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Bush's Farewell Tour: Looking Ahead and Missing the Favorite "Punching Bag"

President Bush's current trip to Europe has been described as a "farewell tour" in quite a few newspapers, which I find a bit surprising. I thought there would be plenty of reasons and opportunities for George W. Bush to visit Europe in the remaining seven months of his presidency. 

Does that sound as if I already miss President Bush? Charles Hawley writes in Spiegel International that the German media will miss the "climate killer":

Germany never much liked George W. Bush. But he was able to unite Germans. Hating the US president was about the only thing the country could agree on in recent years.

Related Atlantic Review post, which encouraged a debate with 53 comments: "Europeans Mourn End of Bush's Presidency"

William Drozdiak, president of the American Council on Germany, opines in the IHT that Europeans ignore Bush and are "anticipating a new age of enlightenment in trans-Atlantic relations":

As President George W. Bush embarks this week on a farewell tour of Europe, he should not be surprised by the lack of interest in his trip. Like most Americans, Europeans are looking past Bush.

Whether Barack Obama or John McCain moves into the Oval Office, Europe is anticipating a new age of enlightenment in trans-Atlantic relations as NATO nears its 60th birthday. While there are ample reasons not to let expectations get too high, both candidates espouse policies that could greatly enhance cooperation among leading Western democracies.

The phrase "a new age of enligthenment" is a bit too strong, but otherwise I agree with Drozdiak. Once Obama or McCain is inaugurated and asks for more troops for Afghanistan, we will start to miss George W Bush, who was the "perfect excuse" for the lack of burden sharing.

Kurt Kister wrote in the respected German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung that the presidential elections (esp. an Obama victory) would mark a new beginning for Americans, but that would not be the case in Europe and Asia: "The memory about Bush will overshadow the image of the US throughout many years in the future". In reference to the Sueddeutsche Zeitung's headline, the Atlantic Community asks: "How Long is Bush's Shadow?" Pretty long, I would say.

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Don S on :

"we will start to miss George W Bush, who was the "perfect excuse" for the lack of burden sharing." I have full confidence in German creativity on this issue. Lack of burden-sharing has been a continuing themes throughout the years, and the anointing of the marvelous Obama or the 'realist' McCain will not change one of history's enduring overtures. Beethoven's 13th - "The Virtous Pacifists'.

Joe Noory on :

Today on DW-world radio, there was a sort piece on the Bush visit as there was yesterday and the day before, and it was stale and pedantic. It featured "analysis" that could have been taken from the top line of a couple of Reuters headlines and was peppered by "opinions" solicited from random passers-by that reinforced the usual "America is so dangerous" etc., etc., and interviewd a few people who though that he shouldn't be there becuase it was disrupting the village of 100 or so around the Schloss where the conference was being held. How DARE he! Their coverage was pointless and lazy. They would have done better not to even cover it. Even there, there was the same sort of speculation of large, unknowable peices of the future which were simply taken as truth, along with the "we don't know a thing about him, but [i]GO[/i]bama!" and some stuff speculating on why he didn't try to befriend the German public directly (as if that was possible or didn't seem pointless). That aside, a lot of news went untold. On VoA, they ran about 60 seconds of Bush's press standup statement which spanned a gamut of statements and issues. 10 seconds of it were what the entirely of the DW coverage since Monday focussed on.

quo vadis on :

"The memory about Bush will overshadow the image of the US throughout many years in the future" Europeans are going to need something on which to hang their inevitable disgust and outrage, because they'll have to tread very lightly around our dark skinned future President. Any criticism will be recognized for what it really is: Blatant racism. No more unflattering caricatures or insulting characterizations. It'll be interesting to see how the European media deals with President Obama.

franchie on :

Blatant racism. ????? you have more in store for us

Pat Patterson on :

Surprisingly I think I find myself in agreement with franchie in that it is an utter canarad to say or even tepidly imply that any criticism of Sen. Obama, whether he is president or not, is "blatant racism". Which shows an almost criminal disregard for what is actual racism. It's not in criticizing someone for being black but in denying him the vote, or property or even safety from being a target of people that take racism more seriously then worrying about hurting someone's feelings.

quo vadis on :

I was being sarcastic, of course.

David on :

Americans are counting the days until President Bush makes his farewell tour of the United States and goes back to Texas. He is now polling even lower than Nixon, and nearly every respected historian considers him "one of the worst" if not the worst president in history. It is almost humorous that President Bush has been looking at Harry Truman as his salvation: an unpopular president when he left office but who is now highly regarded. But Truman's retroactive popularity has to do with his work in building up the very institutions Bush has wrecked. [url=http://hnn.us/articles/48916.html]Worst.[/url] [url=http://www.lewrockwell.com/north/north477.html]President.[/url] [url=http://www.rollingstone.com/news/profile/story/9961300/the_worst_president_in_history]Ever.[/url]

John in Michigan, USA on :

Incredible. David, you can't even smear the President properly without embarrassing yourself. You linked favorably, without caveat or disclaimer, to an article "Why Bush Will Become the Textbooks' Worst President" by one Gary North on lewrockwell.com. Gary North "favors stoning of homosexuals (stoning is preferred on economic grounds, since the instruments of murder can be used over and over — how economical!) and exploitation of religious toleration just until his own madcap sect gains power, after which they will kill the rest of us.", [url=http://www.tomgpalmer.com/archives/014604.php]according[/url] to the (legitimately) libertarian Cato Institute's Tom Palmer. North's hate, bigotry and general flakiness is documented more thoroughly in a 1998 article "[url=http://www.reason.com/news/show/30789.html]Invitation to a Stoning[/url]" by Reason Magazine's Walter Olson. Although he has recently mellowed out a little, [url=http://www.reason.com/news/show/124426.html]Lew Rockwell is a racist[/url] who hides behind libertarian principles, the exact opposite of true libertarianism. He is also [url=http://www.lewrockwell.com/about.html]Ron Paul's former chief of staff[/url], and still closely associated with the Ron Paul campaign. So congratulations, David. By linking favorably to the site of a documented racist, you've become the "racist" you accuse so many of us here of being. That you probably linked out of ignorance, rather than conviction, is no excuse -- after all, when have you shown anyone here the same courtesy and benefit of the doubt? As to the Bush legacy, time will tell, but I will agree that on too many important issues, the Bush presidency has utterly failed to live up to its promise.

David on :

Well, when you Google the words "Bush worst president" you get over 1 million links. I didn't have time to vet every one. What is clear is that there is a consensus: Bush is the worst president.

John in Michigan, USA on :

Who are you kidding? You can hardly be bothered to vet [i]any[/i] of your links!

joe on :

I can understand how the germans might feel the POTUS casts a long shadow they have experience with that. Should BHO actual become POTUS, it should be fun. I am no so sure the dem's as going to be as an easy touch as POTUS Bush was when it comes to shared defense. This could very well speed the entire process along quite nicely.

Pamela on :

And Ireland Votes NO. YESSSSSS!!!

John in Michigan, USA on :

Woot! Woot! The Irish have, once again, [url=http://www.wisegeek.com/why-do-they-say-that-the-irish-saved-civilization.htm]saved civilization[/url]. I am, of course, having fun. I don't actually believe that the EU is a threat to civilization. In fact I wouldn't mind some sort of unified, pan-European political entity. But the defeated European Constitution, and now the Lisbon treaty, would have, at best, consigned Europe to an era of mediocrity, and permanently undermined Europe's democratic heritage. The people of Ireland, in their wisdom, realized the folly of being governed by a document that only a specialist with years of training can even begin to understand.

Don S on :

I'm not sure I buy the 'saved civilization' bit, but I think the Irish electorate points out an obvious point about lack of trust between Bruxelles and the citizenry of the various member states. The perception in the UK has been that the EUcrats fool the people into ratifying a treaty and then sail an oil tanker through various small loopholes to achieve an Bruxelles-driven agenda far beyond anything which was told to citizenry during the ratification process. I'm not saying this a fact (I don't know for certain) but it is definately the perception of many. The payback comes now. You have a very large, very complex legal document meant to override the current constitutional scheme. The people don't understand the document and because of Bruxelles past record of jamming massive changes through with just such ambiguity they don't trust the word of the EUCrats or even their own governments this is innocuous. Therefore they veto.

Zyme on :

In 35 years of EU membership, Ireland has received more than 40 billion Euros from Brussels. 40 Billion for 4 million Irish people. Now if somebody would have wanted to donate this amount per capita to the germans, it would not have been 40 Billion - it would have been 800! Hell even our reunification and renovation of entire Eastern Germany didn´t cost much more. I am not asking how the Irish could waste all this money - I am asking how we can best express disgust and disrespect for such an ungrateful people. It seems like the French ministry for Europen affairs already has a good idea: Let the ratification process continue so that Ireland in the end stands by as the single outcast. Then it can either eat humble pie via an accession treaty - or go to hell. In any case I feel very sorry for the Irish leadership. They will face a huge embarrassement at the next meeting and will have a lot to explain.

Joe Noory on :

Are you trying to say that people should be required to accept being bought? I think this is rather simple and telling. The Irish rejected it for many reasons, one of the big ones being their delusional "neutrality", which if imposed on 500 million people would be more of a hazard to life on earth than anything else. The other very, very basic problem is that there id no concept of the separation of powers that people can be comfortable with. The states don't have much in the way of rights (social policy, taxation, etc.), and no-one is convinced that the rights those states will have won't be taken away from them in the classical Granscian European fashion. Never mind the tendency to want to compile the most central and undemocratically removed power possible, what that central power should be has never really been discussed in detail. It's not really a confederation, or even by model a mega-yugoslavia. They need to propose that the power of the Union be limited to the smallest number of specific things that makes sense: justice, defense, international affairs, interstate commerce, interstate migrations, etc. The rest of it, including things like welfare, taxation, this foolish idea that you need government ministries for culture, sports, film, you name it... all of that leaves the citizen with a sense of Imperial imposition, powerlessness, and a furthering of the 1994 existence Europeans find themselves in already with a ministry, management method, and a suspiciously over-reaching [url=http://www.readexpress.com/read_freeride/2008/06/dam_pure_pot_amsterdam_coffee_shops_go_t.php]enforced standard for virtually everything in life as it is[/url]. I just don't see how the same people can lecture people about human rights when they have such a low view of the individual and individual rights.

Don S on :

Zyme, I'm trying to figure out who you sound like here. Got this weird feeling of deja vu. Someone I know pretty well.... I got it! You sound just like I do when I'm bitching about European ingratitude vis 60 years of US support in NATO! Welcome to the club, dude..... ;)

Elisabetta on :

I would comment, Zyme, but the United States has no experience in bankrolling backward economies only to be shown ingratitude and resentment. So that is 0 for 3, including France and the NL which have both benefited substantially from economic union; and the FT has Sarko bleating on about 2 speed Europe. The Lisbon Treaty if not ratified by all member states per the political agmt is dead and should it be implemented through administrative/bureaucratic means, well, let's say there is already some grumbling in the ether if it is time to reclassify the EU to the autocratic, not democratic, side of the ledger. Excellent. EU politics just got interesting again.

Pat Patterson on :

Well, except for Maine, Michigan and Puerto Rico! And more than one or two countries on the eastern shore of the Atlantic.

David on :

Pat, What is the federal government bankrolling in Maine? The commercial fisheries are gone. We could use a handout. The Bush recession has hurt us hard; over 1/4 of the citizens - half of them kids - without health insurance, national guard on its third rotation to Iraq. Although we are coming into summer, many Mainers are fearful of freezing this winter because they cannot afford $4+ heating oil (there is virtually no natural gas distribution in the state). You want to see desperation? Come for a visit...

Pat Patterson on :

Actually to be fair I should have left off Michigan, odd as that may seem, because for every $1.00 Michigan pays in Federal taxes it only gets $.83 in return. While those no nonsense and ruggedly indidualistic residents in Maine send $1.00 to the Feds and get $1.33 in return. And then they complain that because they are so pitiful, with children in rags dumpster diving and lobstermen becoming moonspinners, that they deserve more.

Don S on :

You're from Maine, David? Funny, I would have guessed Frankfurt am Main, except if you're an expat like myself. I grew up in northern Wisconsin without central heating. During the winter we heated the kitchen and bathroom with a kerosene space heater & shut off the rest of the house with thick curtains (there was a door to the stairs leading up to the bedrooms). The period included another oil shock (1973), which didn't make much difference to our standard of living as I recall, because it was already pretty bare. Quilts, hot water bottles, and thick sweaters were our answer to the cold, mostly. That and sitting around the kitchen table in our single warm room. That was an improvement on a previous house heated with a coal-fueled space heater. Hauling coal first thing in the morning and last thing at night wasn't a barrel of laughs. Kind of dirty. But we were warm and previous generations didn't always have that much. Don't wish to romanticize that time - but it wasn't that bad. We had plenty to eat but might have cut down on meat consumption when the oil shock hit. We had a large garden and a lot of canned veggies & preserves put up in the cellar.

Zyme on :

It is indeed getting interesting again. Now is the hour for power-struggle when the leaders meet next week. And patience is no longer granted to those that pose a burden for the integration process. The Irish either prove to be very creative in joining the process quickly again - or will be left behind. The only long-time loser will be Irish influence at Brussels. This is something the responsible Irish leadership has not deserved, but they will have to pay the bill for their people.

John in Michigan, USA on :

Thanks for that. I can probably clean up my monitor with paper towels and spray, but the coffee just won't come out of that keyboard. Ruined.

joe on :

Interesting when the people get to vote as opposed to the elites voting.....the EU loses. Why so?

influx on :

interesting that the same people who tell europeans to shut up about the us election don't hesitate to put down the eu at any given chance. why so?

Pat Patterson on :

Probably because there was no concentrated effort by any American newspaper to have Europeans lobby certain congressinal districts in Ohio to affect the vote. While most Americans simply don't understand, and then become suspicious, why the European public are generally not allowed to vote on this issue. It's not really the result that Americans might criticize its simply the non-democratic way the result seems to have been foisted on them.

Pat Patterson on :

That should have read that no American paper attempted to sway voters in Europe unlike what happened in 2004 to voters in Ohio.

Joe Noory on :

Oh please. A few days of criticism versus 8 years of parrotting any bumper-sticker thought about Bush stealing elections, hurricanes, "wars for oil". Grow up. If there were any hope in it, the place the US really should be exporting democracy to is the EU.

influx on :

"a few days of criticism"? seems to me that the likes of john rosenthal and mark steyn have been busy bashing the eu for more than a few days. may i include your blog, too, joe noory? actually, i don't mind the bashing, some of which is well-deserved, i just think it's hypocritical to then tell europeans that they shouldn't voice their opinions about the presidential race in the us. @pat ohio, 2004: what happened, what are you referring to?

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