It's Grecian to me: Bush takes a beating in overseas press
Another tour across Europe for the American president, another round of merciless editorials and articles suggesting that he would have been better off staying at home. While thousands of anti-globalization protesters hurled charges at Bush and the other leaders attending the G-8 summit in Italy, foreign newspapers were just as unwelcoming, jeering the president for his stands on a variety of issues.
Perhaps the most popular point of media Bush bashing is the president's stand against the Kyoto treaty to combat global warming, which did not go over well with several American allies or with the editorial board of Australia's Canberra Times. An editorial in that paper's Friday edition began: "The United States is on a mission of sabotage. T[he] United States is on a mission of sabotage. It is not satisfied merely to walk away from the Kyoto protocol on the environment. Rather, it wants to see it destroyed." The president is depicted as trying to blackmail nations close to the U.S. -- like Canada, Japan and Australia -- into rejecting Kyoto to cover up America's own unwillingness to do its share to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The paper does allow for the possibility, however, that Bush may yet contribute to the passage of Kyoto with his noisy opposition to the agreement. "One of the few good things to come from the U.S. chicanery is that the Kyoto agreement and climate change in general has now been put high on the global political agenda," the Canberra Times declares. "It would be a joyous irony if the Texas oil man was the catalyst for greenhouse gas action."
Another Friday editorial -- this one in the South China Morning Post -- addresses European Union nations and the Japanese government directly, demanding that they show their independence by defying Bush on Kyoto. "Instead of demonstrating the courage of their convictions, both the European Union and Japan have been hiding behind the fact that the United States is refusing to ratify the treaty," the article declares. "It is high time that the leaders of these countries faced up to their responsibility towards future generations."
Along with the much-publicized opposition to Bush over Kyoto, the president was scolded for his stands on issues that hovered below the attention of many in the American media during this latest European journey. For example, the Jerusalem Post felt obliged to take a swat at Bush Friday for his administration's affirmation of a G-8 resolution supporting Yasser Arafat's request to have international monitors supervise Israeli and Palestinian authorities in the West Bank.
The move was labeled the latest "slap in the face" to the Israeli government from the Bush White House, and a symptom of how American-Israeli relations have steadily worsened since Bill Clinton left office. Bush is blamed for allegedly allowing Palestinian propaganda to triumph over the facts on the ground, which the Jerusalem Post insists has imperiled whatever shaky peace could be achieved in the region in the near future. "Arafat now has more reason to continue attacking Israel than at any point since his offensive began," the Post opines. "Thanks to the Group of Eight, including the United States, Israel and the Palestinians are today another step closer to war."
As dire as the Post's estimation of Bush is, his most damning reviews come from the Japanese press. In a Sunday analysis, the Mainichi Daily News characterizes Bush's anti-Kyoto stands and the current administration's hesitance to support long-standing weapons treaties as "Selfish American arrogance," warning that the U.S. is in danger of losing its international leadership authority. In conclusion, the Daily News observed: "The reason other countries showed respect to the world's lone superpower was not because of its military or economic might but because it showed strong leadership in mapping out directions for the rest of the world and possessed moral force. It is now in danger of losing both."
In a Sunday article titled "U.S. hubris makes a comeback," Tokyo's Daily Yomiuri links Bush's stand on Kyoto and missile defense to the recent alleged rape of a Japanese woman by an American serviceman in Okinawa, calling the collective transgressions proof that the U.S. would rather bully its international opposition than negotiate in good faith on tough issues. The piece refers to Bush's positions on several international issues as "coercive" and "selfish," and eventually lumps America in with other "self-righteous states" like Iraq and North Korea.
Winning the award for most breathless criticism of Bush overseas comes from a headline in London's Independent on Sunday: "Is [Bush] the most dangerous man in the world?" The column doesn't explicitly conclude "yes," but comes very close.
The current American president gets compared (unfavorably) with former favorite European foil Ronald Reagan, and the Independent's columnist isn't afraid of hitting Bush in a sensitive spot. "Unlike Reagan, Bush can't claim to be acting on a popular mandate," writes columnist Andrew Gumble. "In fact, there is still considerable argument over the legitimacy of his rise to power." Given the closeness of the November race, Gumble is all the more angered by the "blitheness and arrogance about this new White House," an attitude "that has touched a particularly raw nerve" in Europe.
It's enough to make Bush miss the "major league" types in the press back home.
"I don't think that either president has in mind a timetable at the other end, in other words, you have to do it by this date. But they clearly want to make this quite intensive, and want to get going very soon."
-- National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, discussing the preliminary arms reduction talks between President Bush and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin
Though Bush spent much of his European weekend getting beaten up by allies over his global warming policy, the president did manage to quiet the criticism of his missile defense plan after a chat with new chum Vladimir Putin. In a meeting after the close of the G-8 summit in Italy, both leaders agreed to link Bush's proposed missile shield to bilateral reductions in both offensive and defensive nuclear weapons.
While Bush was described as very excited about the development, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, along with Russian officials, stepped in fairly quickly with a giant wet blanket. The president's team quickly downplayed the prospects that the conversation will amount to policy changes any time soon, and the Russians reemphasized their commitment to the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, something Bush believes is obsolete.
So the president will leave Europe with another batch of smiling pictures with other world leaders, a deal among the allies to work on international strategies to combat AIDS and more bad will surrounding his decision to stand against the Kyoto treaty on global warming.
Another Bush souvenir from Europe is more politically volatile advice about his long-awaited decision on whether the U.S. government should fund research using fetal stem cells. In his meeting with the president, the pope said, predictably, that such research violates the sanctity of life. Though Bush hopes that the face time with the pope will improve his profile with Roman Catholic voters, there's no telling what the pope's attention will do, as self-described pro-life members of the president's party continue to remain divided on the federal funding issue.
Bush has a lot of work to do on splitting the difference between appealing to his base and drawing in moderate voters, which has been made much harder by recent tussles with the GOP's middle-of-the-roaders in Congress. While the more conservative leaders of the Republican Party keep trying to steer the moderates toward a more unflinching commitment to the president's agenda, there's a sense among the group that this may be the best time to pull the party to the center and away from the influence of the religious right.
They tried to do that with the centerpiece of Bush's "compassionate conservative" agenda, delaying a vote for a day on the president's faith-based charities initiative before giving up their fight to remove language from the bill that would allow religious groups to ignore state and local anti-discrimination laws and still receive federal money.
With the help of some well-placed arm twisting by Republican congressional leaders, the president managed to get his way on that legislation, and it passed the House last week with only four GOP representatives standing against it. But Senate Democrats have already let Bush know that they are prepared to let the bill languish -- perhaps for as long as a year -- without a vote.
Bush may be wishing that the patients' bill of rights issue could get shelved like that. That legislation is another area where he has failed to hold onto the support of Republican moderates on the issue. Observers say that Bush bungled the opportunity to stay ahead of the Dems on patients' rights, and could pay for that by being forced into a potentially damaging veto showdown over the version of the bill backed by most Democrats.
And don't miss Vice President Dick Cheney getting drawn into the missing intern scandal. As it turns out, Cheney met with Rep. Gary Condit, D-Calif., to discuss energy policy on the afternoon of May 1, the day that Chandra Levy disappeared. Though the vice president can account for only about 20 minutes of Condit's time that day, the meeting helps fill in gaps in the faulty timeline Condit originally gave to authorities. The police have yet to contact Cheney.
Monday schedule: The president travels to Rome, where he holds meetings with Italian President Carlo Ciampi and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
This day in Bush history
July 23, 1991: The Bush family barely missed suffering a White House tragedy. A Secret Service agent had to leap into the White House pool to save 5-year-old Marshall Bush, daughter of Marvin and Margaret Bush, from drowning. While the Bushes described the incident as a nonevent, contending that Marshall was never in danger, an agent present during the rescue described it as "a hairy situation."
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