Friday, February 25, 2005

All those who accuse Bush of being too dogmatic should look closely at his meeting yesterday with Putin.

For a supposed hard-liner, the event had compromise written all over it. As a gesture of his disapproval, Bush refused to meet Putin on Russian soil; yet as a gesture of goodwill, Bush refused to discuss political differences and stuck instead to areas in which American and Russian interests coincide.

No doubt many on both sides of the political aisle will undoubtedly disparage Bush's complaisance towards Russia, as either disgustingly hypocritical (indignant leftists) or unforgivably soft (idealist conservatives). Yet lost in such instinctive commentary is an irony which I think needs to begin getting a lot more attention in American public debate.

The irony I'm referring to is the stark discrepancy which has emerged between the dissimilarity of Russian and American public policy as compared with the analogous personas and administrative styles of Putin and Bush themselves. Never mind that the former is overtly dismantling his country's democratic architecture, while the other has made a past-time of spouting utopian rhetoric about the glories of constitutional democracy; the fact remains that each aspires to as much direct control as possible over both their own public image and, more importantly, the government at-large.

The disturbing implication here -- which is why I'm so concerned about the discrepancies above -- is that on a personal level, Putin is likely the European leader Bush relates to best and perhaps even trusts the most.


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