Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The process and progress move at different paces and different places

Austria has lowered the voting age to 16. Will this be followed elsewhere?

Bush had a press conference at the G8 summit. Before he took questions, he felt he had to say something about his speech yesterday: “The purpose of the speech is to remind our allies and those who are wondering as to whether or not the United States is firmly committed to democracy that we are.” So that clears that up.

He previewed his upcoming chat with Putin about the missile defense stations: “And we’ll have a good dialogue about how we can constructively work together to deal with -- modernize our capacity to deal with the threat to the -- the true threats.” Yeah, that’ll be a good dialogue, all right. He says it’s okay that Putin is threatening to re-target missiles on European targets, because, “I don’t think Vladimir Putin intends to attack Russia -- I mean, Europe.” In fact, he twice says that Russia won’t attack Europe. It will not escape Russia’s notice that Bush doesn’t consider Russia to be part of Europe. He says we don’t need to respond militarily to any re-targeting “because we’re not at war with Russia.”

He explained the necessity of a missile shield: “I mean, if somebody pops up with a weapon and says, hands up, people will say, well, how come we didn’t have a shield?” They’ll also be wondering why someone with a nuclear missile is saying “hands up.” “And so it’s -- I think we need to do both. I think we need to protect ourselves of what might happen, and then work collaboratively to make sure it doesn’t happen.”

Protect ourselves of what might happen? Prepositions are really not his friend. He also warned about the dangers of “cells moving through our societies with the intent upon killing”.

He managed to portray Putin’s threats of nuclear confrontation as a positive sign. A reporter asked if Putin had some “political purpose.” Bush responded, “It’s interesting you would ask the question, do you think he is trying to position himself at home -- thereby meaning that he is concerned about public opinion, which is a sign that there is a -- when public opinion influences leadership, it is an indication that there is involvement of the people.” So war-like threats are a sign of a vibrant democratic process. Tell me again, why are we “firmly committed to democracy”?

Of course, there’s firmly committed, and there’s firmly committed. About Musharaf: “And in terms of the democracy issues, he’s going to have to deal with it. ... democracy is -- it’s a lot more established in Pakistan than some of the other nations I mentioned. And there’s upcoming elections. And what you’re seeing is a lot of posturing about the election process, and it’s not perfect. Either was our democracy perfect for 100 years when we enslaved people.” Posturing about the election process?

He warned against demanding changes “overnight,” touting “incremental reforms” in Saudi Arabia. He said, “The process and progress move at different paces and different places”. Let’s stop for a moment to marvel at the sophistication of that sentence, with its not one but two internal rhyme schemes. Oh sure, he screwed up when he said “and” instead of “in,” and he’s excusing despotic states, but, hey, two internal rhyme schemes.

He continued, making the point that while democracy is all well and good, there are more important matters at stake: “and the role of the United States is to help encourage them along, while at the same time achieving certain national objectives. It just so happens that the key national objective in the beginning of the 21st century is to make sure we don’t get attacked again and innocent people get murdered. And so we can do both. We can say that in the long run, the best way to secure your society is through liberty. In the short run, let’s work collaboratively to protect ourselves.”

On Iraq: “it should frighten the American people that al Qaeda is active in Iraq looking for a safe haven from which to launch further attacks.” Dammit, why aren’t you people more frightened?

About the Iraq-South Korea comparison: “It’s not to say that the cultures were the same, or the difficulties in the different countries are the same. It is to say, however, that the U.S. can provide a presence in order to give people confidence necessary to make decisions that will enable democracies to emerge, and say to other people, step back and let the democracies emerge.”

Says cellulosic ethanol “will help nations once that becomes able to compete in the market.” Bush can mangle a sentence that badly but somehow they taught him to say “cellulosic ethanol.”

On carbon emissions: “I said I’m for sitting together with the nations to sit down and discuss a way forward.” So there’ll be sitting involved.

And it will be at a table: “you’re not going to have greenhouse gas emissions that mean anything unless all nations, all emitters are at the table.” And you do not want to be near the table with all the emitters, if you know what I mean.

Always end on a flatulence joke, that’s my philosophy.

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