President Bush leaves today for Slovenia for his final U.S.-European Union Summit. USA Today notes, “The timing comes as many Europeans have begun to look beyond Bush.” A recent poll found that increasing numbers of people in European countries see the United States as a “force for evil in today’s world.”
After attending the summit, Bush will depart for Germany to have dinner with Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday night and then hold a press conference with her the next day.
The leading German news source, Der Spiegel, reports that “senior politicians from Merkel’s ruling grand coalition as well as from opposition parties have done away with diplomatic niceties, seizing on Bush’s farewell visit to express their aversion to the president who remains vilified in Germany for launching the Iraq war”:
— Hans-Ulrich Klose, foreign policy expert for the center-left Social Democrats and deputy chairman of the German parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said: “One really can’t say George W. Bush made the world a better place. On the contrary: His actions played a big part in damaging America’s image around the world.”
— Guido Westerwelle, the head of the business-friendly Free Democratic Party, said: “The Bush era was not a good one — neither for America nor for those who see themselves as friends of America.” … The Iraq war weakened the UN, he said, adding that the Guantanamo Bay detention camp was a “disgrace to all the values that America, of all countries, stands for.” — Jürgen Trittin, a senior member of the opposition Green Party, said Bush “definitely made the world worse.”
In an interview with Slovenia TV, Bush was asked whether he believes “the American brand needs a makeover” in the eyes of the world. Bush conceded, “They may not sometimes necessarily like the President, but they like America.” And they’ll certainly like America much more once the current President has left.