He spoke at his first stop, Singapore, promising that “America will remain engaged in Asia.” But the response was tepid — the invited audience somehow missed several of built-in applause lines — and one senior Singaporean diplomat, declining to be quoted by name, said there was little in the speech “that his father didn’t say to us 15 years ago.”Now, compare that to...
On Saturday, Mr. Bush’s national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, conceded that the president had not come into direct contact with ordinary Vietnamese, but said that they connected anyway.In many respects, Bush would have to be considered our first "MTV Presdident": short attention span, quick jump cuts (I mean, my god, in Moscow, he spent 20 minutes touring Red Square, something that not even Perillo Tours could match for a shallow experience!), and lots of shiny things.
“If you’d been part of the president’s motorcade as we’ve shuttled back and forth,” he said, reporters would have seen that “the president has been doing a lot of waving and getting a lot of waving and smiles.”
A typical stop in Vietnam:
On Saturday, Mr. Bush emerged from his hotel for only one nonofficial event, a 15-minute visit to the Joint P.O.W./M.I.A. Accounting Command, which searches for the remains of the 1,800 Americans still listed as missing in the Vietnam War.You'd think a man who so studiously avoided serving in country, who has recently taken comparing the Iraq invasion to the Vietnam War, would spend at least a little time with the people of Vietnam in order to get a sense of national pride in a country that is not the world's remaining superpower. To understand the mettle it takes to look the United States in its teeth and growl back.
There were almost no Vietnamese present, just a series of tables displaying photographs of the group’s painstaking work, and helmets, shoes and replicas of bones recovered by the 425 members of the command. He asked a few questions and then sped off in his motorcade.
Apparently not. Now compare this to Clinton's visit in 2000. Remember, he was the first American president to ever visit Vietnam:
In 2000, tens of thousands of Hanoi’s residents poured into the streets to witness the visit of the first American head of state since the end of the Vietnam War. Mr. Clinton toured the thousand-year-old Temple of Literature, grabbed lunch at a noodle shop, argued with Communist Party leaders about American imperialism and sifted the earth for the remains of a missing airman.Even allowing for the cheesy photo-op implied in that last instance (I mean, c'mon, was anyone thinking the Power of Bill would turn up remains that the Vietnamese had not been able to produce in 30 years? And yet, they did turn up...how, um, coincidental), there was a lot more engagement, a lot more empathy, than in all of Bush's foreign adventures combined.
Oh...Bush's visit is not over yet. He does have one more scheduled stop to make this afternoon (Monday morning in Nam): The new Hanoi stock exchange.
He just will never get it, will he?