The media is falling in love all over again, fawning some more over President Bush’s “visionary” democracy rhetoric. Sunday’s L.A. Times featured a tribute to “Bush’s ambitious vision of global democratic reform” that “has been driven” in large part by “high-level rhetoric.” And Jim Hoagland used the Washington Post Sunday op-ed page to rave about the benefits of Bush’s “visionary rhetoric about freedom.”
In the first place, “visionary” rhetoric isn’t always a good thing in and of itself, even when it’s combined with otherwise good policy. Serious democracy promotion at times requires us to operate silently, recognizing the potential danger of stamping the “made in the U.S.A.” label on our preferred candidate or political party, especially in the midst of roaring anti-American sentiments in many countries.
But what good is “visionary” rhetoric at all when President Bush turns around a few days later and does the exact opposite of what he called for? Case in point:
May 8: In widely reported remarks, President Bush condemns the Yalta pact that ended World War II — says, “We will not repeat the mistakes of other generations, appeasing or excusing tyranny, and sacrificing freedom in the vain pursuit of stability.”
May 13: Washington ally and Uzbek dictator orders military to forcibly suppress demonstrations. Hundreds are gunned down in cold blood in “probably the worst atrocity conducted by a government against protesters since Tiananmen Square.”
May 13-May 30: President Bush says nothing about Uzbekistan.
May 31: Bush finally mentions Uzbekistan, after being prompted by a journalist. Says he wants all countries to “honor human rights and protect minority rights,” but refers to Uzbek dictator Islam Karimov as a “friend.”
June 4: Washington Post reports that Bush administration is still “pursuing the strategic and geopolitical benefits” of its alliance with Uzbekistan “despite a brutal government crackdown on protests there last month.”