filled the Concert Noble in Brussels, Bush behaved as though the mood music itself was a dramatic new phase in the transatlantic relationship. He gives no indication that he grasps the exhaustion of his policy. His reductio ad absurdum was reached with his statement on Iran: "This notion that the US is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous. And having said that, all options are on the table." Including, presumably, the "simply ridiculous".

Bush is scrambling to cobble together policies across the board. At the last minute he rescued his summit with Vladimir Putin, who refuses to soften his authoritarian measures, with a step toward safeguarding Russian plutonium that could be used for nuclear weapons production. This programme was negotiated by Bill Clinton and neglected by Bush until two weeks ago.
Ceasing the finger-pointing is the basis for European consensus on its new, if not publicly articulated, policy: containment of Bush. Naturally, Bush misses the nuances and ambiguities.

Of course, he has already contained himself, or at least his pre-emption doctrine, which seems to have been good for one-time use only. None of the allies is willing to repeat the experience. Bush can't manage another such military show anyway, as his army is pinned down in Iraq.

Instead of addressing cheering crowds in Berling, as did John Kennedy forty years ago, Bush chose to speak to a small and pre-selected group of young German "leaders":

The guest list for the Wednesday afternoon gathering has been handpicked by several US organizations with offices in Germany. In recent days, the Aspen Institute and the German Marshall Fund have sent lists of possible guests to the German Foreign Ministry. The requirement was that all of the nominees had to be in their twenties or thirties and they must already have been in a leadership position at a young age. In other words: there won't be any butchers or handymen on the elite guest list, but rather young co-workers from blue chip companies like automaker DaimlerChrysler, Deutsche Bank or the consultancy McKinsey. The fact that two American organizations are the ones managing the guest list suggests that the chat won't be overly critical of Bush.

Why not? It's his modus operandi in the U.S., after all, and it's a very effective smoke screen that the mainstream press is sure to ignore. On Fox, naturally, he'll be depicted as "youth-friendly" and comments will no doubt abound about Bush's popularity with young European "leaders."

Wonder why The Big Dog felt no need to isolate himself from "real people" in Germany in order to create great press?

And contrast Bush's reception in Ireland with that of Clinton.

And I got a kick out of a Russian reporter's questions to Bush about freedom of the press in the U.S.

The two became the most animated when a Russian journalist asked Mr. Bush why he did not talk about restrictions to press freedom in his own country and "about the fact that some journalists have been fired?"

Mr. Bush responded that "I don't know what journalists you're referring to," and then turned to the White House press corps and said, "Any of you all still have your jobs?"

Mr. Putin, jumping to answer the question, said, "I'm not the minister of propaganda."

Considering that the author of the article was Elisabeth Bumiller, I suspect that was the mildest of the exchange.


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