SIGN IN to access Harper’s Magazine
1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
2. Select Email/Password Information.
3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.
Subscribers can find additional help here. Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!
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.
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
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.
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.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
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!
“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.”