From the Washington Post:
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Good morning. I’m just about to leave for Europe. I’m looking forward to my trip.
I’m looking forward to meeting with our friends and allies. We’ve got strong relations in Europe, and this trip will help solidify those relations.
And we got a lot to talk about. First, I’m looking forward to talking about the freedom agenda with the European nations. We got a lot of work to do in Afghanistan. And the countries I’m going to have committed troops to Afghanistan. And, of course, want to thank them, and remind them there’s a lot of work to be done.
My Stepford wifeLaura Bush is] going to go to the Paris conference, along with Secretary Rice, on our behalf to ask nations to contribute to the development of Afghanistan, which will mean they’ll be contributing to peace.
And then, of course, we’ll be talking about the economy. A lot of Americans are concerned about our economy. I can understand why. Gasoline prices are high. Energy prices are high.
I do remind them that we have put a stimulus package forward that is expected to help boost the economy.
We’ll remind our friends and allies overseas that we’re all too dependent on hydrocarbons, and must work to advance technologies to help us become less dependent on hydrocarbons.
I’ll also remind them, though, that the United States has an opportunity to help increase the supply of oil on the market, therefore taking pressure off gasoline for hardworking Americans; and that I proposed to the Congress that they open up ANWR, open up the continental shelf and give this country a chance to help us through this difficult period by finding more supplies of crude oil, which will take the pressure off the price of gasoline.
The U.S. economy is continuing to grow in the face of unprecedented challenges. We got to keep our economies flexible. Both the U.S. economy and European economies need to be flexible in order to deal with today’s challenges.
I’m looking forward to my trip, and I’m looking forward to seeing Laura.
And now back to reality…
LONDON, June 10 (UPI) — There are two remarkable ironies about President George Bush’s weeklong visit to Europe this week. The first was that he was upstaged by Russia’s new president, Dmitry Medvedev, who announced in Berlin on the eve of Bush’s arrival that “Atlanticism has had its day and we need to talk about unity between the whole Euro-Atlantic area from Vancouver to Vladivostok.”
A lame duck American president still bearing the scars of the Iraq War can hardly compete with a fresh-faced young Russian president (“a new Gorbachev,” enthused one German commentator) talking of peace and love and mutual investments.
The second irony was that Bush arrived just as it emerged that European banks have suffered more from America’s poisonous financial export of subprime loans than their U.S.-based rivals.
The Institute of International Finance reported last week that European banks have been hit by $200 billion in credit losses from the $387 billion lost so far, while U.S. banks have lost $166 billion.
During the Bush presidency the European Union has become the world’s largest economy. The EU now has a GDP of some $16 trillion, about 10 percent larger (at least in dollar terms) than the GDP of the United States.
Despite the sneers by Bush administration officials at the rigid European labor markets and higher European unemployment, Europe added 3 million new jobs in 2006, while the United States added just 2.3 million. And while on paper the U.S. unemployment level of 5.2 percent might look better than the European Union average of 8.2 percent, factor in the 2.3 million Americans in prisons and the unemployment figures level out. The EU prison population is just over 360,000. The U.S. incarceration rate is 762 per 100,000 people, nine times higher than Germany’s rate of 88 per 100,000.
Europe has big problems, to be sure. It is more dependent on energy imports than the United States, and its demographic profile does not bode well for the future.
Moreover, Europe does not score nearly as well as the United States on the three separate dimensions of power. The United States is a military superpower, an economic superpower and a cultural superpower, with a vast and subtle and subversive influence that stems from its constitutional principles as well as from Hollywood. Europe, so far at least, is just an economic superpower with some pretensions to cultural influence and a lot of fine museums and old churches. Militarily, despite the French and British nuclear arsenals, it barely counts.
What Bush finds difficult to accept is that in the eyes of many around the world he has cut the United States down to EU size. He has diminished American power and American influence, and he is bequeathing to his successor an American economy in much worse shape than he found it nearly eight years ago.
The Europeans all understand that, which is why they are thrilling to the idea of President Obama (but they won’t be too unhappy with President McCain). But they also thrill to the idea of a new Gorbachev in President Medvedev. The Europeans have understood the basic truth of the post-Bush era. The United States is no longer the only game in town.