"The democracies in Europe reflect the will of the people of Europe. That doesn't mean we can't be friends. That doesn't mean we can't work in common areas of importance to our people. And that's the spirit in which I come to Europe."
-- President Bush, speaking at a press conference in Madrid
Bush spent Tuesday in Spain, where he was greeted by cordial government officials, thousands of hostile protesters and an openly sneering press. The president may have picked Spain as his first European stop because the center-right government of Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar is far closer to Bush's ideology than any other regime on the continent. As for the demonstrations, where Spaniards carried signs deriding Bush as a power-hungry rube, the president kept his distance, refraining from the impromptu public appearances that characterized many Clinton trips abroad.
So the protesters had to take their shots at Bush from a distance, and his critics among the European leadership followed suit. The president's call for additional study of global warming and his continued resistance to the Kyoto Protocol came under attack as a timid and backward approach to an international crisis. And the plan of action he outlined in a Monday speech about the greenhouse effect was dismissed as 10 years too late.
Notwithstanding Aznar's sympathetic statements on the topic, Bush's push to win support for his missile defense plan fell flat as well. Few echoed his belief that the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty -- considered a major obstacle to a missile defense shield -- is just a "relic" from the Cold War. Talk like that has alarmed European leaders, who see Bush as provoking a new arms race with Russia and China without sufficiently assuring allies that an American missile shield would be extended to protect Europe.
Protecting the president overseas has turned out to be a major preoccupation for his European hosts. The Swedish government announced that it had nabbed five suspected "saboteurs" who were planning to disrupt the president's visit to Sweden later in the week. Reports have also emerged suggesting that Osama Bin Laden is plotting to kill Bush and other world leaders at an economic summit in Italy scheduled for July. Italian officials have vowed to remain on high alert.
The president, according to White House officials, is unbowed by his bumpy European debut, though the road promises to stay rough. When he arrived in Brussels, Belgium, on Wednesday to speak to NATO officials, another group of protesters was waiting for him.
Back at home, the power switch in the Senate has emboldened Bush's ideological opponents on both sides and endangered his agenda. Sen. Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I., reinvigorated talk that he might follow Sen. Jim Jeffords, I-Vt., out of the Republican Party. The New England moderate, who had previously assured colleagues that he was in the GOP to stay, said he might reconsider if the Republicans regained control in the Senate.
Meanwhile, the president's advocacy abroad of his missile defense plan didn't stop Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., the new chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, from positioning himself to block the plan, which many Democrats believe is too expensive and unrealistic.
Democrats are poised to highlight what they consider another weakness in the Bush agenda -- his energy policy. The Senate holds hearings beginning Wednesday to explore whether recent spikes in gas prices were attempts by the oil and gas industries to gouge American drivers. While Vice President Cheney was again telling California lawmakers there would be no price controls on power for Western states, House Republicans were dealing with their own energy policy dust-up. House Majority Leader Rep. Dick Armey, R-Texas, apologized to Rep. J.C. Watts, R-Okla., for describing Watts' plan to hold hearings on soaring energy costs as "nonsense."
In other bad news for the Bush agenda, a House Republican has pledged to break ranks with his party to support the patients rights legislation authored in part by Bush rival Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. If that legislation -- not the alternative bill that Bush supports -- makes it to the president's desk at the White House, Bush will be faced with eating crow and signing the bill or vetoing a popular piece of legislation, feeding the Democrats an issue to run on in upcoming races. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., has expressed optimism that the bill will pass.
And don't miss Bush's first European gaffe. The president mispronounced Spanish Prime Minister Aznar's name as "Anzar," and then apologized for his rudimentary language skills.
Wednesday schedule: The president travels to Brussels to meet with NATO Secretary-General George Robertson. He also addresses the North Atlantic Council and holds a press conference. Bush then meets King Albert and Queen Paola of Belgium before visiting the U.S. Embassy staff.
In Washington, Vice President Cheney speaks to the U.S. Energy Association on Wednesday afternoon.
-- Alicia Montgomery
This day in Bush history
June 13, 1991: George W. Bush, a general partner in baseball's Texas Rangers franchise, got into a heated argument with baseball commissioner Fay Vincent during meetings about league expansion. Bush was reportedly unhappy that Vincent allocated only $42 million to the American League of the $190 million available for expansion. Vincent, a friend of then President Bush, lost patience with the younger Bush's protests. "I told George Bush that if he didn't stop yelling at me, I was going to tell his mother," Vincent said.
Rant: Pump-slapping the Golden State
So much for President Bush's olive branch to California. Just two weeks after visiting the state in an effort to make amends, President Bush has once again stuck it to California by forcing the state to use the fuel additive ethanol. The move could send gas prices -- already over $2 per gallon in much of the state -- up at least another 5 cents a gallon at the pump this summer.
California had applied for a waiver from a Clean Air Act requirement to use clean fuel additives like ethanol to cleanse its gasoline. Two years ago, Gov. Gray Davis banned the additive MTBE, which helped clean the air but also contaminated the state's water supply. Davis and other Californians argued there are now cheaper ways to clean up gasoline than ethanol, but Bush denied the waiver that would have let the state use them.
By refusing California's request, Bush enjoys a win-win-win situation. He gets to bolster his environmental cred as a clean air guy, though that's probably still a pretty tough sell in most parts. More importantly, he gives a boost to corn-producing swing states like Iowa, a state Bush lost in November by just 4,000 votes. And of course, he gets to sock it to California -- again.
To be fair, California's waiver was also opposed by Senate Majority Leader (and possible Democratic presidential contender) Tom Daschle. (Never underestimate the power of the Iowa Caucus.) Clearly, the move is aimed more at shoring up support in key farm-belt swing states than it is at gouging California. But sometimes, things just have a way of working out. Bush gets to placate farm-belt states, look a little greener and thumb his nose at chief critic Gray Davis. That's some welcome good news on the domestic front at a time he's struggling to appease allies in Europe.
-- Anthony York
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Bushed! contributors: Eric Boehlert, Karen Croft, Gary Kamiya, Kerry Lauerman, Daryl Lindsey, Alicia Montgomery, Fiona Morgan, Scott Rosenberg, Jake Tapper, Joan Walsh, Anthony York
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