Friday, July 14, 2006

Lost In Translation

There is so much conveyed in this segment of a recent interview of The Decider by the European press, it begs to be deconstructed. Let's do just that.

Q Well, Mr. President, you've known Mr. Prodi for a long time, and you've known Mr. Berlusconi -- you've known both of them. And how would you assess the personal relationship that you had with Mr. Prodi and with Mr. Berlusconi? Is there a difference how comfortable would you feel with one or the other?

THE PRESIDENT: I feel very comfortable with both. The first thing that's important is I feel comfortable with the people of Italy. We've got very close ties.

And let me just take a step back. What's interesting about our country is that we've got -- we've had close ties with a lot of countries. My ranch was settled by Germans.

Q Really?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. There's a huge number of Italian Americans. A lot of Russian Americans. You know, Norm Mineta in my Cabinet is a Japanese American. In other words, so when you talk about relations with an American President, you've got to understand that there's a -- at least I have, I know my predecessors have, connections, close connections with people who have fond -- either fond memories and/or great pride in their motherland.

And the way I like to define relations is that we've got -- that I've got good relations and great respect for the country of Italy. Obviously, people are so different that you've just got to gauge your relationship to meet certain objectives. And our objective with our European friends is to have a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace and is in close concert with the United States.

And so I think in this case, Prodi and Berlusconi share that objective. Both share the same objective. Same in Germany. And so I deal with them differently. They're just different types of people with different backgrounds. But I've known Romano Prodi, particularly since he was the head of the EU. I've worked with him quite a bit. Ask him about the time when I was riding my mountain bike on the beaches of Sea Island, Georgia. I came roaring by as fast as I could. There was Prodi with his head down. I made some kind of noise, or something startled him out of his walking shoes, you know. (Laughter.) My point is, there he was. He's a guy who I felt comfortable enough roaring by on a mountain bike, three Secret Service agents spewing up sand. (Laughter.)

[emphasis mine]

It's the part I put in bold that has gotten most of the play in the blogosphere, and for good reason. He sounds like a third-grader who is just becoming aware that there's other countries and people out there. And he's needlessly patronizing with his meandering "we got Russians, we got Italians" boilerplate. It's as if he's internalized the idea that America has many ethnicities, but that other countries aren't ethnically heterogenous at all, and that that's some type of subtextual distinction.

It's not the first time he's alluded to this way of thinking; remember the odd Schroder anecdote from Ron Suskind's seminal Without A Doubt piece?

In response to a question, he talked about diversity, saying that ''hands down,'' he has the most diverse senior staff in terms of both gender and race. He recalled a meeting with Chancellor Gerhard Schroder of Germany. ''You know, I'm sitting there with Schroder one day with Colin and Condi. And I'm thinking: What's Schroder thinking?! He's sitting here with two blacks and one's a woman.''

The implications of this are actually rather offensive, I would think, but at the very least, they're incredibly ignorant.Why exactly would Bush think that Schroder would find anything amiss or unusual about women or blacks being in positions of power? Even if Germany were statistically more ethnically homogenous than the U.S., it's still presumptuous to make anything more of it than that. Bush's BFF Junichiro Koizumi, coming from a gender-conscious country that is ethnically homogenous, might in fact find such a situation peculiar; it doesn't make it any less rude to presume to ventriloquize his feelings on the matter.

But that is how Bush processes information and regurgitates -- passive-aggressive pastiches of frat-boy one-upmanship, coupled with gobbets of ignorance that would be off-putting enough in a surly teenager, but are obnoxious in a supposedly adult person in a position of extreme responsibilities.

There's also the infamous Brazil gaffe, but since that was never conclusively verified or attributed, it would be unfair to pin it on him -- but it's not exactly out of the realm of the possible, either.

And as for his charming little anecdote about how he's so "comfortable" with Prodi that he can scare the shit out of him on a bike ride and blow sand in his face, well, let's put it this way -- exactly how "comfortable" do you think a smug, self-indulgent little shit like Bush would have been with Prodi and his security detail (assuming he even has one for bike rides) doing something like that to him?

Finally, the infamous pig. (No, not Rove -- the other pig.) The wild boar feast in Rostock, to which Bush seemed a bit too enthralled, sounding more and more like Forrest Gump as he dodged even simple questions. Per usual the liberal media met him halfway, pronouncing his autistic rectitations of pig-slicing as an attempt at "humor".

I'm sorry, I don't get it. Seriously. This is not snark, this is not schtick; I fail to understand how responding to simple questions of international respect and courtesy, as well as questions pertaining to the rapidly escalating Israel-Hezbollah conflict, with babbling non-sequiturs about a fucking pig are supposed to be funny, or leavening the very real and very dire circumstances his asinine foreign policies have led us to. You wanted the most important, serious job on the planet, Hoss, you fucking well got it, so howzabout a more comprehensive answer than "me wantee slicey piggie". Fucking simp.

Even a simple question such as this one, loaded as it was with exhortations as to cultural amicability and shared histories and futures and whatnot, went right on past him:

"Apart from the pig, Mr. President, what sort of insights have you been able to gain as regards East Germany?" a German reporter asked.

Here's what someone with just a dash of intelligence and style might have responded to that softball:
As a history major at Yale, I was fortunate to have many opportunities to study many of the world's great civilizations and movements, and how they altered or almost altered history. Standing here in a city as rich in history as Rostock, in my more idealistic moments, I find myself wondering what might have happened if the Hanseatic League had been able to succeed and prosper, and export its healthy combination of anarcho-syndicalism and mercantilism in a confederated city-state paradigm. I think that humanity might have been healthier, happier, and more productive and creative under such a scheme, given a chance. Instead we have had to fight for enlightment by going around the anti-individualist forces of organized religion, all-powerful Hobbesian daddy-statism, jingoistic militarism, and corporate fascism. If humanity is to have a future, it must work toward a more balanced approach to individual excellence and collective harmony, instead of control and fascism, whether mandated by religious dogma or money.

Instead, he responded:

"I haven't seen the pig yet," Bush said, sidestepping the question about insights gained from his two-day visit to this rural seaside region that once rested behind the Iron Curtain.

Bush is exactly the sort of idiot American that goes to Europe and eats at McDonald's, the type of moron where you wonder why they bothered to leave home at all. And it's all wrapped up in his aforementioned neuroses, which again is fine in an everyday chump, but look where it's gotten us having someone like that running the show (right into the ground).

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