June 02, 2007

Bush Heads Off On Another Disastrous European Tour

This one looks real bad. And it hasn't even started yet.
President Bush is to arrive in Europe on Monday faced with a long to-do list, and one over-riding obstacle in the way of all of it: For Europeans, he's the least popular U.S. president in history.

Bush's problems extend beyond public opinion. He's at odds with the leaders of countries east and west, whom he's to meet during a summit of leading industrialized nations at a Baltic seaside resort.

Bush disagrees with the major Western European governments over global warming, and he's at loggerheads with Russian leader Vladimir Putin about the U.S. plan to deploy a ballistic missile defense shield in Eastern Europe. He doesn't appear willing to compromise on either issue...

Bush's plan is to call a conference of the world's biggest 15 polluters, who'd devise a plan to combat climate change through voluntary actions. Even departing British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush's staunchest ally in Europe, said it isn't enough. "I want to see us now go further from what President Bush laid out," he said while traveling in South Africa.

Merkel noted, without being explicit, that "no one can avoid the question of global warming anymore." But her top global warming negotiator, Bernd Pfaffenbach, rejected a key element of Bush's plan, which is to shut the United Nations out of a leadership role on the issue. Pfaffenbach told German reporters that the U.N.'s role in combating climate change is "non-negotiable." ...

On every issue, President Bush's unpopularity makes success seem unlikely.

"Bush is so disliked that he's not even considered anymore," said Franco Pavoncello, a leading analyst of Italian politics. "He's part of the past. Italians have moved beyond him, and now care only about who will replace him."

Opinion polls typically put Bush's approval ratings in European nations between 10 and 20 percent, but they're higher in Italy and much lower in France and Germany. When asked last autumn if the United States should be in a position of world leadership, 37 percent of Europeans said yes, down from the 64 percent who approved of a U.S. leadership role five years earlier.

Michele de Palma, who organized protests for Italy's Communist Party when Bush arrived in 2004, said the dislike is so deep that he doubted he could get people even to protest the president's arrival in Rome.

"Here, we just want to forget he exists," he said. "In 2004, we had 100,000 protesters. This time, I'll be lucky to find 10,000. People don't see the point, Bush is last year's news."


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