Friday, November 26, 2004

Birds of a feather

As if to mitigate doubts about his work ethic, Dubya is hard at work at the ranch this holiday weekend -- and not just clearing brush either. The Northern Ireland peace process is in the midst of its latest round of last final negotiations, with Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party playing the squeaky wheel role this time. The DUP is torn between its pragmatic desire to have ministerial functions in a devolved administration and its long-time absolutist position on IRA disbandment.

So how is Dubya helping? It doesn't yet rise to the standard of Bill Clinton's engagement, but he did phone Ian Paisley today to encourage Paisley to move things along. This is the right use of his time, because these two have quite a lot in common. "Doctor" Paisley has his degree from Bob Jones University in South Carolina, scene of a deeply cynical appearance by Dubya during his 2000 primary campaign. Paisley and Jones share a deep anti-Catholicism, although they would refer to it as Popery. And of course, Paisley doesn't have to do much to get his rhetoric to work for Dubya:

[Paisley] I reminded the president of the fact that he would not have terrorists in his government, and that we must be satisfied that IRA terrorism is over and cannot return.

There is one subtext to Dubya's latest intervention. Up until now, it's Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble who has presented himself as the Vast Rightwing Conspiracy's go-to guy on Irish terrorism issues. But the whole point of Paisley agreeing to some new deal would be for his party to replace Trimble's as the dominant party of Unionism. Trimble therefore joins the long list of Dubya's erstwhile friends who end up feeling burned.

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