It's all Grecian to me: Views from the foreign press
While rowdy protesters greeted Bush with flying glass bottles in the Swedish city of Göteborg Thursday, the European press has offered a warmer, or at least more measured, response to the president's visit. As commentators on both sides of the Atlantic so often point out, Bush tends to benefit from the low expectations the public has of him. And given that he set out being lampooned as "an arrogant oilman," he's done pretty well for himself on the continent.
"The government in Washington would do well to exercise a degree of restraint and modesty," writes Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger in the Germany daily Frankfurter Algemeine Zeitung. The paper called on Bush to make good on his promise to listen to the NATO allies before making decisions -- rather than making them unilaterally. "The United States should follow the motto that those whose leadership is characterized by cooperation and calculability will not on every occasion fall under the stereotypical suspicion of arrogance, hegemony and a desire to rule the world."
The Germans also had instructions for their own leaders. "For their part, the Europeans would be well advised to banish arrogance and hysteria from their repertoire of reactions whenever they are confronted by U.S. decisions and intentions that do not necessarily coincide with their own."
Even the French nodded to the American president's relative success. "Bush is obviously not just the 'superficial buffoon and the arrogant Texan' described by the media," wrote Jean Quartremer in Liberation Thursday, pointing out Bush's nominally successful speech on the issue of the missile shield and his attempts to woo European leaders into letting go of their attachment to the 1972 ABM treaty. But the paper reports that French President Jacques Chirac is having none of it. "The death of this treaty is one of the principal preoccupations of Paris and Berlin. 'The sword has always gotten the upper hand of the shield,' one has customarily heard at the Champs Elysée. But the arms race has already begun, notably in Asia. And isn't a good warrior always armed with a sword and a shield?" (Are we to take it that France's most popular leftist daily has been swayed? Perhaps it's more a dig at Lionel Jospin than an endorsement of Bush.)
Hugo Young writes in London's the Guardian, "George Bush is the strangest American president most Europeans have ever seen." He calls Bush "an unsettling figure," one Europeans find difficult to relate to. "His mind has not been touched by Europe, either as a student or a politician," Young says. "Ronald Reagan was, by comparison, an open book."
Yet Young advises Euros seeking to understand Bush that "we can forget the campaign depictions of him as a dunce: in domestic politics he has already shown the advantage a leader can gain from being underestimated." European stances on Bush have been overly knee-jerk, says Young. "We are building different futures under different pressures, and are friendly competitors rather than invariably allies to the death. It's a moment to be creative not, loosed from dogma, terrified."
-- Fiona Morgan and Daryl Lindsey
"I guess my summary is that friends are able to speak candidly and constructively. And our relationship with the United States -- between the United States and Sweden, and the United States and the European Union -- is strong and it is healthy."
-- President Bush, speaking at a press conference in Sweden
As he prepares to give a major policy address in Poland, Bush is hoping for a warmer reception than the one he received on Thursday in Sweden. There, Bush discussed global warming and NATO expansion with skeptical European Union officials as occasionally violent protests raged in the streets outside.
Inside, Bush encouraged NATO to extend membership to more nations, including those formerly part of the Soviet Union. Though Russia's government has been hostile to NATO expansion in the past, Bush assured all involved that a stronger NATO would pose no threat to Russia. Bush also voiced support for a larger European Union.
Much more controversial was Bush's continued resistance to the Kyoto treaty to combat global warming. While the issue has been a sore point throughout Bush's travels this week, Swedish officials had promised to press the president over America's decision to opt out of the agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Despite European prodding, the president insisted that the treaty is fatally flawed.
Though sharp policy differences with America's allies have plagued Bush's first presidential overseas trip, he seems determined to put the best face on it as possible. The president has said that a healthy rivalry between the U.S. and the E.U. would push both to succeed, and that he's pleased with the progress he's made in encouraging European governments to reconsider their stands against some of America's positions. Whether Bush's trip will ultimately strengthen the nation's standing on the world stage or merely remind other countries of what they dislike about American policy remains to be seen.
With the unhappy reviews his policies have been getting in Europe, Bush was more than pleased to hear that his big education reform plan did so well back in Washington. The president extended his thanks to the Senate for approving his education initiative by a whopping 91-8 margin. The plan emphasizes holding schools accountable for results and more aggressively monitoring student progress through testing.
As with every piece of major legislation, senators used the education bill to make political statements only tangentially related to the business at hand. The Senate narrowly approved a provision to withhold federal funds from any school district that keeps its doors shut to the Boy Scouts of America because of the group's anti-gay policies. In a bit of political theater, Democrats who opposed the Boy Scout provision tweaked it to discourage discrimination against any group because of its beliefs about sexual orientation.
Meanwhile, Bush's move to phase out live munitions tests on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques bombed with all sides. Though Hispanic leaders, Democrats and even Republican Gov. George Pataki of New York have been lobbying for the policy change for some time, they are not happy that Bush plans to wait two years before ending the bombing altogether.
Some conservatives were angered as well by what they considered Bush's selling out military interests to score political points with Latino voters. Critics among the Republican congressional contingent have vowed to fight Bush over the Vieques change.
And don't miss the first lady renewing warnings to the media to back off when it comes to her twin daughters and their drinking citations. Laura Bush's latest statements came in an interview with CBS's "The Early Show." While in Europe, the first lady has maintained the same personal distance from the continent's various first ladies, queens and government officials that has characterized her official interactions in the U.S.
Her husband has been able to keep his gaffe habit in check for the most part, but made a pair of embarrassing missteps. During a press conference in Sweden, he referred to Africa as a country, and an open mike caught Bush expressing awe that he had ultimately prevailed in the presidential contest. "It was amazing I won," he said.
Others expressed their disbelief about Bush's White House win with less pleasure. Democratic stalwart Bianca Jagger said in an interview that Bush is pulling America to the right and out of the mainstream of world opinion. "He comes with a very, very dangerous view of the world," she said. "He is the antichrist."
Friday schedule: Bush spends the day in Poland, meeting separately with that nation's president and prime minister, and participates in a news conference. He also lays wreaths at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Warsaw and at the Warsaw Ghetto. Bush ends the day with a state dinner in his honor.
-- Alicia Montgomery
This day in Bush history
June 15, 1998: Gov. George W. Bush requested that the Texas State Board of Pardons and Paroles review Henry Lee Lucas'conviction for a murder that put him on death row. While Lucas confessed to several murders, Bush expressed doubts that he was guilty of the 1979 murder for which he was to be executed. Bush later commuted Lucas' death sentence.
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