The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Portrait of the President as Mincemeat

It amazes me that Fearless Leader's big European trip was reported on so sporadically and ineffectually by the domestic press. (On the other hand, I was amazed that the most realistic portrayal of the Dem's inability to push their Iraq withdrawal proposal through came from the BBC. Simply put, they were realists-- not having enough votes to override a veto, they moved to other issues. I didn't hear a single American journalist put it that way.) The only major headline I saw popping up across the news sites was the 'Bush gets hero's welcome in Albania.'

As Sidney Blumenthal gives the excursion a post mortem, he reveals many aspects of the trip that were slightly more significant than a round of applause. And even some typical Bush moments, like following up the infamous 'Angela Merckel backrub' and winking to the Queen of England with addressing Pope Benedict XVI as 'sir.' If only all of his stupidity was so harmless...

In Rome, on June 9, a reporter asked Bush about setting a deadline for Kosovo independence. "What? Say that again?" "Deadline for the Kosovo independence?" "A decline?" "Deadline, deadline." "Deadline. Beg your pardon. My English isn't very good." Bush then declared, "In terms of the deadline, there needs to be one. This needs to come -- this needs to happen." The next day, asked when he would set a deadline, he replied, "I don't think I called for a deadline." Reminded of his previous statement, Bush said: "I did? What exactly did I say? I said, 'Deadline'? OK, yes, then I meant what I said."

Creepy, even to the point of being frightening, but not inherently dangerous. That came with Bush being played for a complete rube by the nothing-else-if-not-shrewd Vladimir Putin. Not that it takes too much brilliance to set a diplomatic trap that Fearless Leader won't bungle into on his own.

Bush's proposal to put tracking stations for a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic gave Putin his opening. In response, he offered a radar site in Azerbaijan to be jointly operated by the United States and Russia. Bush had deployed the wrong tactic on behalf of the wrong strategy. Bush's missile shield has not been proved to work, has cost hundreds of billions of dollars, and has an uncertain purpose. Is the plan meant to reassure eastern European nations of the former Warsaw Pact, Donald Rumsfeld's "new Europe," against Russia, or is it a short-term ploy to rally support in the one region in the world that still likes Bush because of deep residual pro-Americanism? If Bush intended to persuade Putin to temper his authoritarianism, he only succeeded in antagonizing the Russian leader. As Bush's "freedom" agenda has collapsed, he has reverted to a Plan B for a new ersatz Cold War. His ham-handed move allowed the adroit Putin to change the subject and corner him. Meanwhile, the engagement of Russia in areas of mutual interest -- containing Iran -- languishes.