Today at the final luncheon at the G8 summit in St. Petersburg, President Bush was chatting with his friend British PM Tony Blair, speaking informally and presumably off-camera and off-microphone. Only problem is, they weren’t–off the record, that is. Cameras were rolling when Bush spoke plainly with Blair about what should be done in respone to the violence between Israel and Lebanon. In short, Bush said that the pressure should be on Syria to weild its influence to reign in Hezbollah. The content was nothing groundbreaking; in fact in being congruent with his public statements it demonstrated again the President’s no-nonesense approach. What made such a splash was Bush’s use of an four-letter word in his analysis. “See the irony is that what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this sh*t and it’s over,”
Bush told Blair.
In reality, while I tend to shy away from such language personally, I find it amusing to hear such candid words from the mouth of a world leader. It is a reminder that someone like the President actually breathes the same oxygen we do. But what I like in this is that the President was not left scrambling to cover up some embarrassing admission. There’s was nothing to hide in what he said. And I think that is generally what I have come to expect from the President, whether or not I like what he says. He usually says what he thinks. Think the polar opposite of Bill Clinton. This lack of political acumen is detrimental to Bush’s success in diplomacy and PR sometimes, but I don’t think he cares. Have we ever seen the President afraid to push an unpopular agenda?
So we can return to the question posed in advance of the G8 last week: Is Cowboy diplomacy dead? I think the President’s steadfast refusal (right or wrong) to call on Israel to calm itself, and the content of his little chat with Tony Blair show that Cowboy Diplomacy is still alive. But the return to the nuclear issue with North Korea and Iran, as well as the apparent ratcheting up of violence in the Middle East, will provide further tests of the Bush Doctrine. Looking at precedent, I don’t anticipate the President going soft.