But it's pretty clear that the post-argument makeup sex is not about to happen any time soon. Thanks to years of debt-financed economic growth, we are basically treading water, rather than gaining actual economic ground. The dollar continues its precipitous slide against the euro, leaving the Euros more and more in the proverbial catbird seat. (Demographically, their position cannot last indefinitely, but they are at least getting themselves in a decent position to counter East Asian economic ascendance, where we are not.)
So Bush's response to this long-developing scenario is to insist that freedom is still on the march, and shame on the Euros for being unwilling to help sacrifice lives and treasure to help Sistani and Chalabi and Allawi and the rest of the gang to transform Iraq into a less-thuggish authoritarian society. This while he and his handlers keep one eye on the emergency exit, and plot their timeline of departure, the diplomatic version of "let's get the fuck out of here".
In the midst of all this, as some sort of action against Iran looks more and more imminent, we get Parsdent Cooter, itchy stub fingering that nucular trigger like it's Salma Hayek's love button. In one breath Bush asserted both that we were emphatically not planning to take action against Iran, and that all options were still and always on the table. Well, duh. That a national leader should never say never is so obvious, it shouldn't even require mentioning. But it apparently does, and consistently has, for Bush, whose diplomatic arsenal evidently consists of "stick" and "bigger stick with nails".
Perhaps the most telling part of this sojourn takes place in Germany. There had been a Q&A "town hall" meeting planned, to give Bush a chance to address German citizens directly, but when Bush's people realized that this would be a real town hall, and not one of those pre-scripted bullshit ones Bush has used to pimp his nonsense on the campaign trail for years, they squashed the whole deal.
At the beginning of the article, Der Spiegel seems to think that the town hall was to have been the "cornerstone" of Bush's European trip. Maybe that's just German pride, but one has to figure, on a continent whose citizenry is even more hostile to US government policy than the leaders, Bush would have to address some segment of the European populace directly at some point. This was his opportunity, and he shied away from it. Kudos to the Germans for holding their ground and insisting on an honest debate, but what exactly is Bush so afraid of?
This is all he's been doing for three years plus now -- is he so monumentally unprepared that he is unable to discuss these issues extemporaneously? This is one of the real mysteries of this administration to me -- right or wrong, if you believe steadfastly in what you're doing, you should quite easily be able and (more importantly) willing to debate the facts of the case. This ongoing system of canned discussion has got to stop -- it an irretrievably nasty emblem of Bush's intransigence to seeing all sides of the situation. The rest of the world is long tired of us telling them that their opinions don't matter for shit, and there are a lot more of them than there are of us.
This article in the International Herald Tribune essentially underscores Der Spiegel's take on the Mainz visit.
This sort of intellectual cowardice is inexcuseable in a politician of any party. Either you believe enough in what you're doing to be able to argue your case, or you're too much of a pussy to face the people who are critical of your actions. Either you're a leader and thinker, or you're a wuss. Which is it, Mr. Bush?
Then we have the pièce de resistance, the face-to-face with Putin. Already one of Putin's ministers had made some rather peremptory remarks about each country's putative commitments to true democratic principles.
Iran is another issue on the table between Bush and Putin. The primary customer for Iran's nascent nulear-energy production will be Russia; indeed, the Russians provided some assistance in building several of the plants. They (and China, for that matter) may not just stand idly by this time. At any rate, there was a snippet of a live conference this morning, in which Bush emphasized how well things were going between he and "Vladimir Putin", which is apparently now pronounced "Vladmer Poot'n". Really, you get the impression Bush would call Putin "Bill Pooty-Poot" on camera, if only someone were to explain to him that the name "Vladimir" has an English counterpart.
This profound lack of public respect is enormously embarrassing, and not a little bit off-putting. Whether Putin accepts nicknames behind closed doors and away from cameras is one thing; this incessant "me n' Pooty-Poot [or "Jacques", or "Gerhard"]" comes across less as the palsy-walsy way Bush intends it, and more as sheer diplomatic ignorance. These are people who fight over the shape of the conference table; they do not appreciate worldwide televised conferences being larded with obsequious backslapping.
At any rate, brilliant performance, Mister President. I can feel our international regard growing by the second, throbbing as if infused with diplomatic Levitra.