Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Ideas on Talking: Bush & Clinton

By now who doesn’t know about the open mic and Bush’s remark about Hizbullah stopping the “shit?” And I’m sure a lot of news monkeys have heard of what Clinton thinks of “US disengagement” from talks with the warring parties in the Middle East. Still, the gravity of what was said, and the manner and style of both men and their thoughts, bears repeating here.

I have clearly stated, as have many experts on history and Middle East politics, that without US intervention on the diplomatic side, there will be no resolution, and possibly not even a cease fire, in the present violence. Yet the cavalier presence of Bush at a dinner during the G8 summit hammers home the image of a country-club arrogance that alone, without the accompanying dialogue, should turn the stomach of a concerned American citizen. His actions—chewing a roll while talking to Tony Blair over his shoulder as if it were a discussion about problems with starting tee-off times, rather than global escalation of violence and killing—are so reminiscent of the “disengaged” upper-class elite I’ve ever seen.

Then there are the very words, the ignorance, the banality, and the bewildering misplaced confidence:

Someone, probably an aide, asks Bush something, evidently whether he wants prepared closing remarks for the end of the summit:

Bush: No. Just gonna make it up. I'm not going to talk too damn long like the rest of them. Some of these guys talk too long.

The camera is focused elsewhere and it is not clear whom Bush is talking to, but possibly Chinese President Hu Jintao, a guest at the summit.

Bush : Gotta go home. Got something to do tonight. Go to the airport, get on the airplane and go home. How about you? Where are you going? Home?

Bush : This is your neighborhood. It doesn't take you long to get home. How long does it take you to get home?

Reply is inaudible.

Bush : "Eight hours? Me too. Russia's a big country and you're a big country."
At this point, the president seems to bring someone else into the conversation.

Bush : It takes him eight hours to fly home…

…It takes him eight hours to fly home. Eight hours. Russia's big and so is China…

[Now to Blair]

Bush : Yeah, she's going. I think Condi's going to go pretty soon.

Blair : Right. Well, that's, that's, that's all that matters. If you -- see, it'll take some time to get out there. But at least it gives people a --

Bush : A process, I agree. I told her your offer too.
It's unclear what offer he means, but apparently Blair offered to make some sort of public statement.

Blair : Well, it's only if it's -- I mean, you know, if she's gotta -- or if she needs the ground prepared, as it were. Obviously, if she goes out, she's got to succeed, as it were, whereas I can just go out and talk.

Bush : See, the irony is what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit, and it's over.

Blair : Who, Syria?

Bush : Right.

Blair : I think this is all part of the same thing. What does he think? He thinks if Lebanon turns out fine, if we get a solution in Israel and Palestine, Iraq goes in the right way, he's [inaudible ] . That's what this whole thing's about. It's the same with Iran.

Bush : I felt like telling Kofi to get on the phone with Assad and make something happen.

“I felt like telling Kofi to get on the phone with Assad…” –that’s your leader of your free world. He used to be indecisive, but now he’s not so sure!

Here’s Clinton’s take on how to handle free-world leadership, in answering an impromptu outdoor discussion question from Campbell Brown on MSNBC:

I’m not one of these people that believes that it’s a good thing for us to be disengaged from the Middle East because they’re not going to make a deal and we don’t want to be associated with failure. I just don’t find it that way.

I think the historical evidence is the more involved we are, the fewer people die, and the fewer people die, the easier it is to make some kind of compromise deal.

What is the mainstream media talking about in the aftermath of Bush’s open-mic dialogue? The MSM is focusing on whether the use of the word “shit” was a big deal, embarrassing, or in or out of place for the president. That’s the big story. Some attention was paid to the White House’s official statement on the order of Bush’s remarks not diverging from any set policy, and of course, the former news bobbing head and now press secretary Tony Snow followed through:

White House spokesman Tony Snow said Mr. Bush "sort of rolled his eyes and laughed".

"Actually, his reaction first was, 'What did it say?'. So we showed him the transcript, then he rolled his eyes and laughed."

In the reference to “Rice going,” one gets the distinct impression that Bush is not in control of events on his docket, let alone being in charge of running the US government. The feeling from this brief conversation is that someone else in his office is making decisions for him.

If human lives were not at stake over the little things George W thinks and says, all of this wouldn’t matter as much. And the seeming lack of interest on the part of moral citizens of the US, and the world, mirrors the “disengagement” of the president—why should he care about the effect on us of violence in the Middle East if we don’t care?

After all—he’s always got that big plane to ferry him out of harm’s way in case of any danger; remember on 9/11 when he scurried off to Utah on Air Force One because the East Coast was getting attacked?

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