Doha, Darfur, what's the difference?

President Bush: Not who you would call "a details guy."


Andrew Leonard
December 12, 2006 8:59PM (UTC)

Buried at the very end of a Wall Street Journal article on the possibility that the U.S. might lead a new effort to restart the stalled Doha trade talks comes a tidbit too revealing to pass up.

The administration's fresh focus on Doha hasn't necessarily won the same level of attention from its chief executive. Joining visiting South African President Mbeki in the Oval Office Friday, President Bush told reporters that the two talked about "the necessity of trade."

"We talked about, interestingly enough, the Darfur round," Mr. Bush said, apparently confusing the Qatar city with the Sudanese region beset by violence.

Sure, sure, anyone can make an honest mistake. Why pick on the poor man, who clearly has much more important things to worry about than getting the details right about trade and genocide. Doha, Darfur -- it's a lot to ask, keeping these strangely named foreign cities straight. But it's impossible to resist the feeling that Bush just doesn't give a damn.

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As a side note, the story, which leads with the thesis that getting the Doha talks started will be more difficult now, in the context of a new Congress more skeptical of free trade, also includes this sentence: "American officials suggest the U.S. could embrace deeper cuts in domestic subsidies paid to farmers than those put on the table several months ago."

Say what? Has there been any indication that the new Congress is populated by politicians more willing to piss off Midwestern farmers than previously? A supposedly anti-free trade Congress will support deeper concessions from the U.S. to the rest of the world? Seems unlikely. Unless it's just pure rhetoric, the only thing that comes to mind is that the price of corn has been driven so high by the demand for ethanol that subsidies to corn farmers may no longer be necessary. But that raises yet another question -- government incentives to boost ethanol use are themselves another form of subsidy to farmers, as is the tariff on imported ethanol that keeps Brazilian exports from being competitive in the U.S. market. Are those on the table, too?


Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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