Sunday, April 6, 2008

Bush's unfortunate legacy

So-far unsuccessful final-year efforts by the Bush administration to achieve long-sought diplomatic successes in an effort to frame the 43rd president's legacy certainly leaves one impression — the most striking yet dubious accomplishment of his eight years in office has been his management of news coverage. Bush has held very few press conferences, when the president must give unrehearsed answers to reporters' questions, and only gives speeches in front of hand-picked audiences who are certain to applaud wildly at whatever he says. The issue comes up today because the Associated Press is reporting that Bush administration officials made four trips to the back to the press section of Air Force One during Sunday's flight from Moscow to convince journalists to put a positive spin on the president's inconclusive weekend summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Many of the comments were off the record and could not be quoted or repeated, the AP said. The administration apparently was concerned that initial reports from the summit were that President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin were unable to resolve differences on U.S. plans for a missile defense shield for eastern Europe and other issues. The differences have caused a dramatic cooling in relations between Russia and the United States, despite the personal relationship that developed between the two leaders. U.S. officials had hoped to reach an agreement with Russia on missile defense at the summit, but now concede that an agreement is unlikely before the end of Bush's second term in January. National security adviser Stephen Hadley said as much in response to reporters' questions on the flight. "What matters is that the two presidents have reached an agreement to set our two countries on the path for cooperation here," Hadley said. "And they can leave that to their respective successors." Other points of disagreement between Bush and Putin concerned U.S. support for plans to invite former Soviet republics Ukraine and Georgia to NATO and U.S. backing of an independent Kosovo.

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