Today President Bush met with President Vladimir Putin in a visit just as important as their first encounter, four years ago in Texas, where Bush “got a sense of his soul” when he looked into his eyes. The Russian Press Corps got the chance to take a look into President Bush’s eyes — and exhibit Russian-style democracy at work.
Highlights from the press conference include:
Bush on American and Russian differences — “if you really think about what we have done in the last four years and what we want to do during the next four years, the common ground is a lot more than those areas where we disagree.” Considering that Freedom House just downgraded Russia this year to “Not Free” for the first time in a decade — is that such a ringing endorsement for how the Bush Administration has behaved?
Bush on Putin — “This is the kind of fellow who when he says yes, he means yes, and when he says no, he means no. And we had a discussion about some decisions he’s made. He’s had some interest in decisions I’ve made. That’s a very important dialogue.” So, when Putin says “we’re going to remain committed to the fundamental principles of democracy,” that is the same thing as making “sweeping constitutional changes” to benefit one party?
Bush on the American Press — “And he wanted to know about our press. It’s a nice bunch of folks.” Apparently he’s changed his mind from the days of expressing his personal feelings about some reporters.
Russian scholars and politicians across America and in Western Europe all want Bush to be tough on Putin — but it is hard to tell what actually transpired in their private meeting. Was the President who met with Putin the Bush who said that America will “seek and support the growth of democratic movements… in every nation” or the Bush who asked “politely about Russia’s retreat from democracy?” We’ll have to wait and see.