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Bush on the World Stage: While Events Heat Up, the President Hams it Up

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I picked the wrong week to spend more time than usual on the treadmill, flipping channels from one horrific occurrence to another and another and another. And, in between, watching snippets of our president looking lost on the world stage.

As the significance of the play of current events has increased, the stature of the lead actor seems more dwarfish then ever. So it wasn't the intensity of my workout but our president in stark relief with the magnitude of world events that made me sweat.

There he was at his press conference in Russia, where he unwittingly gave Vladamir Putin one of the great set-up lines in recent history. Responding to a question about his concerns over the state of Russia's democracy, Bush said he had talked to Putin "about my desire to promote institutional change in parts of the world like Iraq where there's a free press and free religion, and I told him that a lot of people in our country would hope that Russia would do the same thing."

To which Putin replied: "We certainly would not want to have the same kind of democracy as they have in Iraq, I will tell you quite honestly."

Ouch. After that one, Bush may have to change his nickname for Putin from "Pootie-Poot" to "Vlad the Presidential Impaler."

Bush reacted to Putin's spot-on zinger like a petulant third-grader, saying "Just wait." Somehow he resisted the urge to stick out his tongue and say, "Wanna bet a million-zillion dollars on that, Pootie-Poot?"

He was equally inept during his press conference with German chancellor Angela Merkel earlier in the week. Israel was bombing Lebanon, India had been hit by terrorists, Iraq was exploding, North Korea had fired its nukes, and Iran was rushing to join the nuclear club -- but the topic that most seemed to engage the leader of the free world during the press conference was the wild boar barbecue scheduled for later that night in the small German town of Trinwillershagen.

"I understand I may have the honor of slicing the pig," he said. Then, after rambling through a recounting of all the subjects he and Merkel had discussed, including Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea, Israeli-Palestinian issues, the Doha trade round and the upcoming G8 conference ("we discussed a lot of things, in other words"), he returned to the topic, telling Merkel: "Thank you for having me. I'm looking forward to that pig tonight."

But that wasn't the end of his swine obsession. He couldn't seem to get it off of his mind during the Q&A session:

Q Just to follow up --

Bush: Follow up on?

Q On both of these. Does it concern you that the Beirut airport has been bombed? And do you see a risk of triggering a wider war? And on Iran, they've, so far, refused to respond. Is it now past the deadline, or do they still have more time to respond?

Bush: I thought you were going to ask me about the pig.

Q I'm curious about that, too.

Bush: The pig? I'll tell you tomorrow after I eat it.

Look, it's not that I don't appreciate the president's frat boy sense of humor. I like a chuckle as much as anyone. But given the tragic feel of recent events, his tone couldn't have been more false.

It's a very sinking feeling, watching this all-hat, no-cattle puppet who was put in power by the GOP elite back in a very different time, when all it thought we needed was a CEO to help manage the good times, suddenly finding himself presiding over a series of cataclysmic events.

Watching Bush meander around the world stage is like watching an amateurish production of Shakespeare. We need Olivier and all we've got is this community theater ham.

And he can't wait to slice it.

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