It was always a dubious proposition, more politically convenient than ideologically heartfelt. Indeed, for all of the president’s talk about democracy being “God’s gift to humanity,” there’s no evidence Bush takes his own principles seriously at all. After Pervez Musharraf’s recent crackdown, which including arrest Supreme Court justices and shutting down independent media, Bush praised Musharraf as “truly is somebody who believes in democracy.” He did not appear to be kidding.
As Newsweek’s Michael Hirsh explained, the president’s trip to the Middle East this week hammered this point home.
A day after George W. Bush gave his big democracy speech and declared the opening of “a great new era … founded on the equality of all people” — a line he delivered at the astonishingly opulent Emirates Palace hotel, where most of the $2,450-a-night suites are reserved for visiting royals — the president flew to Saudi Arabia on Monday. There he planned to spend a day with King Abdullah at his ranch, where the monarch keeps 150 Arabian stallions for his pleasure, and thousands of goats and sheep “bred to feed the guests at the King’s royal banquets,” as the White House put it in the “press kit” it handed out to reporters on the eve of the president’s eight-day Mideast tour. Bush was also expected to take time out to meet with a group of “Saudi entrepreneurs.”
What could not be found on Bush’s schedule was one Saudi dissident or political activist, much less a democrat.
What a surprise.