Saturday, January 05, 2008

Mashreq over Maghreb

White House photo by David Bohrer

Another George Bush overseas visit beckons, and with it another round of pre-visit interviews for the furrin media. And so we learn --

My friend, King Abdallah of Saudi Arabia doesn't get enough credit for beginning to reform his society.

which presumably means that it's churlish of people to complain that the pardon of the Qatif woman was not enough when the laws under which she was convicted are still on the books. Not to mention all those bloggers whining about that blogger that the Saudis are detaining.

But anyway, it wouldn't be a Bush interview without a comedy portion, so --

Q -- Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. Those countries actually played a very important role in the peace process in the past and I think that they are willing to do it again. And my question, Mr. President, if there is any reason for excluding the Maghreb Arab from your visit?

THE PRESIDENT: Only because I ran out of time. It's certainly not as a result of any lack of respect or understanding that the contribution of those -- of that area would be a significant contribution to achieving peace. And I appreciate very much the leadership in the King of Morocco, as well as President Bouteflika. I'd like to go sometime; I just -- I don't want to make excuses, but I will. I've got to prepare the State of the Union address. (Laughter.) And so I'm leaving for a lengthy period of time, and need to get back home.

And having said that, one of my great trips as a civilian -- I guess you'd call me a civilian -- non-President, non-political figure -- was when I went to Morocco. I had the great pleasure of going to Marakesh, for example, and I'll never forget drinking crushed almond milk, and enjoyed the wonders of the desert, and then was able to see snow-capped mountains shortly in the distance, in the short distance. And so it's -- I threw snowballs in Morocco one time in the Atlas mountain range. So I had a wonderful experience there. Not to be kind of nostalgic, looking back, but -- you know, it's interesting -- for example, there are a lot of Moroccan Jews in Israel.
Q And in Morocco also.
Q And in Morocco.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, and in Morocco, which provides the King an interesting opportunity to be a healer and a unifier. And I believe he's committed to that. So I view these three countries as important, and I am -- wish I could have gone, but I was unable to do so.

It's not clear whether he expected the Moroccan reporter to be more impressed with his reprise of the tourist sites in Morocco (and gossipers may wonder what else he did in Marrakesh) or with his Jewish population factoids.

One good thing about all the candidates to be the president after 2009 is that none of them would be so transparently dependent on bullet points from briefing books.

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