Tuesday, November 21, 2006



There's been repeated use of the words 'last tour' 'farewell tour' in the US media to describe President Bush's trip to the APEC conference in Hanoi last week, with a six hour stopover in Indonesia on the way home.

While Bush can't stand for re-election in the 2008 presidential elections, it seems a bit early to claim that this will be the president's last big international tour when he's still got more than two years to go in office, and is expected to be the Australian prime minister's guest of honour at the APEC conference in Canberra in 2007.

An interesting take on President Bush and his recent travels (considering he is one of history's most reluctant presidential travellers), from the London Times :
It’s no exaggeration to say that President Bush is not much of a traveller. Some American leaders relish the opportunities that a big expensive aircraft and a superpower visa give them.

While Watergate curtailed his presidency, Richard Nixon may in the end be remembered more for his famous trip to China. The current President Bush’s father always seemed ill at ease with the American public, but he was in his element when communing with European prime ministers or Middle Eastern emirs about the post-Cold War world. For long periods of his presidency, the globally curious and energetic Bill Clinton was hardly ever home (though there may have been other reasons for that).

But not this Mr Bush.

It's hard not to blame him. American tourists, even the most self-effacing, are not always greeted abroad with the warmest hospitality, and Mr Bush is no ordinary American. Indeed, probably not since Alaric parked his Visigoths at the gates of Rome 1,600 years ago has there been a less welcome arrival than one of Mr Bush’s occasional landings at some deserted, security-ringed international airport. He once remarked during a foreign trip how pleased he had been to see people waving at him — “some of them with all five fingers”.

But as 2006 draws to a close, Mr Bush has his suitcase packed and is accumulating air miles faster than a UN diplomat.

This weekend he was in Vietnam for a summit of Asia-Pacific leaders, mainly to discuss international trade, but inevitably inviting unwelcome comparisons between the site of America’s only great military defeat 30 years ago and the current faltering war in Iraq. On his way to Asia he stopped over for a brief chat with President Putin in Moscow and then dropped in on Singaporean Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong.

Today he is in Indonesia before he heads to Hawaii and then back to Washington and Texas just in time for Thanksgiving. But he will scarcely have the chance to clear a single square foot of brush before he is off again — next week he will be in the Latvian capital, Riga, for a Nato summit.

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