We expect to quickly regret yesterday's post of almost-praise for the White House's measured approach to the killing of al-Zarqawi. One early sign that the strategery was still at work was Bush's sudden dropping into a distracted news cycle of his decision to postpone a trip to Kiev later this month and replace it with a trip to Budapest. Ukraine had been a pet cause of the right a couple of Christmasses ago, and the trip was clearly intended to irritate Pootie-poot with the spectacle of Bush making nice with Russia's "near-abroad."
But someone (Condi?) decided that a little photo-op freedom talk was a safer bet than actual waving of a salmon-coloured flag right in front of the Russian bear -- so Budapest suddenly worked its way onto the agenda. Bush can give a speech that dodges around the question of what he would have done differently in 1956, and for the travelling press corps the food is better in Budapest anyway. And all this was decided very recently, as the Wall Street Journal (subs. maybe req'd) explains:
The White House decision that President Bush will visit Hungary later this month, instead of Ukraine, disrupts top Treasury international official Tim Adams’s travels. After this weekend’s meeting of G-8 finance ministers in St. Petersburg, Adams had been planning to stop in Hungary and Estonia. But the U.S. Embassy in Budapest is overwhelmed by the surprise announcement of a June 22 presidential visit and suggests Adams, the Treasury’s undersecretary for international affairs and a former Bush campaign aide, stop somewhere else on the way back to Washington. So Adams and aides scramble to adjust their itinerary. One possibility under discussion is Turkey, a strategically important country prone to financial crises.
Note by the way that despite the supposed hype that the incoming Treasury Secretary will have more policy weight than the outgoing one, the department still gets told to take a hike when the schedule gets too crowded.
UPDATE: On a related note, the WSJ blog notes one of Snow's going-away gifts:
British Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown gives Snow, an avid golfer and avid free marketer, a five-pound note with a picture of Jack Nicklaus on it and a copy of Adam Smith’s will.