I have found it strange that the main papers have not discussed the odd meeting arrangements for Bush’s trip to Europe. An NSC briefing by Hadley describes the schedule. Granted NATO was apparently having some sort of high level meeting, but why should Bush go to this one, except as an excuse for some other meetings? He met Chirac on neutral ground in Belgium, and refused to invite Chirac to the US when offered the opportunity. The day after dinner with Chirac in Belgium, he apparently had breakfast at the US ambassador’s in Brussels with the UK’s Tony Blair. He is also meeting Putin on neutral ground in Slovakia, although he plans to visit Schroeder in Germany. Germany is part of the EU; why didn’t Schroeder visit Bush in Brussels, as Chirac did? Furthermore, Bush is meeting Schroeder in Frankfurt/Mainz, not in the capital of Berlin; so, again, although Bush will be on German soil, he’s still staying on somewhat neutral territory by staying out of Berlin.
It’s too bad that Bush could not go to Paris, either because Chirac would not invite him, or because Bush would not accept the invitation. It’s too bad that Bush could not go to Moscow for whatever reason.
I believe I saw Mrs. Bush today, Tuesday, in Germany addressing American troops without her husband. She’s great. She probably wanted to get away from his oppressing entourage.
He’s still a man in a cocoon, protected by his handlers from too much exposure to the outside world. I think that’s very sad for an American president. Why does he have to be isolated by his handlers? I think it’s because he is either stupid or lazy to learn his brief for high level meeting. Although people say he is friendly in private, publicly he comes across as boorish and impolite. Why can’t he drop his arms to his sides? He has to swagger around like a little boy playing Napoleon in high heeled cowboy boots.
The President’s schedule as described by Hadley at the NSC follows:
The President and Mrs. Bush will depart for Brussels, Belgium on Sunday, February 20th, arriving that evening. The President will start his meetings the next day, Monday, February 21st, paying a courtesy call to his hosts, Their Majesties King Albert II and Queen Paola of Belgium. The President will then meet with Prime Minister [Guy] Verhofstadt of Belgium, followed by a meeting with NATO Secretary General [Jaap] de Hoop Scheffer.
On Monday afternoon, the President will deliver a speech at the Concert Noble. The speech will focus on his vision of a united transatlantic community, working together to promote freedom and democracy, particularly in the broader Middle East. The speech will build upon the President’s inaugural address and State of the Union remarks. It will be an opportunity for him to communicate directly with the people of Europe, and will show America’s desire to work in partnership with Europe, based on common values, to advance the cause of freedom.
On Monday evening, President Bush and President [Jacques] Chirac, of France, will meet for a working dinner [at the residence of the US ambassador to Belgium].
On Tuesday, February 22nd, the President will begin his day with a breakfast with Prime Minister Tony Blair of the United Kingdom [at the residence of the US ambassador to Belgium], and then he will proceed to NATO Headquarters. Upon arriving at NATO, the President will meet with Ukrainian President [Viktor] Yuschenko. President Bush will then participate in a NATO-Ukraine Commission meeting, followed by a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister [Silvio] Berlusconi, of Italy.
Also on Tuesday morning, the President will participate in a meeting and luncheon with the NATO heads of state and government, and will participate in a press availability with the NATO Secretary General.
On Tuesday afternoon, the President will meet for the first time since the EU’s historic enlargement with the now 25 member states of the European Council. He will hold a joint press availability with European Council President Prime Minister [Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude] Juncker, European Commission President [Jose Manuel] Barroso, and High Representative [for the Common Foreign and Security Policy] of the European Union Javier Solana.
That evening, President Bush will participate in a working dinner with the three representatives of the EU just named, namely Mssrs. Juncker, Barroso and Solana.
On Wednesday, February 23rd, the President and Mrs. Bush will depart Brussels, Belgium for Frankfurt, Germany. Upon arriving in Frankfurt and proceeding to Mainz, Germany, the President and Chancellor [Gerhard] Schröder will greet American and German soldiers that served in Afghanistan. The two leaders will then meet, followed by a joint press availability. The Chancellor and Mrs. Schröder will then host a lunch for the President and Mrs. Bush.
On Wednesday afternoon, the President will participate in a roundtable conversation with German citizens, followed by a visit to the Gutenberg Museum with Mrs. Bush. After the visit to the museum, the President and Mrs. Bush will depart Mainz for Wiesbaden, Germany, where they will have the privilege of meeting with members of the U.S. Army’s 1st Armored Division.
After meeting with and addressing the troops, the President and Mrs. Bush will depart for the Slovak Republic.
On Thursday, February 24th, the President will meet with President [Ivan] Gasparovic, and later with Prime Minister [Mikulas] Dzurinda of the Slovak Republic. On Thursday morning, the President and Prime Minister Dzurinda will have the unique opportunity to meet with the Champions of Freedom, individuals from Central and Eastern Europe who are on the forefront of advancing the cause of freedom in that region. The President will pay his respects to those veterans of the struggle for freedom, as well as encourage those who continue to struggle for freedom and democracy today. The President then will deliver remarks to Slovak citizens in Bratislava’s town square.
On Thursday afternoon, the President will meet with Russian President [Vladimir] Putin, followed by a joint press availability.
On Thursday evening, the President and Mrs. Bush will depart the Slovak Republic and return to Washington, D.C.