Putin humiliated next to Bush “It could be that he kept his cool Thursday because he couldn’t quite believe what was happening to him.”
Robin Shepherd, Washington Times:
“It all happened following the end of bilateral talks when a televised press conference turned into a relentless and devastating assault on Putin’s backsliding on democratic reform.
Since global democratization has been made the centerpiece of Bush’s second term foreign policy agenda, analysts and politicians in the United States and elsewhere had billed this meeting as the first key test of the American president’s credibility.
As Russia analysts James M. Goldgeier and Michael McFaul had put it in a commentary in the current issue of the Weekly Standard: ‘If the president neglects to affirm his commitment to freedom with Putin at his side, Bush will be signaling that his words don’t count.’
So most of us were expecting the issue to be raised, if only in passing.
But no one could have been prepared for what was about to unfold.
While observing diplomatic niceties, President Bush’s opening remarks included a pointedly blunt statement of his concern that Russia was not fulfilling “fundamental” democratic principles.
And this was nothing to what President Putin was forced to endure in the subsequent questions, every single one of which focused on democracy.
‘I think it’s very important that all nations understand the great values inherent in democracy,’ said President Bush standing just three feet away from Putin.
Bush asserted that in his country he was held to account by a free press, and that his laws were checked by a constitution upheld by a free judiciary — the very elements of a free society that rights groups have become increasingly vocal in criticizing Putin for deliberately destroying in Russia.
A slavishly loyal question to Putin from Russia’s Interfax news agency merely served to underline how far Russia now stands from normal democratic procedures.
The reporter petulantly asked what this talk about lack of freedom in Russia “was all about” suggesting President Putin should raise issues about press freedom in the United States. Journalists lose their jobs in America too, he said.
When President Bush said it was true that journalists did get fired in America, but by their editors and not the government, one almost started to feel sorry for President Putin.
Putin, to be fair, did at least maintain his cool, rejecting accusations that Russian freedom was under threat. And Bush maintained a gentle disposition, saying at least he could trust the Russian president’s word, even when they disagreed.
Nevertheless, there was no getting away from it. Vladimir Putin had just gone through the most humiliating experience of his presidency.”
If President Bush says it’s a good idea to create personal hatred between himself and a guy who holds the ability to incinerate my hometown, I’m tempted to go along with it, but I can’t figure out what’s so great about democracy anyway?