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President Bush — impressive, or not?

April 22, 2007

I’ve always been a bit ambivalent about George W Bush. The soundbites we usually see present him as a bumbler, a stumbler or a yokel. Last Friday LeftWrites ran a piece exemplifying the left’s standard take on the Prez. It’s an easy thing to do. Besides, it doesn’t cost anything and it makes the left feel good about itself.

But I’m not so sure. Anton Efendi at the excellent Lebanese blog Across the Bay pointed to a recent speech that Bush made canvassing, among other things, the position of Syria with regard to Lebanon. Anton was impressed, and so was I.

Here’s Bush extemporising on Iran:

The Iranians have defied international organizations in an attempt to enrich uranium – and, we believe, because they want to have a nuclear weapon. And I believe this challenge is one of the most significant challenges we face — “we,” the free world, face. There’s a lot of reasons why.

One, just as an example, you really don’t want a regime that funds terrorist organizations like Hezbollah to have a nuclear weapon as a part of their capacity to create the conditions, for example, of diplomatic blackmail. Secondly, the current leader of Iran has — I can’t remember exactly his words, but the sum of them were that the destruction of one of our allies was important to them — that would be Israel.

Third, it’s ironic, isn’t it, that any time a democracy begins to take hold in the Middle East, extremist groups prevent that democracy from moving forward. One such democracy is Lebanon, a wonderful little country. And yet there is a Syrian influence — Syria uses not only their own agents inside the country, but Hezbollah, to destabilize this young democracy. And Hezbollah is funded by Iran. In other words, the Iranian regime’s current posture is to destabilize young democracies. And they’re doing so in Iraq, as well.

So our objective is to rally the world to make it clear to the current regime that if they continue their practices they will continue to be isolated. And we’re making interesting progress. We’ve passed several U.N. Security Council resolutions, the primary benefit of which is to say to the Iranian regime, and equally importantly the Iranian people, that countries as diverse as the United States and China and Russia and parts of Europe will isolate you, will deny you, the Iranian people, the benefits that you deserve. Iran is a proud country with a great tradition, and good, hardworking people. And yet their government is making decisions that endanger peace, and at the same time will continue to lead to isolation. And so should the Iranian people worry about isolation? I think so, because you’re missing economic opportunities. You’re missing the chance to improve your lives. You’re missing the chance to enhance your country’s great history.

The choice is up to the Iranian government as to whether or not they will be accepted into the family of nations, all aimed at promoting peace and economic prosperity. They’ve made a bad choice up to now. And so we’ll continue to work hard with the rest of the world, all aiming at solving this very difficult problem diplomatically.

These remarks and the other unscripted answers are not from a guy who hasn’t fully mastered his brief.

Here’s the speech, and the Q&A that followed.

It doesn’t at all square with the usual image of a man out of his depth in anything other than his own bathwater.

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