Today, President Obama arrived in Canada, his first foreign trip since taking office. Already, the trip is a stark departure from the Bush years. U.S. presidents have traditionally made their first trip abroad to Canada. President Bush, however, broke with tradition and headed south to Mexico.
Already, there’s been a noticeable difference in the way the Canadian public has received the two presidents. Bush was wildly unpopular in Canada. Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who supported the Iraq war (and later admitted it was a mistake), was lambasted by Canadians as supporting “Harper-Bush” policies. Not surprisingly, Bush’s visits to Canada spurred massive protests:
— “Thousands of protesters marched on Parliament Tuesday, rallying against President Bush’s visit and the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Twelve people were arrested after scuffling with police on the fringes of the peaceful demonstration.”
— “But with thousands of protesters expected to demonstrate against Mr. Bush, the White House decided to cut short his visit to Ottawa and travel to Halifax instead.”
— “Small groups of people gathered in the pre-dawn gloom on Parliament Hill in hopes of catching a glimpse of [Obama]. Not even a snowfall could deter diehard fans of the popular U.S. leader.”
— “With stars and stripes flapping in the wind, enamoured Canadians will line the streets of the capital today trying to catch a fleeting glimpse of U.S. President Barack Obama.”
— “Bus trips have been organized in Montreal, Kitchener and Toronto. Hotel rooms are booked, Facebook groups are buzzing and websites have sprung up to give visitors all the latest information. … All of this for U.S. President Barack Obama.”
Bush’s unpopularity endures well past the end of his tumultuous presidency. “When George W. Bush makes one of his first post White House speeches in Calgary, [he] will be greeted by a special welcoming committee — protesters determined to voice their displeasure with his eight-year reign and the subsequent fallout,” the Calgary Herald reported this week.
CNN’s Ed Henry updates his Twitter from Canada:
@edhenrycnn Along motorcade route, one handmade sign said, “After God, It’s Obama”. Sharp contrast from protests here in Bush years
How refreshing. If Canada can begin to respect us again after 8 disasterous years of Bush “governance” there’s hope that by the end of Barack’s first term much of the rest of the world will respect us again also. Amazing what diplomacy based on mutual respect rather than bullying tactics can produce.