The Education of the President: Bush On Pakistan

It was only a matter of time. While speaking in India prior to departing for Pakistan, Bush revealed his lack of familiarity with South Asia:

“I believe that a prosperous, democratic Pakistan will be a steadfast partner for America, a peaceful neighbor for India and a force for freedom and moderation in the Arab world,” the president added.

Later, White House press secretary Scott McClellan told reporters that Bush meant to say Pakistan would be a force for freedom and moderation in the Muslim world. Pakistan is not an Arab country.

Bush’s knowledge of Pakistan has advanced, however, over the years. In 2000, while campaigning for president Bush could not identify Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf by name:

QUESTION: Can you name the general who is in charge of Pakistan?

BUSH: Wait, wait, is this 50 questions?

QUESTION: No, it’s four questions of four leaders in four hot spots.

BUSH: The new Pakistani general, he’s just been elected–not elected, this guy just took over office. It appears this guy is going to bring stability to the country, and I think that’s good news for the Subcontinent.

QUESTION: Can you name him?

BUSH: General. I can’t name the general. General.

In the global war on terror, Bush needs to win the support of countries like Pakistan. The first step is to learn something about them.