Chirac a Good Cowboy?
Bush, Chirac Downplay Rift, Trade Praise (Newsday)
Only months after he criticized countries “like France,” President Bush was lavish in his praise of French President Jacques Chirac, one of the sharpest critics of the U.S.-led war in Iraq. “I’m looking for a good cowboy,” Bush said Monday when a French reporter asked him whether relations had improved to the point where the U.S. president would be inviting Chirac to the U.S. president’s ranch in Texas. Chirac had equally kind words to say about Bush, saying he and the American president “always had very warm relations.”
Iraq? Merely a blip in ties between the two countries that have been “excellent for over 200 years now,” Chirac said. “Now, of course, that doesn’t mean that because we share common values, we don’t necessarily agree on everything all the time,” Chirac added, “That doesn’t necessarily mean we agree on everything at every time.”
The two leaders spoke with reporters before they sat down to dinner of lobster risotto and filet of beef with Bordelaise sauce. “This is the first dinner since I’ve been re-elected on European soil, and it’s with Jacques Chirac. And that ought to say something. It ought to say how important this relationship is for me, personally, and how important this relationship is for my country,” Bush said.
Imagining Jacques Chirac in Wranglers, Tony Lamas, and a Stetson brings me great amusement.
In the main, though, Chirac is right. France has certainly been the most reluctant of our major allies over the years, but we’ve been allies since the War for Independence. Wretchard, noting similar warming of our relations with Canada’s Paul Martin and the EU, gets it right:
If there is something a little unseemly about the sudden cooperativeness of recently truculent friends, President Bush is making light of it. He has grown, in the best way, beyond the need to gloat. The dangers facing the world have not yet abated, but are starting to be recognized by allies who were hitherto too fearful or uncertain to look upon them. “This is not victory of a party or of any class.” It is everyone’s hour.
Will Collier, though, sees a pretty substantial dig at Chirac with the “good cowboy” line: “I can’t imagine a more damaging sentence in the eyes of the French electorate.” True enough. Still, maybe the French are realizing the need to cowboy up.
The White House transcript of the joint Bush-Chirac press conference is here.