"I am encouraged that in today's meeting we saw a new receptivity towards missile defense as part of a new strategic framework to address the changing threats of our world."
-- President Bush, speaking at a press conference in Brussels, Belgium
Bush told an audience of European leaders and NATO officials that it's time for them to quit living in the Cold War era. On the second full day of his tour of the continent, the president repeated his calls to the nations of Europe to drop their devotion to maintaining the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and embrace his administration's plan to build a missile shield. The president found the response to his speech heartening, and said he sensed a new willingness on the part of European leaders to reconsider their stands on defense.
Despite the president's optimism, opponents of the Bush plan remained vocal, with the leaders of Germany and France openly suggesting that the missile defense initiative might reactivate the Cold War without guaranteeing any nation's safety. Whatever criticism Bush didn't hear directly from his European counterparts, he could have heard in the streets, as authorities continue to tangle with demonstrators bent on disrupting Bush's scheduled engagements and some radical elements threatening violent action against him.
The president won't get a break when he travels from Brussels to Sweden. There, officials are expected to harangue him about what they see as his weak plans to combat global warming, and Swedish protesters have threatened to drop their trousers and moon Bush en masse. While the president's reception on the continent has been less than stellar so far, the White House continues to insist that things are going as well as can be expected for a conservative American president. Conservatives back home assert that the policy disputes and protests are little more than Europeans showing their jealousy of American strength.
Back at the White House, top Bush advisor Karl Rove has stumbled into an ethical mud puddle, with administration critics demanding to know whether Rove pulled strings for Intel. Until last week, Rove held $100,000 in stock in the company, and in March he met with Intel officials who wanted to speed government approval of a merger deal. Rove said he didn't do a thing for Intel but tell it whom to talk to in the Pentagon and Treasury Department.
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats have launched probes into whether there's any funny business behind the power scarcity in Western states or the recent spike in gasoline prices. Having just taken over the majority, however, the party is skittish about getting labeled as attack dogs by Republicans. Nevertheless, Bush's weakness on the energy issue, as demonstrated by recent polls, has made Democrats feel safer in criticizing him.
In other energy news, Bush's anti-price-cap position has been undermined by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Though the president and vice president continue to insist that price caps are counterproductive, the FERC has declared itself willing to exercise more control over market rates for power in Western states. Meanwhile, a new investigation challenges Bush's assertion that excessive government control contributed to the dearth of new power plants, instead suggesting that energy companies themselves limited plant construction with the hope of creating power scarcity and raising prices.
Bush may yet get a moment of thanks from congressional liberals, thanks to his administration's plan to phase out testing of live ammunition on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques over the next two years. The move was long sought by members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus as well as New York state leaders.
And don't miss Barbara Bush's fake I.D. The president's twin daughter, a student at Yale University, used this phony Maryland driver's license to try to buy liquor at a Connecticut bar. Also check out some of the lighter moments of the president's European trip, including Bush devouring Belgian chocolates and complaining about the length of his meetings with European leaders.
Thursday schedule: The president has his hands full. He begins by meeting with the Belgian prime minister in Brussels, and then travels to Sweden, where he meets with that nation's prime minister before attending a U.S.-European Union summit. Afterward, Bush holds a joint news conference with the presidents of the European Union and the European Commission. In the evening he joins Swedish royals King Gustaf and Queen Silvia before attending a state dinner.
-- Alicia Montgomery
This day in Bush history
June 14, 1998: The Austin American-Statesman reported that while most Texas Republicans praised Gov. George W. Bush highly during his reelection campaign, Christian conservatives still felt he had yet to prove himself. Members of the Christian Coalition said that they were squarely in Bush's corner for the 1998 race in Texas, but were reserving judgment on Bush's rumored presidential bid. Many favored early GOP candidates like Pat Buchanan, John Ashcroft or Gary Bauer, who were more vocal on issues like school prayer and abortion. Randy Tate, then executive director of the Christian Coalition, said that all Bush needed was a push in the right direction. "Even some of those that are with us on many, many issues need that reinforcement, and I'm sure the governor on down to some of the members of Congress need that constant," he said. "That's the only way we are going to really change this country."
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