American President Pleads Guilty to Hopeless Idealism
President Bush was in one of his oddly chipper moods when he arrived for dinner with Gordon Brown at 10 Downing Street on Sunday night.
Maybe he was excited by the prospect of sharing some Gloucestershire beef, Yorkshire pudding and fruit trifle with a world leader more unpopular than he is.
Maybe he was happy to be having dinner with Rupert Murdoch and a covey of British historians who might agree with his contention to London’s Observer that “there’s no such thing as objective short-term history.” Just in case, though, the group dwelled on the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries and didn’t talk about the 21st. And presumably, over the 1934 brandy that W. eschewed, the historian Simon Schama did not repeat his 2006 assessment that the president was an “absolute [expletive] catastrophe” or his analysis that long before Mr. Bush’s militant missionary work in the Middle East, Europe had regarded the moral rhetoric of America as a cover for self-interest.
Maybe W. was buoyant because his motorcade evaded the protestors holding up signs that said “War Criminal,” and he was too far away to hear the withering scorn of a BBC correspondent stationed on Downing Street, warning that the British public wouldn’t stand for it if the prime minister greeted the toxic president too warmly. Britain is still smarting about being cast as poodle to W.’s pit bull, and the correspondent sneeringly recalled “the Colgate moment” when Tony Blair and George Bush bonded over their use of the same toothpaste.
Or perhaps after working with Torquemada Cheney all these years, W. simply feels more at home in a monarchy. At the end of dinner he posed under a portrait of Elizabeth I in the drawing room and gayly promised: “This is going to be my White House Christmas card.”
If Mr. Brown had any thought of promoting himself as the anti-poodle with some arm’s length body language, W. swiftly disabused him. He spread his wingspan to draw in Gordon and Sarah, and then clasped Gordon so heartily around the shoulders that the Brit was forced to grab W.’s waist in a shy embrace as they entered the building.
As W. told The Observer: “It’s convenient to say, you know, ‘warmonger,’ ‘religious zealot,’ ‘poodle’ — I mean, these are just words that people love to toss around foolishly.”
Poppy Bush was often compared to Bertie Wooster, and W. seems to have found his own stiff-backed Jeeves. Mr. Brown agreed to send more troops to Afghanistan, put more sanctions on Iran and decide on Iraq troop withdrawals based on conditions on the ground.
Quentin Letts pointed out in The Daily Mail that when W. touched Gordon, the prime minister would “recoil like a novice nun at first and later smile in terror,” and when W. said he had no problem with Brownie on Iraq, “You could almost see Mr. Brown thinking: ‘Oh, Gawd! There go another few thousand votes.’ ”
Asked by The Observer reporter about W.M.D. in Iraq, W. replied: “Still looking for them,” sparking a strange moment of levity. Mr. Bush continued: “We didn’t realize, nor did anybody else, that Saddam Hussein felt like he needed to play like he had weapons of mass destruction. It may have been, however, that in his mind all this was just a bluff.”
Yeah, who could have ever guessed that a wily, deceitful and debilitated Arab dictator might huff and puff, not wanting rivals in the neighborhood to know the weapons cupboard was bare? Maybe some of those psychologists specializing in boastful, malignant narcissists and Middle East cultural experts working in our $40 billion-a-year intelligence units should have been able to figure it out?
The Daily Mail’s front page on Monday juxtaposed a picture of the Union Jack-draped coffins of five British paratroopers killed in Afghanistan, lined up on the tarmac before being flown home, and a picture of W. and Laura landing at Heathrow.
Mr. Bush, who said he’s going to put a “Freedom Institute” in his presidential library, told reporters at a press conference with Mr. Brown that “one of the things that I will leave behind is a multilateralism to deal with tyrants, so problems can be solved diplomatically.” W. confessed only to “hopeless idealism” on Iraq and Afghanistan.
He said “history will judge whether or not, you know, more troops were needed earlier, troops could have been positioned here better or not.” But going in, he said, was right despite the “doubters.” “There is some who say that perhaps freedom is not universal,” he asserted, adding that he rejected as elitist the notion that “maybe it’s only, you know, white-guy Methodists who are capable of self-government.”
If there’s one thing W. and Cheney have proved, beyond a sliver of a shadow of a doubt, it’s that at least two white-guy Methodists are not capable of self-government.