Maureen Dowd : Bush “Mountain Biking” Through Another Historic Disaster

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

America’s back in the cold war and W.’s back on vacation.  Talk about your fearful symmetry.  After eight years, the president’s gut remains gullible.  He’ll go out as he came in — ignoring reality; failing to foresee, prevent or even prepare for disasters; misinterpreting intelligence reports; misreading people; and handling crises in ways that makes them exponentially worse.  He has spent 469 days of his presidency kicking back at his ranch, and 450 days cavorting at Camp David.  And there’s still time to mountain-bike through another historic disaster.  As Russian troops continued to manhandle parts of Georgia on Friday, President Bush chastised Russian leaders that “bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century” — and then flew off to Crawford.  His words might have carried more weight if he, Cheney and Rummy had not kicked off the 21st century with a ham-fisted display of global bullying and intimidation modeled after Sherman’s march through the other Georgia.

…..While America has been bogged down and bled dry, China and Russia are plumping up.  China has bought so much of America that we’d be dead Peking ducks if they pulled their investments out of our market, and Russia has transformed itself from a pauper nation to a land filled with millionaires — all through our addiction to oil.  What was so galling about watching W.’s giddy sightseeing at the Olympics was that it underscored China’s rise as a superpower and, thanks to the administration’s derelict foreign and economic policies, America’s fade-out.  It’s as though China has become us and we’ve become Europe.  Like Russia, China has also been showing jagged authoritarian ways and ignoring America’s preaching, including W.’s tame criticism as he flew into Beijing to revel in the spectacle of China’s ascension.  Despite his 1999 prediction that Russia and China would be key to security in the world, W. never bothered to study up on them.  In 2006, at the Group of Eight summit meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia, a microphone caught some of the inane remarks of W. to the Chinese president, Hu Jintao.  “This is your neighborhood,” W. said.  “It doesn’t take you long to get home.  How long does it take you to get home?  Eight hours?  Me, too.  Russia’s a big country and you’re a big country.”  President Bush and his Russian “expert” Condi have played it completely wrong with Russia from the start.  W. saw a “trustworthy” soul in a razor-eyed K.G.B. agent who has never been a good guy for a single hour.  Now the Bush crowd, which can do nothing about it, is blustering about how Russian aggression “must not go unanswered,” as Cheney put it.  (W.’s other Russian expert, Bob Gates, was, as always, the only voice of realism, noting, “I don’t see any prospect for the use of military force by the United States in this situation.”)…..W. and Condi are suddenly waking up to how vicious Vladimir is…..As Michael Specter, the New Yorker writer who has written extensively about Russia, observed: “There was a brief five-year period when we could get away with treating Russia like Jamaica — that’s over.  Now we have to deal with them like grown-ups who have more nuclear weapons than anybody except us.”

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