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Dubya's European vacation

June 22, 2001 | Page 6

GEORGE W. BUSH'S stumble through Europe makes Chevy Chase in National Lampoon's European Vacation look like a seasoned diplomat.

Bush's advisers knew there was a risk when they scheduled him to visit Slovenia, a country that he once confused with Slovakia.

"Every new president is some kind of caricature in Europe, until the first trip," said Andrew Card, Bush's chief of staff. "They'll come to know him."

But Bush proved all the speculation about his featherweight intellect wasn't mere speculation.

On the first stop of his five-day trip, Bush called Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar of Spain "Anzar."

He then called NATO Secretary General George Robertson "Robinson."

He got snickers from listeners in Sweden when he said, "Africa is a nation," and suggested Europe should have "more countries."

During Bush's speech in Warsaw, electrify became "electrifly."

And instead of saying "Today, Poland's own Golec Orchestra," Bush spluttered, "Today's own, Poland's orchestra, called Golec's."

The blunders tended to happen when Bush didn't expect a question.

When he was asked, for example, whether Poles might soon travel to the U.S. without visas, he blurted out, "Chicago is a city with many, many people of Polish heritage."

In addition to his weak intellect, Bush's policies also occasionally came under some scrutiny.

One of Madrid's newspapers, El País, carried an opinion piece by a diplomat entitled, "No one has ever bothered more people in less time."

The British Guardian said that Bush would "risk rotten tomatoes" if he traveled to France, Germany or Britain.

--Washington Post, June 17, 2001

That big city feeling

IN ITS January-February issue, the Utne Reader had a story about nice places to visit on your next vacation.

Titled "The 10 Most Underrated Towns in America," the story gave Utne Reader readers some inside tips.

Cincinnati came in eighth and was described as an "old town [with] a surprisingly big city feel."

One of the neighborhoods to check out, the article said, is Over-the-Rhine, "a Lower East Side-style neighborhood …seeing some hipster redevelopment without major displacement (yet) of low-income residents."

Within several weeks of the story's publication, the Cincinnati rebellion against police brutality broke out--centered in Over-the-Rhine.

--Utne Reader, January-February 2001

The watchdog has no teeth

THE PENTAGON agency that's supposed to expose fraud destroyed documents in order to avoid embarrassment when its own operations were audited.

As part of a routine program, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) auditors came to review the Pentagon inspector general's work.

But they were given falsified documents.

The unsuspecting IRS reviewers found "no problems" with the Pentagon's audit work after poring over the phony documents.

"It's a very sad day indeed when the watchdog gets caught cheating," Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Grassley, former chair of the Senate Finance Committee, began an investigation after a Pentagon whistleblower brought it to his attention.

While the inspector general is supposed to root out fraud and waste, the report said that the 983 hours spent creating the fake documents cost taxpayers $63,000.

Grassley said he's not satisfied with the internal Pentagon review into the incident.

He wrote Rumsfeld that it "may have been unwise" for the Pentagon's deputy inspector general, Robert Lieberman, to have one of his senior deputies conduct the internal investigation and then conclude that Lieberman was not implicated.

--Associated Press, June 5, 2001

Heard it through the grapevine

"I COME down to the idea where I don't see where Puerto Rico should get any favorite treatment over the rest of these people. Now what have they done to get it? They sit down there on welfare and very few of them paying taxes, got a sweetheart deal. I just don't really see the equity in it, but maybe I don't understand it."

--Rep. JAMES HANSEN (R-Utah)

"LOOK AT it this way: the president hasn't barfed on anyone yet, and he's only mispronounced one world leader's name so far. The bad news is it was the only guy over there who likes us, and he has only two syllables in his name."

--Liberal columnist MOLLY IVINS

"THE POLICE have carried out their task in an absolutely fabulous way."

--Swedish national police chief STEN HECKSCHER

"IF A bunch of pensioners start to protest against cruelty to cats they move in with the razor wire and [police vans]. Part of the problem in Goteborg was that the Swedish police weren't used to that kind of demonstration. The fact a guy got shot suggests a sort of panic."

--European Union official on the ruthless methods used by police in Brussels, where the EU plans to hold all future meetings due to growing protests

"IT SHOULD now be clear that Israel cannot tolerate a huge Arab population within its borders, so a political decision must be made. Most Arabs and Palestinians appear to be nonviolent but it can be difficult to tell the difference...Israel should declare its intention to transfer large numbers of its Palestinian residents to Arab nations...Eviction is a better avenue to stability. Will it happen? Probably not. Should it? Yes."

--Syndicated columnist CAL THOMAS

"WE HAVE no choice other than to go to war and to hit targets that we haven't hit yet...Everything we've done so far is nothing compared to what we should do from now on."

--GIDEON EZRA, member of Israel's Likud Party

"THE REASON European nations eschew the death penalty isn't that they're more civilized, it's that they're less democratic. Large swathes of the European public actually support the death penalty. The real continental divide is noblesse oblige--in Europe, elites are united against the death penalty, and parliamentary systems allow them to ban it even in the face of the popular will."

--New Republic magazine defending President Bush after protesters in Europe attacked his record

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