Incurious George - October 15, 2003

Times Watch for October 15, 2003

Incurious George

There's just no pleasing some people. Bush's leisurely, month-long vacations in arid Crawford, TX have long been a subject of media criticism. Now Times reporter David Sanger seems to think Bush isn't taking enough time to see the world.

In a Wednesday report on Bush's upcoming whirlwind Asia tour, "Fast Lane for President: 6 Nations, 6 Days, Safely," Sanger discusses terrorist threats in the countries Bush will visit and proceeds to link that to the idea of Bush as an "incurious tourist." As if terror threats aren't a valid excuse.

Sanger writes: "One senior official said the dispute with the Secret Service over going to Indonesia at all got so heated 'that the whole thing had to end up in the Oval Office, with the president declaring that we are going.' All this has put Indonesia and the Philippines in the same heightened security category as Colombia, where the threat of attack by the drug lords forced the first President Bush to visit for only a day in 1990. Thus Mr. Bush, not an ever-curious tourist, will see less than usual."

More of incurious George: "Past presidents have taken in the restaurants of Sydney or the wonders of the country. Not Mr. Bush: He cut the trip down to a visit to Canberra, a capital that is a bit like Ottawa but not quite as vibrant. He will be there for just 21 hours, on his way to a day of fundraising in Honolulu, perhaps the only time he will make it to Hawaii between now and the election." Is the Times actually accusing a president of not taking a Hawaiian vacation?

For the rest of David Sanger on Bush's Asia trip, click here.

Asia | George Bush | David Sanger | Terrorism | Vacation

Repositioning a Left-Wing Peace Plan

Greg Myre tries to situate a left-wing Middle East peace plan more toward the mainstream of Israeli politics. His Tuesday story, "Israelis and Palestinians Join in Peace Draft," opens: "A group of prominent Israeli and Palestinian politicians, working outside official channels, have written a symbolic peace agreement that they hope could be a foundation for future negotiations."

Yet the so-called Geneva Initiative, which Myre claims "offers highly specific solutions and calls for major compromises on the most sensitive issues that have torpedoed previous peace efforts, ranging from the status of Palestinian refugees to Israeli settlements," is so pro-Palestinian that even the liberal Ehud Barak (the former Labor Israeli prime minister who participated in Bill Clinton's Camp David "peace" deal) criticizes it as "irresponsible and damaging to the State of Israel."

However, Myre doesn't relay such liberal Israeli complaints about the initiative; instead he portrays only the "right-wing Israeli government" as a blockade: "The right-wing Israeli government immediately denounced the proposal, calling it irresponsible, freelance diplomacy."

For the rest of Greg Myre's piece on the Israel-Palestinian freelance peace plan, click here.

Israel | Middle East | Greg Myre | Palestinians

No Liberal Democrats?

David Firestone files another story Wednesday highlighting Democratic Congressional opposition to Bush's $87 billion aid request for Iraq. Firestone notes: "The spending bill will almost certainly pass both houses with virtually unanimous Republican support, but since President Bush announced the size of the spending request on Sept. 7, enthusiasm has diminished considerably across the political spectrum, reflecting its unpopularity around the country."

Firestone finds both conservative Democrats and Republicans speaking out against "rebuilding Iraq at a time of record-high deficits:" He notes: "Many conservative Democrats say they would readily vote against the reconstruction aid if it were a separate bill, but feel obliged to vote for the entire package in order to avoid being charged by Republicans with abandoning the troops.[Rep. John] Tanner was one of 31 members of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of conservative and moderate House Democrats, who wrote to President Bush on Tuesday demanding that he find a way to keep the Iraq bill from increasing the deficit." At the end Firestone notes: "Many conservative Republicans have also expressed strong misgivings about the reconstruction aid and its effect on the deficit, but have been pressured by the White House into dropping amendments requiring Iraqi repayment."

Firestone points out Congressional "conservatives" three times, but describes other Democratic opposition this way: "The 39 members of the Congressional Black Caucus are considered likely to vote unanimously against the bill no matter what amendments are added, as will scores of other Democratic members." Note how Firestone employs ideological terms to describe the "conservative" Blue Dogs, but not the avowedly liberal Black Caucus.

For more of Firestone on Iraq spending, click here.

Congress | David Firestone | Iraq War | Labeling Bias