No Comment — June 7, 2007, 9:56 am

Bush’s Lamentable Summitry Skills

The G8 conference at the Baltic resort of Heiligendamm has just commenced, and President George W. Bush is busily enhancing his reputation – for nonstop bungling. With tensions between the United States and Russia at their most dangerous levels since the end of the Cold War, Bush has made a series of sophomoric misstatements. As Reuters reports:

U.S. President George W. Bush said on Wednesday that Russia posed no threat to Europe despite its vow to target the continent if the U.S. deploys a missile shield in central Europe. “Russia is not going to attack Europe,” Bush told reporters at the start of a G8 summit on the Baltic coast . . .

Asked if the U.S. military should respond in some way to Putin’s warning, Bush said that was not needed. “As I said yesterday, Russia is not an enemy. There needs to be no military response because we are not at war with Russia,” Bush told reporters travelling with him.

In diplo-speak of course, presenting denials of questions that were never put in the first place is understood as sending a message – and in a case like this one, a very hostile message. In Bush’s case he probably doesn’t mean it that way. He’s never been a diplomat or had any patience for diplomacy. Bush is the sort who would never serve in a war, but finds military engagement the simplest solution for every problem.

Who knows what this summit has yet to hold for us. It may even exceed some of Bush’s prior antics. At their last meeting, Bush proceeded to give German Chancellor Angela Merkel a backrub – to her great annoyance. German cartoonists later portrayed Bush grabbing Merkel’s breasts from behind. On May 24, 2002, Bush had a summit with Vladimir Putin that included a televised meeting in the gilded Andreyevsky Hall in the Kremlin. Bush strode into the hall chewing bubble gum, and then after being seated at the table for a signing ceremony, proceeded to pull the gum from his mouth and stick it on the table. I watched this live on Russian TV as it happened and it was the talk of the papers in Europe for a week. But the entire episode was edited out of coverage supplied for viewers in the United States. If anything, Bush already seems on track to topping his prior performances. We’d better start practicing “duck and cover” in our elementary schools, the Cold War is on its way back.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

From the April 2015 issue

Company Men

Torture, treachery, and the CIA

Six Questions October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm

The APA Grapples with Its Torture Demons: Six Questions for Nathaniel Raymond

Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

September 2015

Weed Whackers

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Tremendous Machine

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Goose in a Dress

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Genealogy of Orals

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Romancing Kano·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:

The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.

leadership
service
integrity
creativity

Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.

Article
The Prisoner of Sex·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“It is disappointing that parts of Purity read as though Franzen urgently wanted to telegraph a message to anyone who would defend his fiction from charges of chauvinism: ‘No, you’ve got me wrong. I really am sexist.’”
Illustration by Shonagh Rae
Article
Gangs of Karachi·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“In Karachi, sometimes only the thinnest of polite fictions separates the politicians from the men who kill and extort on their behalf.”
Photograph © Asim Rafiqui/NOOR Images
Article
Weed Whackers·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Defining 'native' and 'invasive' in an ever-shifting natural world poses some problems. The camel, after all, is native to North America, though it went extinct here 8,000 years ago, while the sacrosanct redwood tree is invasive, having snuck in at some point in the past 65 million years.”
Photograph by Chad Ress
Article
The Neoliberal Arts·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“College is seldom about thinking or learning anymore. Everyone is running around trying to figure out what it is about. So far, they have come up with buzzwords, mainly those three.”
Artwork by Julie Cockburn

Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:

65

An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.

A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Subways Are for Sleeping

By

“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today