What's Wrong with this Picture?
Forget the cheapshots. If Bush is diplomatically and culturally savvy enough and masculine enough to hold an arab monarch's hand, that's actually a very good thing, and worthy of the sort of praise I'm seldom prompted to give him.
But look at the rest of our President's body language. He's incredibly comfortable with this Saudi prince. Yes, I know they've met before and their familes have business together, but to get at what bothers me here, you'll have to imagine another president in this picture. Say Clinton or even Reagan. Can you? Can you imagine even the most conservative or most liberal US president holding the hand like this of the man responsible for the culture that led to 3000 Americans being murdered?
Moreover, imagine if the election had gone the other way and "President Kerry" were holding the hand of the monarch of the country where 15 of the 9/11 terrorists were born, even though the problems that led to that fact (Wahhabist money spreading hate throughout the world, ludicrous double standards with regards to hate speech in SA, all but the most superficial efforts toward democraticing the kingdom) are barely being addressed, if at all.
Yet, Bush's body language suggests he's a comfortable as if he were walking with his grandfather. Now the reports coming out suggest the relationship is still strained due to the attacks:
President Bush discussed the surge in oil prices with Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on Monday, but focused on a plan by the Saudis to increase their oil-pumping capacity over the next decade rather than on any short-term efforts to bring prices down.
The two leaders talked for three hours here at Mr. Bush's ranch, trying to restore some normality to a relationship that has been tense since the emergence of the role of terrorists from Saudi Arabia in the Sept. 11 attacks. They discussed a variety of issues, including the Arab-Israeli conflict, terrorism, trade and Mr. Bush's call for more democracy in the Middle East, and the men made every effort to portray the relationship as back on track.
But symbolically, I still find this terribly unsettling. It looks to me as if the most powerful man in the world is not the Texan who represents the nation attacked 3 1/2 years ago, but the prince who controls the oil that nation needs. It looks to me as if our president is sucking up to this tyrant when he's gone way out of his way to declare all the world's tyrants our mortal enemies. Saudi Arabia may very well be a nation we have no choice but to deal with, but giving their tyrant such a royal treatment here is an insult to all that's American.